Three Borders and a Treaty on the Western Frontier: Preston Lecturers Discuss Supreme Court Case
Hotchkiss Preston Lecture Steve Small and Kyle Gray

Hotchkiss welcomed Preston Lecture speakers Steve Small and Kyle Gray on April 25 in Walker Auditorium. The two attorneys from Montana discussed representing Clayvin Herrera in Herrera v. Wyoming, a Supreme Court case upholding Native American hunting and land rights under the Treaty of Fort Laramie. They also spoke about the case and their careers with Hotchkiss students in Ethics, Honors Supreme Court, and U.S. History classes.

Indigenous students Avery Doran ’24 and Bella Bigelow ’24 introduced both speakers.

“The effort of the Herrera v. Wyoming case is something we hold close to our hearts as similar instances regarding hunting and land rights in general have affected our personal communities back home,” Avery said.

“It is important to honor and respect treaties such as the Treaty of Fort Laramie as these agreements have preserved the rights of indigenous people who have occupied the land and territory far before anyone else,” Bella said.

Gray kicked off the lecture. “We're going to take you essentially through a story of our fight along with many Indian partners to overturn a case, Ward v. Race Horse, which was decided in 1896 by the U.S. Supreme Court and basically stripped Indian nations of their treaty rights to hunt off their reservations. So it's been a long fight.”

Hotchkiss Preston Lecture in Class

Preston Lecturers Steve Small and Kyle Gray spoke with students in an Honors Supreme Court class.

Their visit relates to this year’s All-School Read, Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera, and Ward said they saw an overlap between the book and Herrera v. Wyoming. “We're talking here about the borders between the federal government, which owns the U.S. forest lands, and the state of Wyoming, which is a sovereign state in Western United States. And then the fact that a treaty clause makes treaties the supreme law of the land."

Toward the end of the lecture, the crowd applauded when the speakers shared their victory in Herrera v. Wyoming in 2019 on the supremacy of treaty hunting rights.

“Herrera, whether it was coincidental or not, seemed to start this crescendo of cases—federal Indian law cases—that have had significant import across the board for tribes,” Small said.

“We think this dispute is done, but you never can be 100% certain,” Gray said. “It's been really a good five years or so for Indian rights being upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The Edward B. Preston ’79 History Speakers Fund was established in 1986 by Ted Preston's family following his death. In 1991, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Preston Jr. P’75,’79 and their son and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Preston III ’75, added additional funds. This endowed fund has been used to bring practicing historians to campus to give lectures and participate in classroom discussions. The first Preston Lecture was held in 1992.


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