Seneca President Robert Odawi Porter to be 5th Canby Lecturer

“Tribal National Security Strategy
 for the 21st Century”
Tuesday, January 24, 2012 – 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm

Robert Odawi Porter
Seneca Nation of Indians

(Public Reception to follow)

The upcoming Indian Legal Program event is free and open to the public, however for planning purposes online RSVP or registration is requested and appreciated. For more information, please contact Darlene Lester at 480.965.7715

Reserved parking will be available in ASU Visitor’s Rural Road Parking Structure, accessed from Terrace Avenue, west of Rural Rd. Terrace Avenue has a “Road Closed” sign but it is open to traffic to enter the Visitor’s Parking Entrance. Parking is $2.00 /hour, maximum $8.00. This is an attended parking lot where guests pull a ticket upon entrance to the gate controlled facilities and pay (cash only) upon exiting. Mention “Canby Lecture” to be guaranteed a reserved spot in lot.

Please click here for directions to the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Armstrong Hall, 1100 S. McAllister Avenue, Tempe, AZ.

 Web Streaming Live at
  (4:30 pm MST)

Radio Profile of Seneca Pres. Robert Porter

Via Pechanga, here it is.

An excerpt:

Porter’s a big guy at 6-foot-4.  He has graying hair.  He’s dressed casually for a president in a striped button-down and khakis.

Porter says Senecas enjoy universal health care, college tuition assistance, subsidized day care, new sports complexes.  For a few years, there was even a program that paid Senecas 1400 dollars a year to lose weight.

In New York State, the Senecas and other native tribes are often portrayed as villains, getting rich off gambling and tobacco addicts.

Porter bristles at that criticism.

Right when we’re starting to recover from a couple hundred years of deprivation, I’ve even had members of Congress, their staff, tell us, y’know, you guys really should be getting into something else.  This is really not something you should be doing, and I just can’t believe the hypocrisy of that.

Porter says some of the largest corporations in the U.S. are in the same industries.  Almost all states raise money with lotteries.

Porter’s sued New York several times to prevent the state from taxing native tobacco sales.  He’s pressing the state to pay millions in rent for two Interstates that cross Seneca land.  Yet somehow, he hasn’t made many enemies.

NYTs: Quoting Haudenosaunee Leaders on Obama’s Promises to Indian Country

Here is the article. An excerpt:

Robert Porter, the president of the Seneca nation in Western New York, said in an interview with the Caucus that Mr. Obama had failed to purse a legislative agenda that would help empower the American Indian nations and improve the economic situation for residents.

“The administration is very easily co-opting us with lofty promises of supporting the nation-to-nation relationship but then not following through,” Mr. Porter said. “We need to have support for meaningful tribal economic empowerment.”

Mr. Porter’s tribe has clashed with the administration over legislation passed last year that banned the direct sales of cigarettes through the mail. The Seneca nation had been an aggressive seller of cigarettes by mail and denounced the legislation as a means of crippling economic activity on American Indian reservations.

A news release in March from the Seneca nation accused Mr. Obama of “deliberately betraying” American Indians by signing the legislation into law.

Continue reading

News Coverage of Seneca Election Battle (Featuring Rob Porter!)

From the Buffalo News, via Pechanga:

Robert Odawi Porter, 47, is proud of his Harvard Law School education and the fact that he left behind his career as a law professor to return to his roots in Western New York.

Maurice A. John Sr., 62, calls himself a warrior and says he has battled with the state and federal governments for decades.

The two men, both widely known in their tribe, are facing off in the Seneca Nation presidential election Nov. 2.

Porter has the backing of the powerful Seneca Party, which has dominated the Indian nation’s elections since the 1980s. John, who served a term as president from 2006 to 2008, is an independent.

Each insists he is the one to lead the Senecas through a stormy period marked by fights with the state over cigarette taxes and hundreds of millions of dollars in debts associated with the three Seneca casinos.

“I know I am the underdog. … I’m an old man taking on a big machine,” John told The Buffalo News. “But when I travel around our territories and talk to people face to face, I find that a lot of them agree with me that we have to get our financial house in order. We have to stop running up debts.”

Porter said addressing the debt problem is important to him, too. He wants the Seneca Nation to improve its economy by increasing educational opportunities for young people and by expanding the nation’s business interests beyond cigarettes, gasoline and casinos.

“My family never had a lot of money when I was growing up. We got some of our food from government programs,” Porter said. “What opened the door for me, and changed my life, was education.”

Porter grew up in Salamanca, where he was raised by his mother, Lana Redeye, a teacher who is now the Seneca Nation education director. He graduated from Salamanca High School and later earned degrees from Syracuse University and Harvard Law School.

Continue reading

Rob Porter: “American Indians and the New Termination Era”

Rob Porter has a new article in the Cornell Journal of Law & Public Policy, “American Indians and the New Termination Era.” From the article:

I will first examine some of the legal and policy trends in America’s treatment of Indians that are currently taking place. For several years now, I have thought that the study of America’s so-called Indian law is completely predictable and intellectually moribund. Recently, however, there have been competing developments emanating from the Supreme Court and the Congress–for example the recent decision in United States v. Lara and the development of the Self-Governance Program–that offset my concerns that a neo-termination policy has fully emerged. Examining the current policy trends and predicting where things are headed presents an interesting forensic examination.
Secondly, because I am generally an optimist and believe that there must be a silver lining somewhere within these antagonistic developments, I will examine what I perceive to be the opportunities that lie in the current policy landscape. These may not be intuitive assessments for anyone who genuinely believes that the Self-Determination Policy is really working. But opportunities do exist, and they should be better understood in order to seize upon them.
Lastly, I will examine this whole policy quandary from a normative perspective. For the entirety of American history, the United States has basically approached policy questions involving the Indians from one simple perspective –” what do we do with them?” Well, the other side of that policy question is rarely asked, which is, “what do we Indians want for ourselves?”
This is an important question to answer as Native peoples take more control over our own lives. But the question is more difficult than one might think. There is very real tension for Indians in this day and age between choosing the easy path towards living the good life as a member of American society, or choosing the traditional and more difficult path of struggling to preserve life as free and distinct peoples and nations. Compounding the difficulty of this choice is the fact that, because of our inherent differences and generations of colonization-induced social and cultural change, Indians today see the world through very different lenses. Understanding what exactly is happening to us, much less being able to respond coherently, makes the goal of formulating Indigenous survival strategies especially challenging.