Nathan Bruce Duthu, an enrolled member of the United Houma Nation of Louisiana, was the first in his family to attend college.

Educator Spotlight: Nathan Bruce Duthu

Simon Moya-Smith

Since 2009 Nathan Bruce Duthu, an enrolled member of the United Houma Nation of Louisiana, has been the Samson Occom Professor of Native American studies and the chair of the Native American Studies program at Dartmouth College.

The first in his family to attend college, Duthu received his juris doctorate in 1983 from Loyola University School of Law and his bachelor of arts in religion and Native American studies in 1980 from Dartmouth College.

Immediately after graduating law school, Duthu spent three years practicing law as a trial lawyer in New Orleans. In 1986, Duthu and his wife returned to New Hampshire so he could, as he put it, “give back” to the Native American program at Dartmouth. He was director of the program until 1989, and then an associate dean of freshmen and director of the Intensive Academic Support Program.

“Once I was in the classroom, to be very honest, I knew that I was not going to go back to being a lawyer,” Duthu said. “Working with students and being both in a counseling capacity but also as an educator­—being able to teach a course—was very, very addictive in a very good way. I just knew that this was going to be something that I was going to enjoy doing for a long time.”

In 2000, Duthu was a visiting professor of law at Harvard Law School where he taught comparative law of Indigenous Peoples. In 2003, Duthu was again a visiting professor, but this time in Trento, Italy, at the University of Trento where he offered a course titled Comparative Constitutional Law of Minority Groups and Indigenous Peoples.

Duthu, a board member of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, has spent the past 25 years teaching and lecturing all over the world including Russia, China, France, New Zealand and Australia. Duthu is also the author of the book American Indians and the Law. Duthu’s latest book, Shadow Nations: Tribal Sovereignty and the Limits of Legal Pluralism, is due out early next year.

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