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Friday, March 15, 2013

Pioneering attorney Arlinda Locklear is UNCP commencement speaker

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke will hold its spring commencements on May 3 and 4. Graduate commencement will take place Friday, May 3, at 7 p.m. in the Givens Performing Arts Center, and the undergraduate ceremony will take place Saturday, May 4, at 9 a.m. on the Quad.

Arlinda LocklearArlinda Locklear, a Pembroke native who has spent her career in Washington, D.C., working for American Indian rights, will be the speaker at both events. The announcement was made by Chancellor Kyle R. Carter.

“I can think of no better person to help the university officially close its 125th anniversary celebration at spring commencement,” Chancellor Carter said. “As a highly successful Lumbee woman, Arlinda understands the value of education in general and the special role UNC Pembroke has played and will play in providing opportunity to the people of southeastern North Carolina.   

“I look forward to a very thoughtful and inspiring message from a very accomplished woman who is a loyal UNC Pembroke supporter,” he said.

A former member of UNCP’s Board of Trustees, Locklear will give remarks on the university’s 125-year history and the Lumbee experience. This spring’s commencement events mark the final celebrations of UNCP’s 125th anniversary.

“First, I am honored to speak at UNCP’s commencements,” Locklear said from her Washington, D.C., office. “The experience of the Lumbee people and the history of the university are woven together tightly. I hope that I will do this proud history justice.”

Among the tribes that Locklear has advocated for is her own Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. From 1988 to 2011, she represented the tribe’s effort to win federal recognition.

Locklear was described in an American Bar Association publication as “a pioneering attorney in Native American law.” In 1984, she became the first Native American woman to appear before the U.S. Supreme Court.

As lead counsel in two cases, Locklear prepared the brief and presented the oral argument to the nation’s highest court.  In 1984, she successfully challenged South Dakota’s authority to prosecute a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe for on-reservation conduct in Solem v. Bartlett. 

In 1985, Locklear represented the tribe in Oneida Indian Nation v. County of Oneida, in which she argued that tribes have a federal common law right to sue for possession of tribal lands taken in violation of federal law. The Oneida case is the seminal case upon which all other land claims litigation have since been based.

In addition to her significant litigation experience, Locklear is a nationally recognized expert in the area of federal recognition of Indian tribes. She is well-versed in the legislative process as well, having successfully represented the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation in the settlement of its water rights.

Locklear began her career as an attorney at the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, Co., and later transferred to the Washington D.C. office, serving as directing attorney.

She has received numerous awards for fostering the development of women, among them a 2008 honor for her contributions to the American Indian community by the Conference of American Indian Women of Proud Nations. Locklear holds honorary doctorates from The State University of New York at Oneonta (1990), North Carolina State University (2007) and The College of Charleston (2012), her alma mater.

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