Thursday, December 20, 2007

New Documentary About NARF

In preparation for the release of a new documentary about NARF in 2008, a short video trailer is now available at NARF's web site.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Just published: NARF Legal Review, Summer/Fall 2007

This issue of the NARF Legal Review (vol. 32, no. 2) includes a cover story on the adoption of the historic Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Access the Legal Review at NARF's web site. Access the Declaration at the web site of the United Nations.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Victory in challenging the English Only Initiative

On November 2, 2007 the Alaska Supreme Court struck down the unconstitutional provision of the Official English Initiative on the grounds that it violates speech rights protected by the federal and Alaska Constitutions. The English-only Initiative was adopted in 1998 and required the state, its political subdivisions and all state employees to use only English in all government functions and actions at the state and local levels.

Twenty-seven plaintiffs from the Yup’ik villages of Quinhagak, Manokotak, Kasigluk, Chefornak, and Atmautluak brought suit against the state to block the Official English Initiative’s implementation. Plaintiffs included local governmental officials, educators, and members of the public from villages that would have been impacted by the law were it to go into effect. Other plaintiffs included five Alaska Natives residing in the cities of Barrow and Bethel, as well as four non-Native plaintiffs. The case was consolidated with another challenge brought by plaintiffs from Togiak represented by attorney Doug Pope.

The lawsuit was brought to protect the rights of Alaska Native villages to freely choose, shape and control the forms of community self-governance that exist in their local communities. Because Alaska Native villages exercise their powers of community self-governance through numerous structures, both tribal and state, many of the most basic powers of community self-governance in Native villages are exercised through institutions established under state law, such as city governments, school districts, and the various citizen advisory boards that provide local input on state agency decisions. Alaska Native villages have a fundamental community right to govern themselves through whatever structures they may choose, which necessarily includes the right to do so in the Native languages of their communities, the only languages many of their citizens can understand.

NARF successfully argued that the law would not protect Native languages, that it would require government employees to communicate with non-English speakers only in English, even if they were able to speak the individual’s language, that it would bar non-English speakers from receiving many services to which they are entitled, and that it would violate the constitutional rights of each Alaskan to speak in the language of their choice, to petition their government for redress of grievances and to equal protection of the laws.

The Alaska Supreme Court agreed and held that "if all government communications must be in English, some voices will be silenced, some ideas will remain unspoken, and some ideas will remain unchallenged." Op. at 44. The court went on to state that such a requirement harms "society as a whole, which is deprived of an uninhibited marketplace of ideas. Complete speech bans . . . are particularly dangerous because they all but foreclose alternative means of disseminating certain information." Op. at 45.

The Court severed the unconstitutional portion of the initiative that required the use of only English. Under the Court’s ruling, the revised law allows government communication in any language for any purpose, as long as English versions of official records and documents are kept.

Friday, October 26, 2007

2nd Annual Modern Day Warriors Art show: Empowering the Young Voices of Native America

Saturday, November 10th
St. Julien Hotel Ballroom, Boulder, CO

FREE ADMISSION & OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

*Special Free Shuttle for NCAI Participants from Denver to Boulder.
Spaces Are Limited.
Call to Reserve Space.

Film Screening, Art Show, Reception, Silent Auction & Live Music

5-7PM: Screening Award-Winning Film "Four Sheets to the Wind" with Q & A by Director Sterlin Harjo (Seminole Creek)

7-10PM: Modern Day Warriors Art Show, Reception & Silent AuctionLive Musical Performances by Quese Imc (Pawnee/Seminole) & Meghan Meisters (Dene)

All Proceeds Benefit Non-Profit Legal and Advocacy Work of NARF for the Rights of Native Peoples.

