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Dr. Rennard Strickland, a legal historian of Osage and Cherokee heritage, died January 5, 2021, in Norman at the age of 80, where he was the Senior Scholar in Residence at the University of Oklahoma Law Center.

The Bacone College Rennard Strickland School of Tribal Law & Criminal Justice’s Dean Wambli Sina Win was a student of Strickland’s, and holds him in the highest esteem.

“He was my law professor at the University of Oklahoma School of law, where I am sure his colleagues were appalled when he gave out his personal phone number to his students,” Wambli Sina Win said. “The mentoring relationship I’ve had with Rennard has lasted over 28 years and is an example of what can happen when there is a trust and bond between student and teacher.”

She shares the following original poem titled, “To Rennard,” which is “a tribute to my mentor and friend, written by a poet, my son, Wiconi Was’te James, who is an alumnus of Bacone, class of 2019.”

To Rennard

Born in might, shaped by eternity

Thought in flight, thine maternity

Strange world thine company around

Alien, unnatural place surrounding

Perfection forged in yesteryear

Searing pen, searing quill

Let thine heart rest, be still

Upon the radiant hill of age

Hero bespeak thy legend

Thy existence, thy final page

Before thine wings take end

Upon thy impending flight

Into thy eternal night

Before thine heart were old

While in might, young and bold

A red man’s sight and story

Seeking justice amid glory

To change the twilight and man

Scholar of law, Warrior of land

An eagle before us all along

Now upon the hill

The great bird without a song

The eagle they could not kill

Among thy hope thy dream

Counted amidst thine solar beam

Forbidden to fly to seek new span

Forsaken by prejudice in man

Thine lonely journey of height

Hath produced leader in flight

For thine brightest eye to follow

So far, far thy shadow below

The fields of life, the Indian and Buffalo

Oh but thy cost to rise

To lead, in example in challenge the skies

To take heart leap forth from ordinary life

Flap thine wings, tarry the strife

Leaving all but alone

The world of man, civilized stone

A heart is as hard as such

And just as heavy

Cold as law, as man to touch

Thine eyes have seen more

Thy struggle, thy works ascend

Upon thy lips and memory adore

Words in life you penned

Now and forever more

So off now you must again fly

So off into legend you go

My hero, my mentor, eagles never die

Soaring into the mystery we know

Fear not those who see

For every star returns to mystery

One which our hero shined so bright

One of which vanished from sight

Thine messenger, thine eagle

A man, a star, our peoples’ twilight.

©2021 by Wiconi Was’te James