Tag Archives: Yale

11/15/2011 Yale Daily News: Tribal Court holds case on campus

The Supreme Court of the Navajo Nation came to Yale to hear a case on Monday evening. Photo by Jennifer Cheung.

11/15/2011 Yale Daily News Tribal Court holds case on campus By Shira Telushkin, Contributing Reporter: In a rare appearance outside its reservation in New Mexico and Arizona, the Supreme Court of the Navajo Nation came to Yale to meet with students and hear a case on campus Monday evening. About 250 Law School students, faculty members and visiting scholars watched in the Law School auditorium as the Court judged the case Navajo Nation v. RJN Construction Management, Inc., Robert J. Nelson and The Home for Women and Children, which involves a dispute over land ownership. In addition to overseeing the proceedings during the two-day stay, the three justices held a panel about careers in Native American law, ate at Pepe’s Pizza on Wooster Street with the Native American Law Students Association and joined members of the Native American Cultural Center for dinner at The Study on Chapel Street.

Joanne Williams, LAW ’12, co-chair of the NALSA and one of the event’s student organizers, said the event was intended to raise awareness of the Native American legal system that is independent from U.S. federal law.

“One of the big things we’re trying to do is show students something they might not know about,” she said.

Differences between the law of the Navajo Nation and United States include the fact that Native American law is not founded on the U.S. Constitution and takes into account Navajo common law.

Still, law professor Gerald Torres, who introduced the justices and the Court, emphasized in his introduction that the tribal justice system is a vibrant part of the American legal system, and stated that “it’s important to remember that Navajo laws stress restorative, not punitive law.”

Eugene Fidell, a lecturer at the Law School who teaches a course on Native American law, told the News he believes that all educated Americans are morally obligated to be aware of Native American culture because of the Unites States’ conflicts with Native Americans in the past. Fidell added that this event was “a way of breaking out of a rigid vision of law” and served as a useful reminder that there are many ways to design a law system. Torres added that he believes familiarity with tribal law and court systems is very important for law students since reservations within the country’s borders help shape United States law.

Lucas Mills ’05 LAW ’10, who started a Native American law reading group with several other students while at the Law School, said that seeing another law system at work can great expand the perspective of law students.

“This isn’t a special presentation,” he said. “They’re just doing their thing, and we’re privy to that. We can’t ignore the cultural impact of an event like this.”

All seven audience members interviewed said they appreciated the chance to see a tribal court in session. Elizabeth Reese ’11, a member of the Nambe Pueblo tribe who traveled from New Mexico to attend the event, said it was “amazing to have the Navajo Supreme Court demonstrate the meaning and power of our sovereignty,” adding that the proceedings marked an “important moment for native people on this campus.”

Jennifer Skene LAW ’14, and a member of NALSA, said the experience made her reflect on the merits of the American justice system.

“Seeing this whole other process was eye-opening, and makes you see that the American system isn’t the only way to render justice,” she said.

The event was sponsored by the Law School Dean’s Office, the Office of Student Affairs, the Native American Law Students’ Association and The Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, with support from the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund at Yale Law School.

11/17/2011 Indian Country Today: Growing Native American Student Base at Yale Prompts More Space

11/17/2011 Indian Country Today: Growing Native American Student Base at Yale Prompts More Space By ICTMN Staff: Next fall the Native American Cultural Center (NACC) at Yale University will get its own house, instead of sharing space with the Asian American Cultural Center, like it currently does.This move is to help NACC increase its presence on campus and to give the largest Native American class ever—roughly 40 students—at Yale space of their own.

Having its own space puts NACC on par with the other cultural centers on campus. “It’s a matter of equity—the Native American community has long been the only cultural center without its own distinct space,” said Alyssa Mt. Pleasant, Tuscarora, a professor of history and American studies and member of the NACC Advisory Board. “Having autonomy over this new space will have an extraordinary impact on the development of the NACC. As everyone who has ever lived with a roommate knows, it’s hard to share space.”

Having a place of their own is important to many who have left their tribal homes behind to pursue higher education.

“I come from a very distinct background,” Chris Brown, Navajo, Class of ’15, told Christopher Peak, of Yale Daily News. “It’s complete sand and desert, painted valleys and rock walls. I live on a table-top mesa. Coming here is very different.”

Having a place to celebrate his heritage will help him on his way to academic success.

Read more

Yale Dean Mary Miller feels the new space will contribute to that, saying “strong cultural houses with robust programs contribute to and support academic success.”

Ned Blackhawk, Western Shoshone, a professor of history and American studies and member of the NACC Advisory Board, thinks the new house will enable NACC to expand its outreach and ability to hold events.

“Ideally, the new, expanded NACC can enrich Native American as well as other Yale students’ experiences through expanded outreach efforts to local, national and indeed global indigenous communities,” he said. He also hopes to add programs that can connect NACC alumni with current students.

The new center may also help to attract Native students to Yale, something the school has struggled with in the past. The school now has two Native outreach coordinators in the admissions office, and Yale uses College Horizons—a summer camp where Native students get help on writing college applications—as a way to recruit.

This is far better than recruitment efforts of the late 1980s, which had 1993 graduate John Bathke spending his freshman year spring break driving across the Navajo Nation Reservation—an area that spans three states—in his aunt’s truck.

“Yale didn’t really recruit Indians [at the time],” Bathke, founder of Association for Native American Students at Yale (ANAAY) and a student recruitment coordinator during his time at Yale, told Peak. “The only Indians that came were happenstance, ones that fell into the system.”

Native American students at Yale are looking forward to a bigger NACC presence on campus because many say other students don’t realize they are there.

“Most people don’t know we exist cause we don’t have a specific color of our skin,” Amanda Tjemsland, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe ANAAY president, told Peak.

“Since I’m not full blood, I don’t look Choctaw,” said Chelsea Wells. “People had never heard of the Choctaw Nation, so I had to explain my whole background again and again. Then my mom came, who looks very Native, and people were very confused.”

To read the history of Yale’s and New Haven, Connecticut’s relationship with Native populations, visit YaleDailyNews.com.

11/17/2011 Navajo Times: From cactus to ivy – Diné Yalies face rigorous academics with vigor

11/17/2011 Navajo Times: From cactus to ivy – Diné Yalies face rigorous academics with vigor By Cindy Yurth, Tséyi’ Bureau: NEW HAVEN, Conn.: Forget every stereotype you ever had about Yale University. Especially the “Yale man.” “Tall, white, muscular, and wearing a cardigan vest,” grinned Christian Brown, ticking off the attributes he associated with Yale students – before he became one. Actually, aside from being a different color, Brown is not too far off the mark. He is medium height and broad-shouldered, and last Saturday, he happened to be wearing a sweater vest. But it was a special occasion. He and the other Diné students at Yale were assigned to take the visiting Navajo Nation Supreme Court justices out to dinner at one of the best restaurants in New Haven – on the university’s tab.

“Not something that would happen at your typical state university,” declared the dapper freshman, who is Kinyaa’aanii (Towering House Clan), born for bilagaana.

Dinée Dorame, Tabaaha (Edge Water Clan), born for Naakaii Diné’e (Mexican People Clan), was sporting a Yale T-shirt and shorts. She had just come from working out at one of the campus’s many gyms, having blown off a club basketball game in favor of meeting the justices.

“Yeah, I’m a jock,” she confessed. “You can be a jock at Yale, too.”

Right at home

Far from their hometowns of Phoenix and Albuquerque, and two of only six Navajo students at Yale, you might expect the two freshmen to be at least a little freaked out. But they seem right at home. And they are interrupting each other in their zeal to sing the praises of their new alma mater.