For more information contact: Tel: 303.447.8760
Email: crystal@narf.org
Or Visit: http://narf.convio.net/mdwartshow

Check Out NARF's Hot Modern Day Warrior Gear on NARF's Online Store

National Modern Day Warrior Art Show Competition Features 30 Young Artists Representing 34 Tribes

BOULDER, CO-The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) is pleased to announce the winning entries for its upcoming 2nd Annual Art Show "Modern Day Warriors: Empowering the Young Voices of Native America." NARF sponsored the national art competition open to Native artists ages 15-35 years. Thirty-nine artists representing 34 different American Indian tribes from across the country participated in this year's competition. A total of 103 works of visual art were reviewed by a national jury comprised of artists and non-profit, business, media, publishing and marketing professionals who chose a total of 50 works of art to be exhibited at the NARF Modern Day Warriors Art Show on November 10th in Boulder.

All artwork will be available for sale at the NARF Modern Day Warrior Art Show to be held at the St. Julien Hotel Ballroom from 7-10pm on Saturday, November 10th. The event is free and open to the public. All selected young artists are donating 50% of all art sales from the event to support the non-profit legal and advocacy work of NARF on behalf of the rights of Native Americans.

A special offer is being made to NCAI Annual Convention participants who will be in Denver on the 10th. NARF has arranged a FREE, roundtrip shuttle service to transport conference participants from the NCAI Host Hotel in Denver to the NARF art show in Boulder. Spaces on the free shuttle are limited to please call to reserve a seat. For more information contact Crystal Echo Hawk, NARF Assistant Director of Development, at 303.447.8760 or via email at crystal@narf.org. Event information is also available at http://narf.convio.net/mdwartshow.

Modern Day Warrior: NARF Attorney Yvonne Knight Retires

"When you go out there to represent Indian people, you see your family your brothers, your sisters, your nephews, your mother and father, your grandparents. You realize the devastating impact that society can have on people because they are a different culture, because their skin is a different color. Being Indian at NARF brings a focus a fire a determination to do the very best. You’'re going to be as good a lawyer as any non-Indian lawyer who ever walked into a court room. This organization is like a warrior society. You put your life on the line be the best you can be always being prepared. Your fighting for the survival of your people..."
-Yvonne Knight (NARF Senior Staff Attorney)

BOULDER, CO-With these words, NARF attorney Yvonne Knight (Ponca-Creek) marked the 20th Anniversary of NARF in 1990. On September 30, 2007, Yvonne said goodbye to NARF as she moved on into retirement after 36 years of fighting for the rights of all of us in Indian country. NARF held a very special retirement dinner for Yvonne where colleagues, former clients, friends and family came to honor the immense legacy she leaves behind in Indian law. Speakers including Ada Deer, Charles Wilkinson, University of Colorado Law Professor and John Echohawk made touching remarks and tributes to this remarkable Modern Day Warrior for Native Rights.
Through this journey, Yvonne has proven to be a modern day Indian warrior, as can be attested to by the countless tribes and individuals that she has guided through the myriad of Indian law, legislation, and court rulings. Yvonne has stood before Congress, federal and state courts, tribes and communities to defend the rights of our people. Yvonne was motivated by the thought that NARF is a warrior society and that she fought these courtroom battles, not for abstract reasons, but for family. This she believed, made Indian attorneys more formidable in court when they're up against impossible odds. Her victories helped to protect our cultures, our spirituality, our way of life, and helped to determine our future. Yvonne understood the power of our elders visions and transformed them to create leadership and change.

Yvonne is of Ponca-Creek descent and a member of the Ponca Tribe. While in law school, she was a founding member of the American Indian Law Students Association (now the Native American Law Students Association), and served on first board of directors of that organization. Yvonne was the first Indian woman law graduate from the University of New Mexico’’s Indian Law Scholarship Program. She joined NARF as a staff attorney in 1971 and has represented countless tribes and individuals in cases involving a variety of Indian law issues. She served as a member of a task force of the American Indian Policy Review Commission responsible for recommending changes in federal statutes affecting Indians.

Yvonne was actively involved in the passage and implementation of the Menominee Restoration Act. She has also had extensive experience in such areas of Indian law as drafting tribal constitutions; defining and enforcing the federal trust responsibility to Indians; litigating tribal claims to land, water, and other natural resources; enforcing Indian education rights; and, defining and enforcing tribal court jurisdiction.

