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The 12th Annual Vine Deloria, Jr. Indigenous Studies Symposium was held at Northwest Indian College’s Lummi campus in Bellingham, WA. on May 19-21, 2017.

At this symposium we acknowledged the efforts at Vine’s home, The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, by re-visiting work in his book co-authored with David E. Wilkins, The Legal Universe: Observations on the Foundations of American Law (2011).

Vine’s final chapter was the theme for this symposium:

The Natural World and The Law

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See all of the speakers here:



The Deloria Symposium was pleased to announce a dual keynote for the 12th symposium, Dr. Deborah and Ron His Horse Is Thunder.  Ron and Deborah are married and live at Standing Rock, both are longtime advocates working in many areas serving the needs of tribal communities and our tribal college network.  We welcomed them both to Northwest Indian College and the Deloria Symposium.


Deborah His Horse is Thunder, Ed.D.

Deborah His Horse is Thunder, Ed.D. is a water protector and serves as the AIHEC NARCH Project Director and facilitates behavioral health research and effective intervention strategies for the Tribal Colleges and Universities. Dr. His Horse is Thunder has previously served as the AIHEC Student Success Project Director and the Director of Membership Services. Previously, Deborah served as the Chief Academic Officer at three tribal colleges: Haskell Indian Nations University, Fort Peck Community College, and Aaniiih Nakoda College. Her familiarity with tribal colleges and the challenges that American Indian students face in these institutions provides her with the essential foundation to effectively work with tribal communities. Deborah holds a doctorate in education, a master’s degree in higher education, and a bachelor’s degree in sociology. She has previous experience working with her own tribal community, held a tenure track faculty position at the University of Montana. She was appointed by President Bush to serve on the President’s Advisory Council on Tribal Colleges and Universities and she was appointed by Governor Racicot to serve on the Montana University System’s Board of Regents. Deborah is a tribally enrolled member of the Assiniboine (Nakoda) Nation and lives on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota.

Ron His Horse is Thunder, J.D.

Ron His Horse Is Thunder is a member of the Hunkpapa-Lakota Oyate from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, where he served as the Tribal Chairman from 2005-2009. Presently, he serves as the Director for the Tribes Department of Transportation. He has in recent years partnered with his wife, Deborah, working with Tribal Colleges and Indian organizations as consultants providing services in Board training, community needs assessments, and assistance with accreditation issues.

He began his professional career in 1988 after graduating from the South Dakota School of Law with a Juris Doctorate degree. Serving in various capacities for Sitting Bull College (formerly Standing Rock College) until he was named as the college president in 1991. In 1993 he took two years off to head the American Indian College Fund, based out of New York, N.Y., where he served as its president until 1995. Shortly thereafter he accepted the position as president of Little Hoop College (now Cankdeska Cikana Community College) in Fort Totten, N.D. Returning to the presidency of Sitting Bull College in 1996, His Horse Is Thunder served in this capacity until his election as Tribal Chairman in 2005.

Ron has served on a number of professional commissions and boards serving Indian country. He was the appointed by President George W. Bush as Chairman of the President’s Board of Advisors on Tribal Colleges and Universities (WHITCU). He also served as a Commissioner for the Higher Learning Commission for the North Central Association for Schools and Colleges; as a Board member for The Native American Rights Fund, Area Vice President for the National Congress of American Indians, Chairman for the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association, just to name a few.