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Native Sacred Lands and Federal Regulation
How the Doctrine of Discovery Shapes Religious Liberty in Indian Country

Tue, 15 Oct, 2013 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Traditional indigenous communities in this country are sustained by their spiritual relationships with ancestral lands. Yet vast tracts of Indian land are under the ownership and control of the federal government. When the government regulates its land in ways that impinge on the wellbeing of Native peoples, conflicts erupt. This talk will examine how the government came to claim ownership of tribal lands through the use of the so-called Doctrine of Discovery.  Conceived in the Middle Ages and deployed in the Age of Exploration, the Doctrine is a little-known but powerful jurisprudential tool of colonization that retains force today in the courts of the United States. More than a legal abstraction, the Doctrine operates on assumptions of race and property that are hostile to Native Americans and tribal nations. It is currently under assault by indigenous peoples around the world, by the UN, and by progressive religious groups. The outcome of these contests may determine the shape of religious liberty in Indian Country for generations to come.

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S. Alan Ray

S. Alan Ray
President and Professor of Religion and Society
Elmhurst College

Dr. S. Alan Ray began his presidency of Elmhurst College on July 1, 2008.  As Professor of Religion and Society, he holds academic appointments in the departments of political science and religious studies.

An Oklahoma native and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Dr. Ray’s scholarly interests include federal Indian law, religion and public life, and Native American studies. In 2009, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith named him to the advisory board of the Nation’s Cherokee language immersion school. In July of 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Ray to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education.

Dr. Ray earned a law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1990, and received his Ph.D. in The Study of Religion from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1986. He holds masters degrees from Harvard in theological studies (1980) and religious studies (1983), and graduated summa cum laude from St. Thomas Seminary College, Denver, in 1978. He has taught at Boston College, Harvard Divinity School, and Harvard Law School. Prior to coming to Elmhurst, he held senior administrative positions at the University of New Hampshire (2004-2008) and Harvard Law School (1996-2004).

Dr. Ray served on the Board of Trustees of Chicago Theological Seminary from 2008 to 2013.  He belongs to professional organizations including the American Academy of Religion, American Political Science Association, Law and Society Association, and National Indian Education Association.



Location: The Social Hall
Calendar: Events Calendar
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