Yvonne your legacy will be hard to follow, but your inspiration will guide the next generation of Indian attorneys to continue this fight for family, for what is right, and for what it should be. You will be missed.

Tribal Supreme Court Project Busy With Case Monitoring & Strategy Development

WASHINGTON D.C.-The Tribal Supreme Court Project remains remains very busy, monitoring numerous cases at various stages of appeal within both state and federal courts, preparing amicus briefs in several Indian law cases before the various the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, and analyzing new petitions for cert. The purpose of the Project is to strengthen tribal advocacy before the U.S. Supreme Court by developing new litigation strategies and coordinating tribal legal resources, and to ultimately improve the win-loss record of Indian tribes. The Project is staffed by attorneys with the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and consists of a Working Group of over 200 attorneys and academics from around the nation who specialize in Indian law and other areas of law that impact Indian cases, including property law, trust law and Supreme Court practice. In addition, an Advisory Board of Tribal Leaders assists the Project by providing the necessary political and tribal perspective to the legal and academic expertise.

The Tribal Supreme Court Project Update below provides an overview of the Indian law cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court and the work being performed by the Tribal Supreme Court Project.

UPDATE
On Monday, September 24, 2007, the Court conducted its opening conference for the October Term 2007, and, as expected, denied review in all three Indian law cases it considered. At present, petitions for cert are pending in four Indian law cases. However, we anticipate that a number of additional petitions for cert will be filed in the next several weeks, including one in Carcieri v. Kempthorne as reported last month. Carcieri is a case which began as a broad challenge by the State of Rhode Island to the Secretary’s authority to take land into trust on behalf of Indians and Indian tribes. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld the Secretary’s authority to take land into trust on behalf of the Narragansett Tribe and rejected all of the state’s arguments, including: (1) Section 5 of the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) is an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority, violates the 10th Amendment and violates the Enclave Clause of the U.S. Constitution; (2) Section 5 of the IRA applies only to tribes that were “recognized Indian tribes now under federal recognition” in 1934, thus excluding the Narragansett Tribe and any other tribe administratively recognized after 1934 from the benefits of the IRA; and (3) the Rhode Island Settlement Act implicitly precludes the acquisition of any additional new trust lands by the Secretary in the State of Rhode Island, or implicitly restricts any such acquisition of trust lands to be subject to state civil and criminal laws and jurisdiction. We do anticipate that a number of other states will be filing an amicus brief(s) in support of Rhode Island as part a larger coordinated strategy by these states to mount more significant legal challenges to the acquisition of trust land for the benefit of Indians and Indian tribes. The Tribal Supreme Court Project will continue to work closely with the attorneys for the Tribe and the United States to oppose review by the Court.

The Project remains very busy developing strategy and coordinating resources in a number of Indian law cases recently decided by, or currently pending in, the various U.S. Courts of Appeal where review by the U.S. Supreme Court may be contemplated. One example is State of Texas v. U.S. in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a fragmented opinion which held that the Secretarial Procedures Regulation (25 C.F.R. Part 291) is invalid. The Secretarial Procedures Regulation, promulgated pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, provided an alternative process for approval of a Class III gaming compact when a state refuses to negotiate in good faith and raises a defense of Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit under Seminole Tribe.

Copies of briefs and other materials for each of the cases listed in the Update are available on the NARF website at http://www.narf.org/sct/index.html. For more information please contact Richard Guest, NARF Senior Staff Attorney, at 202-785-4166.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Why We Can't Wait: Reversing the Retreat on Civil Rights

NARF Co-Sponsors a 2007 Regional Conference: Why We Can't Wait: Reversing the Retreat on Civil Rights.

