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UND Standing Rock conference gets April date

Mark Trahant

A UND symposium on the Standing Rock pipeline protests that sparked conversations about academic freedom now has a date set for this spring.

The early plan for the April 19 event places it within the annual Time Out Week and Wacipi on the university campus. The daylong conference now in the works is the culmination of about two years of proposals from UND journalism professor Mark Trahant, who holds a three-year contract with the university through the Charles R. Johnson endowment.

Plans for the symposium were thrust into the spotlight late last month when Trahant penned a social media post announcing his intent to leave UND this May at the end of his contract. In that post, he cited the cancellation of two earlier attempts to schedule the conference -- which he described as a decision from senior administration who feared political backlash for hosting it -- as an example of what he described as a lack of institutional leadership.

Trahant, who is himself Native American and from Idaho’s Shoshone-Bannock tribe, said the finalizing of the April date is the biggest recent development for the event. The conference will feature a keynote speech from Jenni Monet, a reporter who embedded among the protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline last year near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Monet is also Native American, from the Laguna Pueblo tribe of New Mexico.

Trahant said he’s still trying to confirm other speakers to fill a day’s worth of programming. In the meantime, he’s pleased with the opportunity presented with scheduling the conference as part of the Time Out sessions, which are hosted by the UND Indian Association in the lead-up to the university’s three-day Wacipi, or powwow.

“I thought that would be a natural way to ensure a great audience,” Trahant said, adding that the student group had given him clearance to program the Thursday schedule of events. “It’ll be great because we’ll involve (the students) and they’ll be doing stuff as well.”

Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers higher education and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

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