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Photos and Details from WISR’s Recent 9th Annual Conference

To see photos and to read about the presentations, panel sessions, films and many of the key participants in this WISR’s recent Annual Conference, go to:  http://wisrville.org/annual-conference/

WISR Annual Funding Campaign Your Donations Matched up to $20,000

WISeR Campaign for Education in Social Justice

For: Western Institute for Social Research
Your Donations Matched up to $20,000 by the WISR Scholar Fund

The Story

Founded in 1975, the Western Institute for Social Research (WISR) links education and social change in offering personalized BS, MS and Doctoral degree programs to those who wish to combine academic studies, action research/community-based inquiry with their community activist and professional involvements.


The Persistence of Discrimination:

Why it Exists, Despite Decades-Old Civil Rights Laws; and How a Multidisciplinary Response By Lawyers, Therapists, Educators, Health Care Professionals, Artists, Community Activists and Journalists Can Help

 Saturday, July 22, 2017


All are welcome to this Cross-Disciplinary Seminar that is open to the public and available via videoconference. PDF Flyer; Online Flyer

This workshop provides 3 hours of CEUs for Attorneys, Educators, Healthcare Administrators and Health Care Professionals, Nurses, Psychologists, LMFTs, LCSWs, and LPCCs.

Guest presenter and Bay Area Human Rights Attorney Michele Magar will address the persistence of discrimination decades after enactment of civil rights laws, and how lawyers, therapists, educators, culture creators, and journalists are finding new ways to address it.

We will screen the 18-minute film, The Power of 504, which captures the birth of the disability rights movement when it occupied the federal building in San Francisco for 26 days in a successful effort to force the federal government to issue implementing regulations to a law barring disability-based discrimination.

Michele Magar is a Bay Area Human Rights lawyer and award winning journalist who uses a broad range of advocacy tools to advance civil and human rights.

Cost:  $30 for CEU Credit. $10 donation requested from other participants. CEUs can also be accessed by internet/video conference.

 For more information or to register, contact mail@wisr.edu

WISR Doctoral Student Karen Young awarded a mini grant for project to decrease consumption of sugar sweetened beverages among young adults

WISR Doctoral Student Karen Young was just awarded a $10,000 mini grant by LifeLong Medical Care and the City of Berkeley to implement a health education and awareness project.  Karen’s project is called Water Wise. The goal of Water Wise is to decrease the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages and increase the consumption of water. The Water Wise awareness competition will be an internet competition where individuals and groups age 16 to 24, may express the benefits of drinking water and the harmful effects of drinking sugar sweetened soft drinks in a 3 minute video. The Water Wise videos will be much like infomercials disseminating a diverse but consistent message regarding healthy hydration. Each contestant will compete, by getting the most online views of their health education awareness video. Contestants are encouraged to use social media like Facebook, My Space or Twitter to solicit viewers. Viewers or voters can be anyone with a valid email address anywhere in the world. The three (3) contestants getting the greatest number of views, in excess of five (500) hundred views will win a $500 Visa Card. The first ten applicants will receive a $25 Visa Card.

WISR Student, Gabriela Hofmeyer, Awarded a 2017 NADC/California Arts Council Grant for Disabled Artists


One of our WISR students, Gabriela Hofmeyer, has been awarded a 2017 NADC/California Arts Council Grant for Disabled Artists for her proposed Community Outreach Expressive Arts & Trauma Awareness and Recovery Projects. The statewide award is to support Community Outreach Projects and Awareness Programs by Disabled Artists in California, sponsored by the National Arts and Disability Center, the California Arts Council and the Semel Institute, UCLA.

One of Gabriela’s pieces, “Quatre Bleu se Violacer” was selected for the LymeLight Foundation Annual Fundraiser Gala, Dart for Art at the San Mateo Event Center, March 24. The Foundation raises funds and awareness for children and families affected by Lyme disease, and to raise awareness about Lyme disease and Chronic Illness.

Longtime WISR Board Chair, Robert Blackburn Passes Away

In Memoriam: Dr. Robert Blackburn, served as a Board member for over 30 years. WISR was blessed with his wise council, his unequaled and loving sense of humor, and his unwavering commitment to social and racial justice and to quality learner-centered education. He passed away, September 11, 2016. 