The 1980s in the United States marked the beginningof what some have called the “rollback” period in civil rights. Through a series of decisions in key areas of the law such as educational equality, employment discrimination, disability rights, environmental justice and sexual harassment, the federal courts have limited the ability of people to file and win civil rights cases by restricting access to courts and eroding remedies for practices that discriminate against racial and ethnic minorities,women, older Americans, and persons with disabilities.

This conference, Why We Can’t Wait: Reversing the Retreat on Civil Rights, is an effort to educate, raise awareness and build alliances to protect and preserve equal justice, fairness, and opportunity and to make sure our laws are in step with the country we want for ourselves and for future generations.

Read more.

NARF Alaska Victorious in Four Cases

ANCHORAGE, AK-NARF Alaska attorney Heather Kendall-Miller has won four important cases in a row on behalf of Alaska Natives. In Ahtna Tene Nene’ Subsistence Committee v. Alaska Board of Game, suit was brought on behalf of tribal organizations and communities who live a subsistence way of life to overturn a series of regulations adopted by the Alaska Board of Game in March of 2007. The regulations severely restrict, and in some cases eliminate plaintiffs’ subsistence uses of moose and caribou. In mid-June plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction in state court requesting that the court enjoin the State from implementing these regulations for the fall hunt. On July 20th , the court found that plaintiffs had shown that they satisfied the “balance of hardships” standard for granting preliminary injunction by raising serious and substantial questions going to the merits of the case and by demonstrating that the balance of hardships tip sharply in their favor.

On June 10, 2006 the State of Alaska brought suit challenging the Federal Subsistence Boards customary and traditional (C&T) use finding for subsistence uses of moose by members of the Chistochina Tribe. A positive C&T finding entitles residents for a specific community to the subsistence priority under Title VIII of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Chistochina was granted intervention in this action to protect its C&T status for moose. On June 27, 2007 in State v. Demientieff, the district court entered an Order in favor of defendant United States and Chistochina against the State and upholding the Federal Subsistence Boards customary and traditional use finding for subsistence uses of moose by members of the Chistochina Tribe.

On January 5, 2005, the State of Alaska filed a lawsuit in the District of Columbia challenging the final rule implementing the mandate in the prior subsistence case, John v. United States. The prior case established that the United States must protect subsistence uses of fisheries in navigable waters where the United States possesses a reserved water right. The State challenges the Secretaries’ implementation of the mandate by arguing that the reserved waters doctrine requires a quantification of waters necessary to fulfill specific purposes. On January 18, Katie John filed a motion for limited intervention for purposes of filing a motion to dismiss for failure to join an indispensable party. On May 17, 2007 in State v. Norton, the district court entered an Order upholding the agency’s rule-making process identifying navigable waters in Alaska that fall within federal jurisdiction for purposes of Title VIII’s subsistence priority.

On January 3, 2005 the Villages of Tanana, Nulato, Akiak, Kalskag, Lower Kalskag and Kenaitze along with Theresa and Dan Schwietert filed a complaint against the State of Alaska, Attorney General, and various state agencies challenging the policy adopted by the Attorney General of Alaska that state courts have exclusive jurisdiction over child custody proceedings involving Alaska Native children and Tribes in Alaska do not have concurrent jurisdiction to hear children’s cases unless certain conditions are met. On May 30, 2007 in Tanana v. State, the court issued an opinion in the Tribe’s favor rejecting all of the State’s arguments. The court held that Alaska Tribes possess inherent power to adjudicate proceedings involving member children. The Tribes have moved for injunctive relief to prohibit the state and its agency’s from denying full faith and credit to tribal court decrees pending appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court.

Practical Guide to the Indian Child Welfare Act


BOULDER, CO-NARF is proud to announce the publication of its new "Practical Guide to the Indian Child Welfare Act." The Guide, available both on the Internet and in print, is a powerful resource tool for tribal, state and federal entities involved in Indian child custody proceedings. Among the wealth of contents and resources is frequently asked questions with answers falling under 22 topics, including:

Application of the ICWA
Jurisdiction
Who has rights under the Act
Intervention
Role of Tribal Courts
Tribal State Agreements
Foster placement & removal
Resources


The Internet version, available at www.narf.org/icwa, also contains more than 1,000 full-text resources.

