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Commencement Speaker

Robert Odawi Porter is an innovative and results-driven attorney, legal scholar and tribal political leader who has devoted his professional career to advancing the rights of sovereign American Indian nations and tribes in the United States.

A citizen of the Seneca Nation of Indians, Rob was raised in the Nation’s Allegany Territory and earned his education from Syracuse University and Harvard Law School.  He was appointed by the Seneca Nation Council as the first Attorney General of the Seneca Nation at age 28 and later went on to serve a second term as Seneca chief legal counsel.  He served as the founding chairman of Seneca Holdings LLC, and, in 2010, was elected as the Seneca Nation’s 67th President with 77% of the vote.  For 15 years, Rob was a tenured law professor at the University of Kansas, the University of Iowa, and Syracuse University, and wrote numerous academic articles on federal and tribal Indian law, including a book, “Sovereignty, Colonialism, and the Indigenous Nations; A Reader.”

A proven advocate, Rob has served a lead role in resolving major conflicts against the U.S. federal and state governments to protect tribal sovereignty and treaty rights, including efforts to stop New York State from taxing Seneca commerce, protection of Seneca gaming and land rights, and lobbying for the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act of 2014, which ended the practice of IRS auditing of Indians for benefits received from their tribal governments.   

Currently, he provides legal and lobbying services to Indian tribal governments, Indian-owned businesses, and companies doing business in Indian Country at Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, at its office in Washington, D.C.