The Indian Law Resource Center Board of Directors is continuing its search for a new executive director. Robert “Tim” Coulter, the Center’s founder and long-time executive director, has asked the Board to find his successor now, while he is in good health and able to continue working to assure a smooth transition.
Coulter, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, established the nonproﬁt law and advocacy organization in 1978 to provide free legal assistance to Indian and other Native nations and peoples to help them protect their lands and cultures and fight systemic discrimination in the legal system.
“Tim has decided to turn over leadership. He plans to continue working for the Center but wants to devote his time to programmatic legal work and strategy,” said Terri Henry, chairwoman of the Center’s Board of Directors. “We are fortunate that we’ll continue to have Tim’s input and legal guidance as we move forward as an organization.”
“This is an exciting time for a fresh new leader to begin directing the Center’s work for Indian rights,” said Coulter. “So much of the public dialogue right now is connected to issues of tribal sovereignty and indigenous peoples’ rights. Helping Indian leaders contribute to and influence the national and international conversations on racial equity, self-determination, climate change, development finance, violence and public safety – and more – is crucial right now.”
The Center’s Board of Directors has spent the past several months planning and preparing for the transition and will begin the search process immediately. Coulter will continue to serve as executive director until a successor is in place. He will then assist in the transition and move into the role of senior counsel.
Henry said that there will be no change in the Center’s mission or fundamental values. “We’ll be looking for candidates who have the leadership skills to build on the Center’s pioneering human rights work and who also have the creative vision to break new ground for indigenous rights.”
Over the course of 40 years, the Center has helped shape modern indigenous rights advocacy. The Center is widely recognized for its role in helping Indian and Alaska Native nations and other indigenous communities negotiate and win the adoptions of the UN and the American Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The organization led some of the first successful legal efforts linking indigenous human rights with environmental protection, including winning several landmark rulings by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights protecting indigenous land rights and other rights of self-determination and sovereignty. These advances in international law are being used and put into practice in the Americas and in countries around the world.
“The Center is responsible for some of the most critical and important legal work of our time on behalf of tribes and other indigenous peoples,” said Coulter. “It’s a thrilling time to be a part of this historic work. Tribes and Native women’s organizations are doing incredible things to change the terrible injustices in our law, and we are helping and supporting those efforts. In Central and South America, the Center is working to develop the rule of law in countries where political corruption and corporate greed have literally put the lives of Indian leaders and activists at risk.”
“The Board of Directors is grateful for Tim’s vision and leadership,” said Henry. “We are not looking for someone to fill his shoes, but we are searching for the right person to carry the torch – to be a national and international leader and an advocate for change and for greater respect and justice for indigenous peoples.”