The ICWA Practical Guide Project was generously funded by the Administration for Native Americans, with supplemental funding by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, and supported by NICWA as a key partner. NARF and an Advisory Board-made up of multi-disciplinary team consisting of members of tribal courts, tribal ICWA departments, state governments, Indian law practitioners, Native non-profit organizations, law firms and urban Indian centers-provided guidance on the comprehensive content of the guide. To order a copy of the Guide, print a free copy, or access the expanded Internet edition, please visit: www.narf.org/icwa.

Monday, September 17, 2007

UNITED NATIONS ADOPTS HISTORIC DECLARATION ON THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES

Three decades of worldwide effort by Indigenous Peoples resulted in an historic victory in the United Nations General Assembly on September 13, 2007, when that body adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by an overwhelming majority. 143 Yes. 4 No, 11 Abstain. With the adoption of the Declaration, Indigenous Peoples take their rightful place among the peoples of the world acknowledged as having the right of self determination. The Declaration affirms the collective human rights of Indigenous Peoples across a broad range of areas including self-determination, spirituality, land rights, and rights to intellectual property; thereby providing some balance to an international rights framework based largely on individual rights. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), and its attorneys, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), have been actively involved in the process of elaborating the Declaration since 1999.

The approval by the General Assembly comes somewhat over a year after the approval of the Declaration by the Human Rights Council in its first session in June of 2006. It was initially anticipated that the Declaration would be voted on in the General Assembly in the fall of 2006, but a number of African countries and others called for further consultations. Eventually the African Group proposed more than thirty amendments which would have seriously weakened the Declaration in ways unacceptable to Indigenous Peoples. Unacceptable amendments were also proposed by the Canadian group.

An opinion by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights indicated that the amendments proposed by the African Group were not warranted under international law. Subsequently, Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru negotiated with the African Group to reduce the amendments to nine, and eliminated the deal-breaking amendments as far as most Indigenous Peoples are concerned. With the African Group aligning with those already in support, passage of the Declaration by an overwhelming majority was assured. Unfortunately, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which hold themselves out as staunch defenders of human rights, were the only four countries voting against the Declaration.

Being the product of a political process, the Declaration is not a perfect document and does not include everything for which Indigenous Peoples had hoped and worked for thirty years. Nevertheless, the Declaration is an important and historic step forward in recognizing their rights.

Resolution and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
United Nations Press Release

Friday, September 7, 2007

6th Annual Visions for the Future Benefit Art Auction a Record-Setting Success!



SANTA FE, NM-NARF 6th Annual Visions for the Benefit Art Auction held at La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe Fe, NM on August 17th was truly one of the biggest nights for Native rights!!! Based on the generosity of our donating artists, event sponsors and donors NARF RAISED A GRAND TOTAL OF $200,338 to support NARF's non-profit legal and advocacy work on behalf of the rights of Native peoples and Indian Country. $41,628 was made in art auction sales alone on that night and $158,610 was given in event sponsorships and donations-INCREDIBLE. It was without a doubt NARF's most successful art auction and special event in its history!!!


Read more at and view the photo blog

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Visions for the Future" Benefit Art Auction

The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) will be holding its 6th Annual "Visions for the Future" Benefit Art Auction Friday, August 17th, 2007 at La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The annual auction, held on the eve of the opening of the Santa Fe Indian Market, has become one of the premier events during the Market.

The theme for this year's auction will be "Bridging Generations In Support of Native Rights." NARF will do a special showcase of artists' works that are donated by intergenerational artist families. For more information, visit NARF's web site and click on the link for the Visions for the Future Art Auction.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Symposium on the Settlement of Indian Reserved Water Rights Claims

August 26-29, 2007
Albuquerque, NM
Hyatt Regency Albuquerque

The Western States Water Council and the Native American Rights Fund will hold their 10th Symposium on the Settlement of Indian Reserved Water Rights Claims in late August. Session topics will include Negotiation of Indian Water Rights Claims: The Basics, The Administration’s Settlement Policy, and Settlement Legislation: Getting Bills Through Congress.

