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Rennard Strickland: Philip H. Knight Professor of Law and former Dean of the University of Oregon School of Law [By Jen Woods] Rennard Strickland hated law school so much that he decided to become a law professor. He realized that, as a teacher, he could make the experience better for future students.

“When I was in law school, I think it would be

college. He earned his B.A. at Northeastern

of American Indian Law and Policy and a

safe to say there was no one who hated law

State University, which was founded by the

professor at the University of Oklahoma.

school any more than I did. The thought that

Cherokee tribe in the 19th century. The

From 1995 to 1997, he served as Dean of the

I would spend my entire life in an institution

school currently has the largest enrollment

Oklahoma City University College of Law, and

like law school was something that really

of Native American students of any public

from 1997 to 2002, he served as Dean of the

didn’t occur to me,” said Strickland, who is

institution of higher education.

University of Oregon School of Law.

Strickland went on to earn his J.D. from

Strickland said working with young people is

the University of Virginia, his M.A. from the

one of the highlights of his job. “I think at this

It wasn’t the subject that Strickland disliked;

University of Arkansas, and his S.J.D. from

moment, at the beginning of the 21st century,

it was the way courses were taught. Law

the University of Virginia.

we have better law students that we have

school in the 1960s, according to Strickland,

had any time in the previous 40 years that I

was a “very sadistic system that was

Immediately after law school, Strickland

have been teaching,” he said, adding that it is

designed to humiliate or, if not humiliate, at

began his career as a graduate teaching

rewarding knowing that he has helped shape

least expose the weaknesses [of students] in

fellow at the University of Arkansas School

their views of the profession.

a very public manner.”

of Law. He has also taught at the University

now the Philip H. Knight Professor of Law at the University of Oregon School of Law.

of West Florida, St. Mary’s University, the

Indian law presents unique challenges. For

However, Strickland did not become

University of Tulsa (where he also served as

example, Strickland said he believes that

disgruntled because of his experience.

acting dean for one year), the University of

many Americans have misconceptions about

Instead, he saw an opportunity to make a

Washington, and the University of Wisconsin.

Native Americans. Just because a few tribes

difference in legal education. Today, he is

In 1985, Strickland served as a professor

have opened successful and prosperous

considered a pioneer in introducing Indian

and dean at the Southern Illinois University

casinos, many people believe that every

law into the university curriculum, and he

School of Law. From 1990 to1995, he was

Native American is making millions of

is the only person to have received both

the director of the Center for the Study

dollars, which simply is not true, he said.

the Society of American Law Teachers In order to help inform the public, Strickland

(SALT) Award (1979) and the American Bar Association’s Spirit of Excellence Award (1997). Strickland’s interest in Native American culture and history comes as no surprise, considering his heritage. His parents were Osage and Cherokee Native Americans, and he grew up in “Indian Country” (Muskogee, OK). Strickland was also exposed to Native American culture throughout his years in


Active to Younge Lawyers “Remember that your first job is not your last job,” Strickland said. There are many opportunities to work with tribes, state agencies, and universities. “If you are really interested in working with Indian people and Indian law, the more kinds of experiences and the broader range of experiences you have, the more you will ultimately contribute to the development of Indian law and the advancement of the Indian people,” he added.

has written and edited more than 35 books about Native American history and culture. He is often cited for his work as Editor-inChief of The Handbook of Federal Indian Law, which was written by Felix S. Cohen. The book is highly regarded and considered by many to be the “Bible of Indian law.” He is currently working on a book called Spirit Red. The book, expected to hit bookstores in three years, includes biographies of 50 key Native American leaders.

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Strickland’s work with Indian law goes

Strickland has helped many tribes and

far beyond the classroom. He has helped

museums resolve legal conflicts regarding

resolve many significant Indian law cases.

skeletal remains and sacred objects. He has

University of Oregon School of Law

For instance, he served as the Chair and

also served as an expert witness in several

Arbitrator of the Osage Constitutional

federal court cases, including the Creek

Commission. During that time, he drafted

Nation gaming case.

the Osage National Constitution, which was

Native American Rights Fund

approved by the votes of more than 65% of

Strickland has been an active member of

the tribal electorate.

the American Bar Association since 1974,

The Association of American Law Schools

and he was President of the Association of

In addition, the U.S. Senate Select Committee

American Law Schools in 1994. He is the first

on Indian Affairs appointed Strickland to

person to have served as both President of

chair a team of three Indian law experts from

the Association of American Law Schools and

the University of Wisconsin Law School. The

Chair of the Law School Admission Council.

team drafted a report on a fishing rights controversy that led to a peaceful resolution.


Rennard Strickland: Philip H. Knight Professor of Law and former Dean of the University of Oregon  

Article By Jen Woods On Rennard Strickland Who Hated Law School So Much That He Decided To Become A Law Professor And Realized That As A Tea...

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