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Kirke Kickingbird to be Inducted Into Circle of Honor

The Tulsa City-County Library’s (TCCL) American Indian Resource Center has chosen attorney Kirke Kickingbird, who is Of Counsel in the Oklahoma City office of the law firm Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker, LLP, for induction into its Circle of Honor. A special presentation is scheduled for March 3, 2012, at 10:30 a.m. at Central Library, Fourth Street and Denver Avenue.

Kickingbird is a member of the Kiowa Tribe and Kiowa Gourd Clan. He received his B.A. from the University of Oklahoma in 1966 and continued at OU, earning his J.D. in 1969. In the summer of 1968 prior to his final year of law school, he worked on an Indian treaty project of the National Congress of American Indians directed by Vine Deloria, Jr.

Since 2000, when firm founder Jerry Straus and Oklahoma partner William Norman began discussing expansion of the Oklahoma City office, Kickingbird has been in practice with Hobbs Straus, a national firm that specializes in representing Indian tribes and tribal organizations. William Norman and he negotiated the 2004 Oklahoma model state-tribal gaming compact, and have continued working with tribes on gaming compact implementation. Norman and Kickingbird negotiated new tobacco compacts in 2008 that were advantageous for Oklahoma tribes. During his time with the firm, Kickingbird also has built relationships with the Oklahoma legislature and the Governor’s office for tribal clients, helped tribes pass state legislation on the master settlement agreement on tobacco manufacturing, assisted tribes with negotiation of economic project financing and monitored tribal water law issues. Recently in December 2011, he led the firm’s training program on the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistant Act and Self-Governance, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Shortly thereafter in January of 2012, Kickingbird and Lee Shannon of the Hobbs Straus Portland, Oregon office conducted a seminar on the Indian Tribal Governmental Tax Status Act (26 U.S.C. § 7871), tax issues in structuring tribal transactions, tribal business entity development, and tribal tax commission operations in Anchorage, Alaska.

Kickingbird began his legal career in the Congressional Relations Office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, after Commissioner of Indian Affairs Louis R. Bruce asked him to join the agency. Among other duties, Kickingbird was assigned to participate in field hearings on the legislative package to implement the 1970 Nixon Indian Policy Statement. From 1971 to 1983, he served as the executive director of the Washington-based Institute for the Development of Indian Law, co-founded by Vine Deloria, Jr. and Franklin D. Ducheneaux. As director, Kickingbird wrote a series of books on Indian law covering such topics as sovereignty, treaties, jurisdiction, trust and the U.S. government. Following the 1972 takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the 1973 Siege of Wounded Knee, Senator James Abourezk of South Dakota asked Kickingbird to serve as General Counsel to the U.S. Congress' American Indian Policy Review Commission, which undertook a two-year (1975-77) mission to study U.S. Indian policy and develop legislative recommendations for change. The Commission’s reports – some 8,000 pages in 14 volumes – have formed the foundation of federal Indian law for the past 30 years.

Kickingbird’s first book, “One Hundred Million Acres,” was published in 1973 and nominated by his publisher to the Pulitzer Committee. In 1987, he wrote “Indians and the U.S. Constitution: A Forgotten Legacy,” which was honored by the U.S. Bicentennial Commission. His latest book is “Youth for Tribal Government,” which is an introduction to tribal government in the 21st century.

Devoting his professional career to helping American Indians, Kickingbird has directed the Native American Legal Resource Center at Oklahoma City University School of Law and was appointed by Gov. Frank Keating as the Special Counsel on Indian Affairs. His expertise has enabled him to provide counsel to tribal governments throughout the world on international treaty issues affecting indigenous people. He has served on U.S. delegations to United Nations conferences in Geneva, Switzerland on the rights of indigenous people. For the past six years, he has been an organizer and instructor in “Nation Building for Native Youth,” an Indian youth leadership program in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“I have known Kirke since 1969, the year we both graduated from law school,” said John Ghostbear, American Indian Resource Center advisory committee member. “He has accomplished great things in educating numerous tribal governments and tribal leaders throughout Indian Country about law generally and federal Indian law specifically. He continues to make a substantial contribution to the development of tribal leaders and lawyers who practice in the area of federal Indian law.”

The Circle of Honor ceremony recognizes an American Indian for his or her achievements by acknowledging the inductee’s contributions that have enriched others’ lives, and by celebrating the inductee’s action in the face of adversity, and commitment to the preservation of American Indian culture and legacy for future generations.

Past Circle of Honor recipients include Charles Chibitty (Comanche), Wilma Mankiller (Cherokee), Neal McCaleb (Chickasaw) and Billy Mills (Oglala Sioux).

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