An agenda and registration form are available at NARF's web site.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

NARF "Indian Wars Never Ended" National PSA Campaign Featured in Native Peoples Magazine

NARF's National PSA Campaign "The Indian Wars" Campaign is featured in the May/June issue of Native Peoples. The highly successful campaign featuring the music of Quese IMC (Pawnee/Seminole)and appearances by DJ Shock B (Pawnee/Seminole), artist Bunky Echo-Hawk (Pawnee/Yakima) and the NARF legal team has raised to date more than $115,000 to support NARF's work on behalf of Native rights. The all-Native production led by director Jenni Monet (Laguna) and included photographer Alyssa Macy (Warm Springs, Wasco, Dine) and graphic designer Ryan Red Corn (Osage) has generated a new found awareness and buzz across generations about NARF's work as modern day warriors in Indian Country.

To learn more about NARF"s PSA Campaign CLICK HERE and join the growing circle of Modern Day Warriors for Native Rights.


Indian Wars Never Ended Campaign featured in Native Peoples Magazine






Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Joint Statement NARF & ACLU: ALASKA NATIVES SUE OVER VOTING RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN BETHEL

NARF Executive Director John Echohawk, NARF Attorney Nathalie Landreth & ACLU Attorney Jason Brandeis announce lawsuit at press conference.

July 11, 2007
ANCHORAGE — The Native American Rights Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union, acting on behalf of three Bethel-area Alaska Natives, filed suit in federal court today charging state and local elections officials with ongoing violations of the federal Voting Rights Act. The groups charge that state and local officials have denied voter assistance and failed to provide oral language assistance and voting materials to citizens who primarily speak Yup’ik, the first language of many Alaska Natives in the Bethel region.

“Alaska Natives are American citizens and they want to participate in our democratic institutions,” said NARF attorney Natalie Landreth, the lead attorney in the case. “Under the Voting Rights Act, state and local elections officials have an obligation to provide oral language assistance in Yup’ik and ballots and other voting materials translated into Yup’ik – an obligation with which they have never complied.”

“Our Constitution says everyone in our democracy has a right to vote,” said Jason Brandeis, staff attorney for the ACLU of Alaska. “But that right is meaningless if certain groups are unable to cast their ballots accurately regardless of how well-informed they are about the issues of the day.”

In the complaint, filed today in federal district court in Anchorage, Anna Nick and Nellie Moses of Akiachak, Alaska, and Billy McCann of Bethel asked the court to order state and local election officials to comply with the voter assistance and language assistance provisions of the Voting Rights Act and to appoint federal observers to oversee future elections in the Bethel area. Voter assistance in this case would mean that people who need assistance to vote are entitled to receive it – even in the voting booth - from someone of their own choosing. Language assistance in this case would mean translating ballots and other election materials into Yup’ik and providing bilingual staff to help register voters and to help voters at the polls.

“Translations are absolutely crucial for these Alaska Natives,” said NARF’s Landreth. “Especially today, when it seems there are so many complicated initiatives and referenda and advisory votes – understanding the nuance of a ballot question is integral to knowing which way to cast your vote. The right to vote is an empty promise if those who need help – the elderly, the infirm – are barred from relying on a person of their own choice.”

Brandeis added that the Voting Rights Act continues to be a successful tool to making the American election system fairer for all Americans. “In San Diego County, California, registration among Hispanics and Filipinos rose by 20 percent and Vietnamese registrations increased by 40 percent after a suit initiated by the Department of Justice. In New York City, language assistance has helped more than 100,000 Asian-Americans to vote,” Brandeis said. “The numbers may not be as large in Bethel – but language assistance will be just as important to each Alaska Native as it was to each and every one of those 100,000 New Yorkers.”

