Cherokee chief elected to prestigious American Law Institute

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Chad Smith, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of
Oklahoma since 1999, has been selected for membership in the American Law
Institute (ALI), an affiliation of noted federal and state judges, lawyers
and law scholars. Membership in the organization is based on professional
achievement and dedication to improve law.

Previously employed as a state prosecutor and public defender, Smith also
worked as a tribal attorney and prosecutor, an administrator of the
Cherokee Nation Tax Commission, a legal historian and a director of
justice, and has managed his own private law practice.

Smith holds a bachelor's degree in Education from the University of
Georgia, a Master of Arts in Public Business Administration from the
University of Wisconsin, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of
Tulsa. During subsequent work in academia, he was a professor of Indian Law
at Rogers State University, Dartmouth College and Northeastern State

The American Law Institute was organized in 1923 following a study
conducted by a group of prominent American judges, lawyers, and teachers
known as "The Committee on the Establishment of a Permanent Organization
for the Improvement of the Law."

The committee concerned itself with two chief defects in American law:
uncertainty and complexity. Its members believed these defects created a
"general dissatisfaction with the administration of justice." Their highest
priority as an organization was to promote agreement among members of the
profession on the fundamental principles of common law. They also sought
"to promote the clarification and simplification of law and its better
adaptation to social needs, in order to secure the better administration of
justice, and to encourage and carry on scholarly and scientific legal

Smith was nominated for ALI membership by Oklahoma Supreme Court Vice Chief
Justice Marian P. Opala based on his record of achievement during his years
as a Cherokee chief.

During his first term in office, Smith pushed for a congressional
resolution in the matter of two important bills: House Bill 3534, the
"Cherokee, Choctaw and Chickasaw Claims Settlement Act," which centered on
a 96-year-old dispute over Arkansas Riverbed land claims by members of the
three tribal nations who contended that after Oklahoma became a state in
1907, the tribes were deprived of their rightful claims to land and
resources along the Arkansas River. In 1970, the Supreme Court ruled in
Choctaw Nation v. Oklahoma that these three Indian nations retained title
to the river land under dispute. As a result, in 1989 the tribes filed a
joint lawsuit against the BIA for mismanagement of resources along the

In November 2002, Congress passed the two-bill legislation, dismissing the
mismanagement charges against the BIA and authorizing a $40 million
settlement to be distributed among the interested tribes in quarterly

During his second term, Smith continued to press for passage of the Five
Nations Indian Land Reform Act - reform legislation that would provide
protection for restricted Indian land allotments in eastern Oklahoma. The
bill was designed to carry the same level of protection that is afforded
trust allotments in western Oklahoma and elsewhere in the United States,
placing the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Choctaw and Chickasaw
nations that own nearly 400,000 acres of the restricted lands on fair and
equal footing with other federally-recognized tribes.

"Historically, Cherokees have been at the forefront of legal issues," Smith
said. "Back to Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, Cherokees have used the court
system to preserve our sovereignty. I am honored to carry on that

"He [Smith] is one of those political figures who can lead, express
themselves, think critically about issues, and also integrate the law into
practice," wrote Martin H. Belsky, law professor at the University of
Tulsa, in a letter endorsing Smith's nomination.