A group of Haskell students have been spending their free time this semester preparing for the upcoming Indigenous Tribunal on Saturday, April 22nd. The tribunal will be an opportunity to learn about Indigenous paradigms of justice. The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) issue will also be discussed within the framework of Indigenous justice. The day will include individual presentations and student and faculty panels starting at 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. in Parker Hall room 110.
The students began working together as the result of a discussion in one of Dr. Wildcat’s IAIS classes attended by Gable Roubideaux-Davis and Andi Weber. The two students took what Wildcat said seriously about exploring Indigenous justice through a tribunal. Davis and Weber shared the idea with other students and the group began to develop the tribunal last November. Other students who have been preparing for the the tribunal include Alexander Rodriguez, Jesse Campanero, Shane Lynch, and Cindy Farlee.
“This is a student led effort to explore the question of what is justice with respect to DAPL. In this Earth Day event, they will review the federal court case and possible Supreme Court effort for justice and compare it to an International Indigenous Tribunal process,” said Dr. Dan Wildcat, IAIS professor. “This is really an important intellectual and legal exercise. If Indigenous Peoples cannot, as some Indigenous scholars are suggesting, receive justice in the courts of the conqueror, then the question of creating our own institutions for justice is critically important.”
The core purpose of the students conducting the tribunal is to craft a document that they hope will act as a model for an International Indigenous tribunal. Statements and interviews within the Haskell tribunal will be recorded and contribute to the final document. The students want to eventually see the document presented to the United Nations as a declaration of purpose, and possibly be added on as an addendum to the permanent council on Indigenous affairs.
“This is the pilot of a program we hope will occur every semester. We want to bring in international issues besides the ones occurring on this continent. Our final goal is to make this a two-day affair and invite people outside the institution and maybe outside the country to come in present and discuss these issues and perhaps building up to a much bigger conference,” said Alex Rodriguez.
According to Gable Roubideaux-Davis, the students also want to provide something practical that attendees can take home and possibly apply the information to their own traditions or tribal processes.
The day will include two panels that will first outline the DAPL case and will show what the case looks like in a federal court system, pointing out that the current system is not equipped to handle issues in an Indigenous way. The United Nations Rights of Indigenous Peoples declaration will be introduced and how it relates to DAPL followed by a mock Indigenous Tribunal in which one group represents pro-DAPL and another against DAPL. The tribunal will then hold a decision. A second panel will discuss why the Indigenous justice system needs to be modeled.
“I think it’s important that we are really showing the differences in thought contrasting a Western point of view with an Indigenous point of view. It’s here and we have to deal with it and everyone should be aware of that problem,” said Shane Lynch.
The students have been in contact with individuals outside of Haskell who have helped them prepare for the tribunal. Groups such as KU Law and the International Committee on Indian Treaties have expressed interested in becoming involved after the pilot event.
“We have people that Dr. Wildcat has connected us with that have been providing a lot of help and guiding words. Dr. Wildcat has been amazing help as well. We each came with our own personal set of relationships that have provided the group information along the way too,” said Roubideaux-Davis.
The students each have different reasons for wanting to participate in the tribunal.
“I was active in the DAPL protest and I had to take the chance to do something,” said Jesse Campenero.
Cindy Farlee added, “I grew up in a very political family that had ties into relations with the U. S. government and other tribes, so I just like the idea that we are trying to come together and bring these issues forward for everyone to see.”
Contribution from the student community is key to creating the document the group will be working on now and in the future. All are encouraged to attend the tribunal and participate. The group points out that the environment is an issue that involves everyone, including our Lawrence neighbors. Input from everyone is needed.
“It is events like these at Haskell that really set the tone for what education means and will do for Indian Country…Our degrees will be our tools to re-indigenize our everyday life for our communities and families and everyone should remember just how much purpose they have,” said Andi Weber. “This event is the first of its kind and I am truly excited to see where it will lead our students and University.”