Justice Yvonne Kauger.

Photography and Text by Terry “Travels with Terry” Zinn  [email protected]

Preceding the Red Earth Festival in Oklahoma City is the informative, entertaining and thought provoking Sovereignty Symposium. Being established in 1988 the Symposium is about to celebrate its thirtieth anniversary in the historic Skiving Hotel. For two days, June 7 and 8 the most prestigious speakers from the Judicial and Native American Leaders and artist gather to share their knowledge and expertise.
The mission statement of the Sovereignty Symposium states: “The Sovereignty Symposium was established to provide a forum in which ideas concerning common legal issues can be exchanged in a scholarly, non-adversarial environment. “
Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Yvonne Kauger has coordinated the Sovereignty Symposium since its inception. About its formation Justice Kauger says, “We did it because John Doolin kept going to the National Association of Chief Justices and they have an Indian law committee, but he went three times and came back and said, “They’re never going to do anything. They talk about it, they say they’re going to
have a seminar, they say they’re going to do this. They haven’t done anything and they’re not going to do anything.” And they still haven’t.
So he said, “We’ll just do our own.”
“Governor Bellmon was very instrumental in helping us, and Ed Edmondson, and we did it. And now we’ve been doing it, and no one gets anything for doing this, they pay
their own way. We have the best legal scholars in the world and they pay their own way and they get a T-shirt for coming and our thanks.”
Of particular interest and creativity is: SIGNS, SYMBOLS AND SOUNDS, moderated by the talented, WINSTON SCAMBLER, Student of Native American Art, who has gathered for his seminar: FRITZ KIERSCH, Assistant Vice President, Point Park University, Pennsylvania; ERIC TIPPECONNIC, (Comanche), Historian, Artist, and Professor, California State University, Fullerton; JASON MURRAY, (Chickasaw), Independent Scholar & Professor, Formerly of the University of South Dakota; POTEET VICTORY, (Cherokee/Choctaw), Artist; BRENT GREENWOOD, (Ponca/Chickasaw), Artist and Musician; JOSHUA HINSON, (Chickasaw), Chickasaw Language Revitalization Program and GORDON YELLOWMAN, (Cheyenne), Peace Chief, Assistant Executive Director of Education, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes.
Winston Scambler is the youngest moderator, as he is an upcoming senior at Heritage Hall and wise beyond his years. Scambler continues the seminar “Signs, Symbols and Sounds,” he began last year.
“I attribute my initial interest to my grandmother, Justice Kauger. She was adopted into the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribe and is called the Mother of the Red Earth Powwow.,” Scambler proclaims. “Through her Influence I’ve grown up with Native American Art and really love it.”
With the guidance of photograph Neil Chapman, Scambler educated himself in art with assistance from the archives at the Oklahoma History Center, before forming his seminars.
One of his favorite artists and speakers this year is Eric Tippeconnic. “Eric likes to talk about the symbols he uses, as it means something different to everyone. You’ll see a lot of hand prints and horses,” says Scambler. “This year he is doing something really contemporary with his series called, Briefcase Warriors.”

Other sessions with their moderators include:
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT with JAMES C. COLLARD, Director of Planning and Economic Development, Citizen Potawatomi Nation;
LAND, WIND AND WATER with PATRICK WYRICK, Justice, Oklahoma Supreme Court;
Since its inception in 1988, the Sovereignty Symposium has award the status of “Honored One” to unique individuals whose life time contribution to the world, the United States, the State of Oklahoma and their personal communities are without peer. Past recipients include Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court; former Attorney General Janet Reno, Astronaut Commander John Harrington and Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller.
This years Honored Ones, are Former Assistant Secretaries of the Interior for Indian Affairs: Thomas W. Fredricks, Ada E. Deer, Neal McCaleb, Carl Artman and Larry Echo Hawk..
The Friend of the Court for this year goes to Kris Steele. The Ralph B. Hodges-Robert E Lavender Award for Judicial Excellence Award goes to Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Seven Taylor (Retired).
Benjamin Harjo, Jr. (Seminole & Shawnee), designed and donated the logo for the Sovereignty Symposium. The Lighthorseman depicts an Indian policeman framed in a star. In Indian Territory, the Five Civilized Tribes had a body of men, the Lighthorsemen, who served as a mounted police force. The Lighthorsemen helped the United States Army to keep peace in Indian Territory and to drive out white intruders. Considerable latitude was given to the Lighthorsemen in enforcing the judgments of the courts. Harjo has won many awards in major Native American art shows in the United States. His generosity is appreciated in designing and in donating the logo.
General Admission of $300 for both days may be found with your registration at, www.thesovereigntysymposium.com or [email protected]
You may want to add on to your cultural entertainment, the Red Earth Festival and Powwow June 8 and 9th at the Cox Convention Center near the Skirvin Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City The festival includes dance competitions and a high quality Native American art show and sale. https://www.redearth.org/