January 8, 2008



Kathy Kotecki, Office for Community Involvement, 657-1660
Reno Charette, Native American Studies Program, 657-2144
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


Valerie Taliman to follow Monday, Jan. 21 address with university workshop on Tuesday, Jan. 22


Valerie Taliman photo

MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Valerie Taliman, a Navajo woman who played a vital role in getting the United Nations to pass a declaration protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, will be the keynote speaker at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration at Montana State University Billings. 


Taliman will also provide a workshop at MSU Billings for students, faculty and the public about the rights of indigenous peoples.  All events are free and open to the public. 


The bell-ringing ceremony and program will be Monday, Jan. 21at the MSU Billings main campus, 1500 University Drive. Events start at 9:50 a.m. with an opening prayer by the Rev. Teresa Swift of Wayman Chapel, an American Indian blessing by Michael Comes at Night. The bell-ringing to commemorate the life and work of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be at 10 a.m. at Peaks to Plains Park on the campus.


Taliman, an enrolled citizen of the Navajo Nation, is currently Director of Communications for the Indian Law Resource Center, a legal advocacy organization that provides assistance on land claims and human rights issues to Indian tribes in the U.S. and indigenous peoples throughout the Americas.  ILRC has offices in Helena and Washington, D.C.


In September 2007, the ILRC was instrumental in awareness of sovereignty rights when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the landmark Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Though non-binding, the declaration will help inform federal judges, Congress and government officials about the rights of tribes and indigenous peoples. The declaration lays out in detail indigenous rights to self-government, culture, resource development, language, employment, health and education.


As communications director, Taliman was on the front lines of the work that led to approval of that declaration.


After her keynote address on Monday, Taliman will remain at MSU Billings to give a workshop on sovereignty rights and other issues related to indigenous peoples. That workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 22 at the MSU Billings Library, Room 231, from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Reno Charette, Native American Studies Program coordinator at MSU Billings, said the workshop will be of particular interest to students and others who want to an expert’s viewpoint on sovereignty issues. 


“She will be talking about the declaration, what happens now and what you can do,” said Charette, who is also the former Indian Affairs advisor to Gov. Brian Schweitzer. “She will talk about tribal law and sovereignty and not just tribal law in Montana.”


Charette said the work of ILRC is illustrative of just how effective a single Montana entity can be on the world stage. 


Taliman also is president of Three Sisters Publishing, a media company incorporated on the Navajo Nation. Three Sisters employs a team of award-winning writers, photographers, editors and designers who produce magazines and public relations materials for a variety of clients.


She is a former columnist, editor and bureau chief for Indian Country Today newspaper, and former producer of Native America Calling, a nationally syndicated American Indian talk radio show heard on more than 100 radio stations. She has been documenting the stories, history and struggles of Indian people throughout Native America for nearly two decades, specializing in environmental justice issues.


For more information on the MLK Day event, contact Kathy Kotecki, director of the Office for Community Involvement at MSU Billings, at 657-1660. For information about Taliman’s workshop and presentation on Jan. 22, contact Charette at 657-2144.