Remembering Dean Strickland


In Memorium Rennard Strickland 1940 - 2021 [pictured Rennard Strickland smiling]

long narrow crop of textured brown blue and yellow lines taken from a painting donated by Rennard Strickland to the University of Oregon

Celebrating a Dean and Scholar

Rennard Strickland, former University of Oregon School of Law Dean, passed away January 5, 2021, in Norman, Oklahoma. He was 80 years old. Strickland served as dean from 1997 to 2002, and on the faculty until his retirement in 2006. He was Osage and a citizen of the Cherokee nation and considered a national leader in Indian law. At Oregon Law, Dean Strickland strongly supported the incorporation of Indian law courses into the curriculum and taught a popular seminar on Indian law and policy. Most recently he was the Senior Scholar in Residence at the University of Oklahoma Law Center.


“Rennard has been our visionary, our statesman, our wise elder, and our chief, and he will always have our gratitude for all that he has given us. He has left a profound legacy for us to carry on.”
Mary Wood
Philip H. Knight Professor of Law
Faculty Director, ENR Center
Heather Brinton, Dean Marcilynn A Burke, Strickland Lecture speaker James Anaya, Rennard Strickland, and Mary Wood at the 2017 Rennard Strickland Lecture
From left to right: ENR Center Executive Director Heather Brinton, Oregon Law Dean Marcilynn A. Burke, Strickland Lecture Speaker James Anaya, Rennard Strickland, and ENR Center Faculty Director Mary Wood at the 2017 Rennard Strickland Lecture. 

Part of Strickland’s incredible legacy at Oregon Law School is the annual Rennard Strickland Lecture. The Native Environmental Sovereignty Project, a project of the law school’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center, created this lecture series to examine native leadership in the 21st Century. The lecture is cosponsored by the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics. 

"I met Rennard when I began my journey into academia nearly two decades ago and then was thrilled to grow closer to him in the past few years as the dean of Oregon Law,” current Dean Marcilynn A. Burke said. “He was an inspirational and generous soul with a great sense of humor,” the Dave Frohnmayer Chair of Leadership and Law added.

Strickland recalled in an article on Law Crossing what spurred him to become a law professor.

"When I was in law school, I think it would be safe to say there was no one who hated law school any more than I did. The thought that I would spend my entire life in an institution like law school was something that really didn't occur to me," said Strickland, who was then the Philip H. Knight Professor of Law at the University of Oregon School of Law. It wasn't the subject that Strickland disliked; it was the way courses were taught. Law school in the 1960s, according to Strickland, was a "very sadistic system that was designed to humiliate or, if not humiliate, at least expose the weaknesses [of students] in a very public manner."

Leaving a Legacy 

Rennard Strickland Indian Law and Culture Collection

The Strickland Collection in the University of Oregon Libraries was born from the generous support of leading Native American legal scholar and former UO Law Dean Rennard Strickland. The collection is a rich resource for scholars and researchers of Indian law, tribal law, and the history and culture of Native Americans and other indigenous peoples. In addition to Indian law, the collection includes works of art and literature by Native American authors. Books are identified by special bookplates.

Rennard Strickland Collection of Western Film History 

In addition to the library collection in Oregon, Strickland left his expansive collection of Western movies, posters, and memorabilia that he had collected over a lifetime to both Arizona State University and the Museum of the West. This collection, potentially one of the most comprehensive collections of Western film memorabilia, reflected his love of Western movies and the interplay between cinema and Native American culture and public perception.

cardboard cut-out of Rennard Strickland at the exhibit of his collection in the Museum of the West, 2017

aerial shot of the movie posters and memorabilia from Strickland's collection at the Museum of the West

Rennard Strickland standing before a birthday cake featuring his most prized movie poster while wearing a tshirt with the same movie poster printed on the front

Oregon Law Remembers

“Rennard Strickland was perhaps the best known and most illustrious scholar in the field of Indian law. Indeed, he is widely acknowledged to be one of the founders of the field. His work editing the 1982 revision of Felix Cohen’s classic 1942 treatise “Handbook on Federal Indian Law” is credited with launching the modern era of Indian law as an academic discipline. Moreover, as Native American himself he served as a role model and inspiration to the legion of young Native American lawyers who now practice in the field and who teach Indian law at law schools across the country. At Oregon Law, Dean Strickland strongly supported the incorporation of Indian law courses into the curriculum and taught a popular seminar on Indian law and policy. He was one of the reasons I became an Adjunct Professor teaching Indian law subjects at Oregon Law more than a decade ago. He was a great man and an inspiration to me and all who came to know him. He will be greatly missed.”
– Howard Arnett
Law Professor of Practice

“Rennard was Dean when I joined the University of Oregon. The moment when I was most grateful for his mentorship came early in my career as a scholar. I was in his office, talking about the challenges I was having with a particular piece of scholarship. He sat thoughtfully, nodded his head, and said, “Well, you know, Michael, there are times when what one needs to do it to take a project out behind the shed and shoot it.” I followed his advice. The world and I are both better off for me never having completed that particular research project. I benefitted from Rennard’s wisdom many times, of course, when I became Dean myself. But his singular ability to speak the truth, even when awkward, was never more valuable than when he guided my early career as a scholar.”
– Michael Moffitt
Philip H. Knight Professor of Law
Faculty-in-Residence, Clark Honors College

“Rennard was an outstanding Dean, and I say that not only because he hired me. Rennard was one of the kindest people I knew. He was soft-spoken, and his amicable demeanor was a fitting shell for his great intellect. He was approachable, and he would engage with people on their own terms, ready to share his immense knowledge about the law, the arts, and Osage culture with anyone who cared to listen. One of my favorite memories of Rennard is when he hosted a group of faculty at the chef's table of a well-known D.C. restaurant in connection with our annual trip to the AALS meeting. As we sat in the kitchen and gorged ourselves on a variety of delicacies, Rennard presided over the camaraderie like the true leader he was. He fostered connection and discourse. He was with us, not above us.  He has left a lasting imprint on me. I will always remember him fondly. May he rest in peace.”
– Merle Weiner
Philip H. Knight Professor of Law

We invite you to share memories of or tributes to Dean Strickland.