WISR President, John Bilorusky shares some of his recollections of Bob:  “Bob served on WISR’s Board for many, many years, going back to the 1980s (for over 30 of WISR’s 41 years) until he had to retire a year or two ago, for health reasons.  During much of that time, he served as Chair of WISR’s Board.  Bob also served on a number of dissertation committees and was often available to have advising consultations with students.  Beyond this, we often called on him to lead and facilitate all school gatherings and sessions of our annual conferences–because Bob always did this with a joyful, uplifting and non-pretentious sense of humor, and with a very down-to-earth grace.  We had one Board meeting (near Halloween) when walked through the door to our Board meeting dressed as a Cardinal, right out of the Vatican.  Another time, when he was participating in the Graduation Review Board of Richard Allen, he sat down at the conference table, with an old style briefcase (hard cover, luggage type) in his hand.  He dramatically sat the briefcase on the table and clicked open the lid of the briefcase.  He pulled out a big linen napkin and wrapped it around his neck, then he pulled out Richard thick dissertation and placed it on the table, and finally, he reached into the brief case and pulled out a very big carving fork and knife.  He rubbed the knife and fork together and said:  “Now, let’s carve this sucker up!”  And as was so often the case when in Bob’s presence, we all laughed, felt really good about ourselves and about life, and then we proceeded to have a wonderful and collegial discussion of Richard’s outstanding dissertation.  Bob knew how to live life fully, and I imagine he, more than most of us, always appreciated life.  In 1973, when the Symbionese Liberation Army murdered African American Oakland School Superintendent, Marcus Foster, Bob (who was Marcus Foster’s Deputy Superintendent and close friend) was nearly killed–many more than a dozen bullets went in and through his body.  He once told me of an “out of body/near death” experience he had on the surgery table.  He survived, and the world and so many of us, have been blessed that he went on to live for more than another 40 years.  I know I have lived my life better because of my good fortune to have associated with Bob for so many years.”

Robert Blackburn earned his PhD in Leadership in Higher Education, at the Union Graduate School (1984), the MA in Intergroup Relations, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania (1964), and his AB, in Sociology and Education from Oberlin College (1957). He went to high school in Roslyn, New York and at the Texas Military Institute, San Antonio. Bob’s work history included civil rights, school improvement and citizen action, regional director for the Peace Corps in Somalia, central office leadership in the Philadelphia public schools, Deputy and Superintendent for the Oakland Public Schools, Professor and Chair, and Department of Educational Leadership and Administration, Cal State East Bay. He held Board memberships in various professional and civic organizations in Philadelphia and Oakland, and served on the California Attorney General’s Commission on Hate Crimes. He provided extensive mentoring and coaching for Oakland school principals through the Principal Leadership Institute of the University of California at Berkeley and Cal State.



Update on the Key Role Played by Dennis Hastings’ and Margery Coffey’s WISR Dissertation in Case Heard Before the US Supreme Court!

Breaking News! March 23, 2016:  US Supreme Court rules unanimously in favor of the Omaha people, in a case regarding the Omaha’s rights and sovereignty, and in which the WISR dissertation, by Dennis Hasting and Margery Coffey, on the history of the Omaha people provided key evidence. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the decision.

The Supreme Court heard arguments on January 20th, and subsequently the following press release from the Omaha Tribal Historical Research Project points to the key role played by the WISR doctoral dissertation on the history of the Omaha people in the face of the European invasion, “Grandfather Remembers” by Dennis Hastings and Margery Coffey.

WISR’s remarkable capacity to provide the institutional flexibility for world-class academic research can find no better example than the joint dissertation proffered by In’aska: Dennis Hastings and Margery Coffey: Mi’onbathin entitled “Completely Illustrated: Grandfather Remembers
— Broken Treaties/Stolen Land: The Omaha Land Theft,” (2009.) The yet unpublished work was referenced as a key document in the legal record filed on behalf of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and Iowa at the Tribal Court and District Court levels for litigation.

The Smith vs. Parker case was originally brought before the Federal Court in 2007 by the Village of Pender, challenged the external boundaries of Reservation lands imposed
upon the Omaha by the U.S. Government originally through an 1854 Treaty. Pender lost the decision in all the lower courts. The state of Nebraska joined the village in a final appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court changing the name to: Nebraska vs. Parker (Docket 14-1406.) Oral Arguments before the U. S. Supreme Court were heard January, 20, 2016. “By far the most detailed account of the loss of Omaha lands during these years can be found in In’aska and Coffey, “Grandfather Remembers,” pp. 491-620, 791-795, 802-804, passim,” wrote Dr. R. David Edmonds of the University of Texas, cited in Joint Appendix, Volume 4, Page 1007, footnote 205, compiled by the US. Supreme Court.

