January in Tucson 2023 Brings Together Global Cohort for Intensive Indigenous Governance Education

Feb. 24, 2023
Man presenting to the room.

Every January, the University of Arizona College of Law's Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program and the Native Nations Institute come together to offer the January in Tucson (JIT) intensive education session. For three weeks, distinguished faculty members from around the world gather to teach and discuss Indigenous governance and Indigenous rights with leaders, practitioners, and community members. 

This year's program was especially significant, as it marked the first time JIT resumed its in-person offerings since 2020. The program brought together a global cohort of 116 participants, who collectively took 217 credit hours of classes. 

JIT 2023 offered 19 courses on a variety of topics related to Indigenous governance, including Native nation-building, Native economic development, and Indigenous data sovereignty. The faculty included four IPLP alumni: Professor Tory Fodder (JD, ’10, SJD, ’12 ) taught Indigenous Peoples and the Environment, Professor Alison Vivian (SJD, ’14) co-taught Constitutions of Indigenous Nations, Professor Francisco Olea (JD, ’18) taught Tribal Gaming Law and Regulation, and Professor Ibrahim Garba (SJD, ’20) co-taught Indigenous Research Governance.

Participants in the program came from a range of backgrounds, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Simon Fraser University, and the University of Technology Sydney. The Native Nations Institute's Tribal Professionals Cohort also brought seven participants from seven Native nations. 

JIT is more than just a series of classes on Indigenous topics; it provides an opportunity for Indigenous peoples from all over the world to engage in dialogue and share perspectives on familiar challenges. As Indigenous Governance Program Manager and Professor of Practice Tory Fodder noted, "We are obviously thrilled to have had such wide participation from tribal leaders, students, and professionals from all over the world. We look forward to drawing from the feedback of our guests and hope to make January in Tucson 2024 even better." 

Expanding the JIT Curriculum 

This year’s JIT curriculum featured two new courses. Tribal Gaming Law and Regulation was taught by Professor Francisco Olea, IPLP alumnus and region director at the National Indian Gaming Commission, attorney, and enrolled member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe in Arizona. The course focused on the federal, state, and tribal laws and regulations federally recognized Tribes must follow to offer Indian gaming as a form of economic development through tribally owned gaming operations.  

Professor Rodgerick Begay – Assistant Attorney General for the Navajo Nation Department of Justice, taught Navajo Common Law. The course utilizes the Navajo Fundamental Law Statute as a framework to explore Navajo Common Law. 

The Student Experience 

JIT offers unique benefits for students engaged in Nation-building work or who intend to do so after graduating. For Callie Phillips, a second-year dual degree law student and member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, North Carolina, the JIT experience provided skills she could apply in the real world. "Overall, I felt like (JIT) gave me a lot of skills that I can actually take to my tribe or to other tribal places that I may work… I feel like [it] really shined a light on the real world." 

JIT not only provides important information backed by research, but it also offers a chance to network and connect with professionals and subject matter experts. Phillips noted that having direct access to experienced professionals helped broaden her understanding of what it's like to work as a tribal professional. “I found my classmates in January in Tucson were equally as beneficial as my professors. Everybody brought a good perspective to the class.” 

JIT 2023 By the Numbers 

2023 marked the most successful JIT event in the program’s history in terms of attendance. In the first year in which the roster hit triple digits, University of Arizona Law hosted 116 students in 19 individual courses during the three-week program.  

This year’s cohort of students included: 

  • 79 enrolled tribal members representing 56 individual tribes and Native nations 
  • 42 tribal professionals 
  • 18 graduate students 
  • 74 students from outside the state of Arizona 
  • 38 international students 

The JIT faculty was equally diverse. Faculty members for this year’s program included: 

  • 23 expert instructors 
  • 17 enrolled tribal members, representing 13 tribes and Native nations 
  • 11 University of Arizona faculty members 
  • 4 international guest instructors from Australia and Canada 

All told, the 2023 JIT cohort included representatives of more than 15 international government agencies, a half-dozen NGOs, several businesses, and at least 12 international colleges.