A new online Master of Legal Studies program in Indigenous Peoples Law at the University of Oklahoma School of Law in Norman, Oklahoma is designed to help navigate the often complicated court cases in Indian country.
The two-year program is a good option for people who need legal expertise in American Indian law, but don’t need to pursue a law degree, Joe Harroz, dean of the law school, told The Oklahoman.
The online format and the 30 hours of coursework can fit into anyone’s schedule, even working adult students.
Harroz also said the university had been seeing demand for a program like this one from businesses who work with tribes and tribal officials. Neither are looking for a license to practice law, but are looking to gain a deeper understanding of the legal relationships between tribes and state and federal governments.
“It gives them a real advantage,” he told The Oklahoman.
Virginia St. John is an example of one of those students. She is a vice president with Upper Mohawk, a Florida-based business that works with tribes, American Indian-owned companies and the Department of the Interior.
She said the program will help her understand the relationships between all the entities.
“It’s really complicated,” she said. “There isn’t one handy book that you can buy to read up and become an expert.”
Curtis Berkey, a tribal attorney in Berkeley, California, told The Oklahoman the program would be good for tribal officials who often encounter legal issues.
Oklahoma is an ideal place for this type of program; it has the largest Native American population in the United States and 38 federally recognized tribes.
Enrollment for the fall semester is open until July 18.