The “excellent report,” as it has been referenced, was based upon a 1,500 page manuscript with 1,500 historic photographs and artwork, many of which have never before been published; 126 pages total. Dr. Edmonds not only paid the WISR/OTHRP crafted work and the Omaha the highest professional compliment, but also delineated important criteria through which to present and interpret Native American history. Included in Dr. Edmonds’ cited references were not only key passages of original research
unknown to the authors of the published books on the subject — including one that was a finalist for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize; but also, a fictional parody and photographic montage. These are innovative narrative devices which, once published, will likely make publishing history by incorporating such stories and photographs for a visually-oriented culture rooted in oral history, demonstrating an equal weight of these stories and images in conveying tribal history as do “words.” It will be used in creating a curriculum on the Omaha culture and history for the Omaha people. Just as important, given the fact that 80% of all Indian Reservations in the United States today are non-tribally owned, “Grandfather Remembers” is the first and most detailed account of the loss of tribal lands in the post-Reservation era.

The forthcoming book is thereby a model for the next half-century of archival research in the 21st Century, as The Omaha Tribe of Francis La Flesche and his collaborator Alice Fletcher was in anthropological field research, over 100 years ago at the birth of the 20th Century. This achievement with “Grandfather Remembers” provides key insight into how these lands all over the country were diminished through deceit, stealth, thievery and crooked sales, a history in the last third of the 19th Century whose only human rights equal in “America” is that of the prior 200 years of slavery itself, and are being pushed again by wealthy forces in American government today.

Dr. Hastings and Dr. Coffey are currently preparing their dissertation manuscripit for publication through WISR’s Academic Press.

On January 20th the US Supreme Court heard a case in which two WISR PhD alumni, Dr. Dennis Hastings and Dr. Margery Coffey of the Omaha Tribal Historical Research Project (OTHRP), have been playing a key role–working with the Omaha people so that the Omaha can exercise their sovereign authority.  Dennis’ and Margery’s ability to aid the Omaha has been a direct result of the research they did in the pursuit of their WISR doctoral degrees.  A legal case brought by the tribe against the Village of Pender, Nebraska has been decided in favor of the Omaha by lower courts, and will now go to the US Supreme Court on January 20th.  To read more about this case and the role of OTHRP and our WISR alumni, please read the e-mail (below Dennis’ and Margery’s photos) I received this morning from Margery Coffey. 

Best wishes to the Omaha in the pursuit of their rights! 

John Bilorusky, WISR President.  

Dr. Dennis Hastings, Founder and Director of OTHRP
Dr. Margery Coffey, Assistant Director of OTHRP
From: Margery Coffey (margerycoffey@yahoo.com ), by e-mail
To: John Bilorusky, 10:08 am, January 10, 2016 (and WISR Community):

OTHRP (Omaha Tribal Hstorical Research Project, Director and Founder, Dennis Hastings, and Assistant Director, Margery Coffey—both WISR PhD Alumni) Encourages Americans to Follow U.S. Supreme Court Case .  .  .

Walthill, Nebraska—On January 20th the Supreme Court of the United States will hold oral arguments in Nebraska vs. Parker (Docket #14-1406). This case is known locally as Pender vs. Omaha Tribe.

According to the U.S Supreme Court’s website, the two questions before the court in this case are:

In Solem v. Bartlett, the Court articulated a three-part analysis designed to evaluate whether a surplus land act may have resulted in a diminishment of a federal Indian reservation. See465 U.S. 463, 470-72 (1984). The Court found that the “statutory language used to open the Indian lands,” “events surrounding the passage of a surplus land Act,” and “events that occurred after the passage of a surplus land Act” are all relevant to determining whether diminishment has occurred.

The questions presented by the petition are:

1. Whether ambiguous evidence concerning the first two Solem factors necessarily forecloses any possibility that diminishment could be found on a de facto basis.

2. Whether the original boundaries of the Omaha Indian Reservation were diminished following passage of the Act of August 7, 1882.

