April 5, 2006
Exhibit: CELEBRATING FORTY: Rennard Strickland
“Rennard never failed to pay homage to his American Indian ancestry. He has a gift for incorporating the cultural phenomenon that is everyday American Indian life into his scholarly work. It is this work that will be his legacy- a legacy that one might attribute to his Cherokee and Osage heritage.”
Oregon Law Review
Excerpts from the exhibit text by Rennard Strickland:
ON THE INDIAN AS TEACHER
“We live in a society in which change is so rapid that none of the oldest generation has lived a life closely resembling the one that the youngest generation is living. In such a society the value of the grandfather adviser is minimized. I suggest we look to the American Indian as a grandfather figure for us all . . . The grandfather in Indian society was . . . the storyteller, the teacher. Using the Indian as teacher would help us through the uncertainty of change.”
ON HATING LAW SCHOOL
“All this writing started because I hated law school. I hated law school so much that I wrote my first book, Sam Houston with the Cherokees, during my second and third years at the University of Virginia.
“At that time I saw law school as a bunch of old white boys building their ego by intimidating and humiliating a group of young white boys who would grow up to continue this law school academic abuse.
“I think legal education has moved away from that over the past forty years. Even then there were some professors like Neill Alford, Cal Woodard and John Norton Moore who inspired my Indian law interest and scholarship.”
ON ACADEMIC WRITING, LAW, AND INDIANS
“[One university official wrote about him] ‘Rennard is a lovely young man, an excellent classroom teacher, a hard working committee member and a prolific writer. We only hope someday he will write about law not Indians.’
“Those comments changed forever the trajectory of my scholarship. From that point forward, I wrote about what I wanted to write about.
“When I came into legal education, minority and women professors were told to write about ‘mainstream law’ not about minorities or women or even social and cultural issues. Such non-traditional scholarship, we were told, was for ‘after tenure.’
“. . . I decided I didn’t care to have my academic menu selected by others — especially those who didn’t know my interests and tastes or share my experiences and concerns.
“Therefore, you will notice a broadening set of topics including art, culture, ethnography, film and history. I believe all of these topics are involved with law and society, particularly Native American life and policy.
“Somehow it seems appropriate that book forty is Grandfather Was a Good Witch, co-authored with Jack Gregory who was also my coauthor back in my law school days on Sam Houston with the Cherokees. “
ON WHAT’S NEXT
“. . . I hope writing the next forty books will be as much fun as the first forty. “