NORMAN — The University of Oklahoma School of Law is launching a new program designed to help American Indian tribal officials and others navigate the legal landscape in Indian Country.
OU recently opened enrollment for its new online Master of Legal Studies program in Indigenous Peoples Law. Classes begin in the fall semester.
The two-year program provides a good option for people who need legal expertise in American Indian law, but don't need to pursue a law degree, said Joe Harroz, dean of the law school.
The program includes 30 hours of coursework, and its online format will work well for working adult students, Harroz said.
University officials have seen a great deal of demand from businesses who work with tribes and tribal officials who aren't looking for a license to practice law, but need a greater understanding of legal complexities between the tribes and state and federal governments.
“It gives them a real advantage,” he said.
Virginia St. John, a vice president with Florida-based business consulting firm Upper Mohawk, is one of those students. The firm works closely with various tribes, American Indian-owned firms and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The program piqued her interest because it would help her understand the legal relationships between the federal government and the various tribes with which her firm works, St. John said. Those relationships are often emotionally fraught and difficult to understand to an outsider like herself, she said.
It's really complicated. There isn't one handy book that you can buy to read up and become an expert.”