Conferences & Symposia

Native Peoples, Native Politics

Politics requires more than voting and electoral mobilization. It requires knowledge of law, organization, identity, history, and culture. This reality is very much evident in Native American life today, where Native communities are sovereign nations within the United States, yet must still negotiate politically within a federal democratic system that at times inconsistently honors their rights, their land and water, and their ways of life.  

The Radcliffe Institute, in partnership with the Harvard University Native American Program, is hosting this conference to explore a range of mechanisms for political expression with leading members of Native communities, academics, policy makers, journalists, students, artists, and writers. 

Free and open to the public.

Join the conversation on Twitter: 

This event at the Radcliffe Institute is part of the Initiative on Native and Indigenous Peoples.


9 a.m.

Opening Blessing

Jonathan Perry (Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head [Aquinnah]), Tribal Councilman

9:05 a.m.


Lizabeth Cohen, Dean of the Radcliffe Institute and Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies, Department of History, Harvard University


Daniel Carpenter, Director of the Social Sciences Program at the Radcliffe Institute; Member, Provost’s Advisory Council on Native and Indigenous Issues; Allie S. Freed Professor of Government in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University

9:30 a.m.

Panel 1: Native Law and Legal Strategy

Moderator: Maggie McKinley (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe), Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School

Richard Guest, Attorney, Tribal Supreme Court Project, Native American Rights Fund

Diane J. Humetewa (Hopi), United States District Judge, United States District Court, District of Arizona

Joseph Singer, Bussey Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

10:45 a.m.


11 a.m.

Panel 2: Native Governance and Politics

Moderator: Daniel Carpenter

Karen Diver (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa), Special Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs at the White House; Former Chairwoman, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

John Dossett, General Counsel, National Congress of American Indians 

Sylvia McAdam (nêhiyaw Nations), Cofounder, Idle No More

12:15 p.m.

Lunch Break

1:15 p.m.

Afternoon Welcome

Keynote Address by Robert Odawi Porter (Seneca Nation), Senior Advisor at Dentons US LLP and 67th President of the Seneca Nation of Indians

2:15 p.m.

Panel 3: Native Politics in Literature and Art

Moderator: Shelly Lowe (Navajo), Executive Director, Harvard University Native American Program

Kristiana Kahakauwila (Native Hawaiian), Writer; Lisa Goldberg Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study 

Frank Waln (Sicangu Lakota), Musician

Matika Wilbur (Swinomish/Tulalip), Photographer and Creator, Project 562

3:30 p.m.


3:45 p.m.

Panel 4: Native Politics in Broadcast Media and Film

Moderator: Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma), Blogger, Native Appropriations; Postdoctoral Fellow in Anthropology, Brown University

Irene Bedard (Inupiaq/Yupik/Cree), Actor

Migizi Pensoneau (Ponca/Ojibwe), Member, the 1491s

Loris Taylor (Hopi), President and CEO, Native Public Media

5 p.m.

Closing Remarks

Daniel Carpenter

5:10 p.m.