Transcripts of the oral arguments are made available by the Supreme Court to the public the same day the arguments are presented. Recordings of the oral arguments are made available on Friday of the same week.

This case was originally brought before a local Federal District Court in Omaha, Nebraska by the Village of Pender in 2007 to challenge a decision by the Omaha Tribal Council to exercise its sovereign authority in levying a 10% tax on all liquor sales made within the exterior boundaries of their Reservation which were imposed upon the Omaha by the U.S. Government through an 1854 Treaty.

The Federal District Court judge deferred the case to the Omaha Tribal Court to exhaust all legal remedies in that jurisdiction before taking the case under consideration. In a 45 page decision the Tribal Court ruled in February, 2013 in favor of the Omaha, a decision then taken under advisement by the Federal District Court.

A year later in early 2014 the Federal District Court affirmed in even stronger legal language in a 49 page decision the judgment made by the lower tribal court, which prompted the State of Nebraska to intervene on behalf of the Village of Pender for appeal to a three judge panel of the Eight Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, situated in Kansas City, Missouri.

That appeal was made de novo, which means “as if the case were new.”

In a five page decision released in December, 2014 the three judge panel again ruled in favor of the Omaha, utilizing even stronger language than the District Court declaring how the previous court rulings were constructed “. . .in such a fashion that any additional analysis would only be unnecessary surplus.”

Nebraska and Pender then appealed to the full 11 judge panel of the Eighth Circuit, which declined without comment in February, 2015 to hear the case, setting up an appeal by the State of Nebraska/Pender to the Supreme Court, which accepted the case for review last October.

In their Petition to the Court, the State of Nebraska and the Village of Pender conclude:

For over 130 years, the people and businesses of the Pender, Nebraska area have developed justifiable expectations that their community was under the jurisdiction of the State of Nebraska. The lower courts’ decisions in this litigation destroyed that longstanding status quo and upset the public’s justifiable expectations. . . . Doing so, however, ignores this [Supreme] Court’s observations that “when an area is predominantly populated by non-Indians with only a few surviving pockets of Indian allotments, finding that the land remains Indian country seriously burdens the administration of state and local governments.” (emphasis added)

In response, the Omaha Tribe concludes:

At the heart of this Court’s diminishment doctrine is the basic proposition that deprivations of Indian sovereignty must come from congressional action. . .adopting Petitioners’ freeform theory of de facto diminishment would undercut Congress’ power to determine the boundaries of Indian reservations. . .[b]asing a reservation’s boundaries on ever-changing demographic trends, as opposed to laws fixed in the statute books. . .as reservation boundaries are defined clearly — which would not be the case under the expansive de facto diminishment doctrine Petitioners champion — state, local, tribal, and federal officials can work cooperatively to allocate and, where appropriate, share jurisdiction.

Those interested in following the case at the Supreme Court level may refer to the website of the American Bar Association, athttp://www.americanbar.org/publications/preview_home/2015_2016_briefs/14-1406.html, linked from the U.S. Supreme Courts website, for review of the primary and amicus briefs filed in this matter.

A fuller treatment of the entire case since the original filings in 2007 may be found at Turtle Talk, a website of the https://turtletalk.wordpress.com/, typing in the word “Pender” in the website search box, then clicking on the various entries concerning the case.

The Omaha Tribal Historical Research Project (OTHRP), the Official Cultural Authority of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and Iowa, played a key role in providing historical context for the legal arguments being presented to the court regarding whether “events that occurred after the passage of a surplus land Act” have relevance in this case. OTHRP’s views may be found at http://www.indianz.com/News/2014/016004.asp. A rewritten and shorter version is found at http://norfolkdailynews.com/blogs/pender-case-was-doomed/article_66287130-92bb-11e4-bb61-13fa22bb9c51.html.
Independent commentary on this case by a columnist for Indian Country Today may be found at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/12/19/judging-indian-character-nebraska-v-parker

OTHRP encourages all interested citizens of the United States and sovereign Native Nations alike to take advantage of our 21st technology in being able to readily access the key materials available online, and be a participant in history.

If you like, I can send you a copy of the briefs that have been filed.



Margery Coffey, PhD
Assistant Director
Omaha Tribal Historical Research Project, Inc.
PO Box 279
Rosalie, NE 68055

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