Friday, April 11, 2014

NARF attorneys participate in Indian Law Conference

This week NARF attorneys participated in the Federal Bar Association's 2014 Indian Law Conference at the Pueblo of Pojoaque in New Mexico.  NARF Staff Attorney Natalie Landreth was a Conference Co-Chair and moderated the panel "Elections 2014 – Shelby County and the Impact on Indian Country."  In addition, Natalie also moderated the panel titled "Texting Paternity Away and Bringing ICWA into the 21st Century" and NARF Staff Attorney Erin Dougherty participated in the panel and discussed issues related to the Supreme Court's decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl.

To learn more about the conference, click here.

Monday, April 7, 2014

NARF co-sponsors Niwot Native American Film Festival showing of Once We Had a River

On Friday, April 11 at 7:30pm, NARF will co-sponsor the Niwot Native American Film Festival showing of Once We Had a River, a Native American social justice film by Jack Kohler and Anecita Agustinez.  Please join us!

In 1880, five tribes were moved onto reservations along the San Luis Rey River through treaties enforced by the United States. Then in 1895, a diversion dam was built on the La Jolla Indian Reservation without their consent, diverting all of the water for the five reservations, to the newly founded City of Escondido. The United States sanctioned that act, uncontested until 1967. Then the newly formed California Indian Legal Services filed a lawsuit on behalf of the tribes. For forty seven years CILS and the tribes have been fighting for water that once ran through their reservations. Today, they must buy back that water from the City of Escondido. Once We Had a River uncovers the history of this struggle.

Film maker Jack Kohler is a Hoopa Tribal member from Northern California whose people reside along the Klamath and Trinity rivers. Jack is the Media Director for the United Auburn Indian Community tribal school. He has worked for the American Indian Film Institute mentoring students on reservations and rancherias in California on how to make films.  He has been an independent producer for Native American Public Telecommunications since 2000.  Jack graduated from Stanford University with a Civil Engineering degree. He became a member of the Actor's Equity Association in 1995 and became a SAG actor in 1997. He was the lead in the Outdoor Epic Drama Tecumseh for 5 summers before he began producing films. He won the Eagle Spirit award from the American Indian Film Festival in 2006. He co-produced California's Lost Tribes and River of Renewal which is currently still being aired on PBS. Awards include Cine Award and Best Documentary Feature at the American Indian Festival and the Native Film Festival of South Carolina. He co-directed, co-wrote and edited Behind the Door of a Secret Girl which has won 14 awards to date. His series On Native Ground began airing in 2012.

Sponsors:  Native American Producers Alliance (NAPA), Ni-wot Prairie Productions (NPP), Elysian Fields Auction Company, Native American Rights Fund (NARF), and WHIZZBang Studios
For information, please contact: Elizabeth Darling at: DarlinginNiwot@aol.com or 303-931-3084.  Native American Producers Alliance and Ni-wot Prairie Productions are 501(c)(3) organizations.

Monday, March 31, 2014

United States Supreme Court Rejects Alaska's Request for Review of the Katie John Decision



Today the United States Supreme Court rejected the State of Alaska's petition for certiorari review of the Ninth Circuit's decision upholding the 1999 Final Rules promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to implement part of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act concerning subsistence fishing and hunting rights on federal waters in State v. Norton, 3:05-cv-00006-HRH consolidated with Katie John v. United States of America, 3:05-cv-00158-HRH.

The Court's rejection of the State's appeal marks the end to nearly 27 years of litigation by the Native American Rights Fund on behalf of Ahtna elder, Katie John of Mentasta.  The Katie John cases, more than any other subsistence cases, exemplify the contentious battle waged between federal, tribal and state interests over jurisdiction of Alaska Native subsistence fishing rights (go to NARF website for full story of Katie John litigation and a Katie John profile).

In Alaska v. Babbitt, 72 F.3d 698 (9th Cir. 1995) ("Katie John I"), NARF established that in enacting ANILCA, Congress intended to protect subsistence fishing when withdrawing public lands in Alaska, and ANILCA's subsistence priority applies to those navigable waters in which the United States owns so called "reserved water rights," or about 60% of Alaska's inland waters.

In January 1999 the federal government issued its regulations identifying the waters in Alaska which fall under federal management.  Before the regulations became effective, the State of Alaska petitioned the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the case en banc.  The Court agreed to have 11 judges hear the State's en banc appeal.  After briefing and oral argument, the Court of Appeals reaffirmed its earlier ruling and stated that "the [1995] judgment rendered by the prior panel and adopted by the district court should not be disturbed or altered by the en banc court."  247 F.3d 1032 (9th Cir. 2001) (Katie John II).

In 2005, the State of Alaska filed another lawsuit challenging the federal agency final rule implementing Katie John I.  Representing Katie John again, NARF brought a counter law suit and argued that the regulations did not go far enough but should have extended to Alaska Native allotments and upstream and downstream waters. (Katie John III).  In July 2013, the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the federal government and held that the Secretaries appropriately used notice-and-comment rulemaking, rather than adjudication, to identify those waters that are "public lands" for the purpose of determining the scope of the Act's rural subsistence policy.  The panel concluded that, in the 1999 Rules, the Secretaries applied Katie John I and the federal reserved water rights doctrine in a principled manner. The panel held that it was reasonable for the Secretaries to decide that: the "public lands" subject to the Act's rural subsistence priority included the waters within and adjacent to federal reservations; and reserved water rights for Alaska Native Settlement allotments were best determined on a case-by-case basis.  Alaska v. Jewell, 720 F.3d 1214 (9th Cir. 2013) (Katie John III).

Unfortunately, Katie John did not live long enough to see the completion of the litigation as she passed away at age 97 in the summer of 2013.  Katie's granddaughter, Kathryn Martin, expressed relief that the ruling would stand and stated, "Praise the Lord, my grandma can rest in peace."

Any questions can be directed to attorney Heather Kendall-Miller at (907) 229-0255. For a PDF of this press release, click here.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

NARF files amicus brief on behalf of NCAI and Huy supporting Native religious liberty

Last week NARF filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court on behalf of NCAI and Huy supporting several Native prisoners petitioning for review of their religious liberty case.  These inmates sued Alabama because its prison grooming policies unduly restrict the traditional Native religious practice of wearing unshorn hair in violation of a federal law protecting religious exercise for prisoners.  Alabama is among a small minority of states still adhering to antiquated, restrictive policies that do not provide religious exceptions, even though the Federal Bureau of Prisons, at least 38 states, and the District of Columbia accommodate this important religious practice without incident.  To read the brief, click here.  Find related case filings at NARF's Tribal Supreme Court Project.