Earlier this month the University of Pennsylvania undergraduate organization Natives at Penn hosted the three-day All Ivy Native Spring Conference, the theme of which was “Navigating Two Worlds,” bringing to campus approximately 125 Native and/or Indigenous Students from Ivy League and other prestigious institutions.
On April 7, Penn Law was the host of the conference dinner and keynote address, which was delivered by Karen Diver (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa), the inaugural Faculty Fellow for Inclusive Excellence for Native American Affairs at the College of St. Scholastica in Minnesota, former Chairwoman of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and Special Assistant on Indian Affairs to the Obama administration. Penn Law Assistant Professor Maggie McKinley (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa) introduced her former chairwoman. Attendees included Native undergraduates, Professor Ned Blackhawk (Western Shoshone), Penn faculty, and other distinguished guests.
“While the keynote address by Karen Diver was motivational and her ability to captivate an audience astounding, having Penn Law host the dinner and keynote was equally as important,” said Makenzie Way (Eastern Woodland Metis Nation of Nova Scotia), a Penn Law 1L and President of the Law School’s Native American Law Student Association (NALSA). “This is likely the first time any law school has hosted the event, and I know Penn’s willingness to step up meant a lot to everyone in attendance.”
Way added: “Seeing such a large number of Native American students seated in the Great Hall was a symbol of what Penn Law’s NALSA and the All Ivy Conference are striving towards: inclusivity and equality. On a more admissions-based level, for those contemplating law school, Penn’s show of acceptance will certainly make a huge impact on those who attended.”
Each semester one of the eight Ivy League schools hosts the Ivy Native Summit in the Fall, and another school hosts the Ivy Native Conference in the Spring. According to Penn Alumni, the conference featured speakers and conversations on success within the higher education system and the transfer of those skills, abilities, and experiences to make a positive impact on Indian Country. (Indian Country is a legal term that defines Native lands, communities, and allotments.)
Renee Post, Penn Law’s Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid, working with Prof. McKinley and Way, attended the dinner and keynote and spoke with dozens of students individually about the value of applying to and attending law school generally, as well as Penn Law in particular.
“I am very proud that we were able to host at Penn Law this large group of Native students from so many institutions,” said Ted Ruger, Dean of the Law School and the Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law. “The efforts of the Conference organizers and attendees, and the work of students like Makenzie Way here at the Law School, are helping ensure that our academic community and discourse are enriched by greater inclusivity.”