G. William Rice (1951-2016)
Professor Bill Rice passed away on February 14, 2016 after an extraordinary career in practice and as an academic focusing on issues and rights of American Indians and indigenous people around the world. Professor Rice, a member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma, served as the Attorney General for the Sac and Fox Nation, Chief Justice for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Assistant Chief and Chief Judge for the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma, and Associate Justice for the Kickapoo Nation of Indians in Kansas. He was a tireless advocate for Indian tribes and Indian peoples, successfully arguing on behalf of the Sac and Fox Nation in the United States Supreme Court in Oklahoma Tax Commission v. Sac and Fox Nation, 508 U.S. 114 (1993). He played an active role in the United Nations Working Group on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which led to the U.N. General Assembly’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. When he began this work, Bill would frequently say “indigenous people — that’s ME!” with a twinkle in his eye. Clearly, his impact reaches from central Oklahoma to Geneva, Switzerland. His passing is a great loss to many.
Professor Rice joined The University of Tulsa College of Law in 1995 teaching Constitutional Law, Jurisprudence, International Indigenous Law, Native American and Indigenous Rights, Tribal Government, and Tribal Gaming Law. He treated his students with great compassion and kindness while challenging them to achieve at the highest levels. In addition to TU Law, Professor Rice taught at Cornell Law School, University of North Dakota School of Law, University of Oklahoma, University of New Mexico, and at Antioch School of Law’s Indian Paralegal program.
Professor Rice’s book, Tribal Governmental Gaming Law (Carolina Academic Press, 2006) is the first law school casebook for use in Indian gaming law classes. He contributed to the two latest revisions of Felix Cohen’s classic Indian law treatise, the Handbook of Federal Indian Law, and wrote extensively in the field of Indian law. Regularly called upon to speak at scholarly and governmental meetings, his speaking engagements included presentations to the United Nations’ Workshop on Indigenous Children and Youth, the University of Paris VII – Denis Diderot, The Federal Bar Association’s Indian Law Conference, the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s Sovereignty Symposium, and numerous appearances at functions sponsored by government agencies, major university law schools, and Indian Tribes.
Professor Rice’s great passions were the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the revitalization of the legal and political systems of Indian Tribes. He was the founding Director of the LL.M. Degree in American Indian and Indigenous Law and the Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law, and served as Co-Director of the Native American Law Center at The University of Tulsa College of Law.
Professor Rice was a teacher and mentor to generations of Indian lawyers. He had enormous influence on the field of Indian law. John LaVelle, his colleague from the University of New Mexico, best expressed what Professor Rice meant to those who knew him: “Bill was a champion for Indian people in heart, mind, and soul. I am honored to have known and worked with him.”
On a personal note, Bill was one of the best. He was a man of towering intellect and vision, and a generous, kind, down-to-earth friend and colleague. He was a consummate story-teller, who loved a good joke. His joy was infectious.
Professor Rice is survived by his wife Annette, his children, grandchildren, and extended family. He will be greatly missed by the TU Law community.