Alaska is one of just five states that are covered in its entirety by sections 4(f)4 and 203, the language assistance provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Those provisions apply to areas that meet certain threshhold requirements for numbers of citizens with limited English proficiency. Section 208 has nationwide applicability and gives “any voter who requires assistance to vote by reason of blindness, disability, or inability to read or write” a right to receive “assistance by a person of the voter’s choice”. The temporary provisions of the Voting Rights Act, including the language assistance provisions, were just reauthorized by Congress in 2006 for an additional 25 years.

Defendants in the suit filed today include Lt. Governor Sean Parnell, Division of Elections Director Whitney Brewster, Regional Elections Supervisor Becka Baker, and Bethel Municipal Clerk Sandra Modigh. The defendants will have an opportunity to respond to the complaint before any further proceedings are scheduled.

Attorneys for the Alaska Natives are Landreth, Brandeis and Neil Bradley of the national ACLU Voting Rights Project.

Lawsuit charges Native voting rights violated







by Maria DowneyMonday, June 11, 2007
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- In federal court today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, along with the Native American Rights Fund, filed a lawsuit against state and local election officials on behalf of Bethel area voters.

Voters in the region claim their rights were violated when ballots and resources were not provided for Yup'ik speakers.

Rural Alaskans often cannot simply drive across town to a polling station and cast their ballots. In fact, some Bush communities require a boat ride or a river navigation to fulfill their civil duties -- a task that is respected and taken seriously.


Some believe that the Division of Elections -- at both the state and local level -- has violated the National Voting Rights Act of 1965 by not providing ballots in some Native languages.
Natalie Landreth of the Native American Rights Fund said the language barrier leaves people confused about ballots.


"It's completely beyond a doubt that they are not casting a meaningful ballot when they can not fully understand what they are voting for," Landreth said.

Many elders in Bethel primarily speak and read Yup'ik, the largest of the Alaska Native languages.

The lawsuit alleges that the violations have been ongoing, and that elections officials have denied voter assistance and voting materials to non-English speakers.

"The fundamental right of an American citizen is to participate in representative democracy, but many Yup'ik communities and the four specifically in this complaint are faced with a choice of voting incorrectly or in a way they did not intend, or not voting at all," Landreth said.

Attorneys for both civil rights organizations said they were compelled to sue after speaking with community elders in the Bethel region who claimed to have quit voting after being unable to read or understand ballots.

Landreth said some elders told her they were afraid to vote because they could not understand the ballots.

An example given by attorneys in the case involved the so-called English-only measure, an approved ballot proposition that requires the state to use English in all government functions and actions. Yup'ik speaking elders said the ballot proposition was listed in English only, and they mistakenly voted for it.

Jason Brandeis of the ACLU of Alaska Foundation said voter's rights are being violated.
"Enabling people to have meaningful access to the electoral process -- that's what the Voting Rights Act is all about. It's to ensure every American citizen who has the right to vote can participate fully in that process, and that's a right that is guaranteed to every one under the 15th Amendment to the Constitution. This is something that is not happening in the Bethel census area," Brandeis said.

While a decision would immediately affect Bethel area voters, where the largest group of Yup'ik speaking voters in Alaska is located, it would also affect other Native communities across the state that fit the Voting Rights Act criteria for language assistance.

"To enforce the rights the people in the Lower 48 already have and that immigrant communities already have once they become citizens, we believe that America's first people are also entitled to these same rights," Landreth said.

Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, the constitutional chief for the Division of Elections, would not comment on the lawsuit. His office said they had not yet seen the complaint.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Alaska Natives address climate change



by Joy Mapaye

KTUU 2 News.com

Sunday, June 10, 2007
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- At a meeting today, Alaska Native leaders presented 150 climate change resolutions.


Tribal governments and corporations across Alaska came up with the resolutions, calling on Congress to enact legislation that would cap carbon emissions.


The groups want to send the message to Congress that villages in Alaska are suffering the consequences of climate change.


Areas such as Shishmaref and Kivalina are experiencing devastating erosion and experts said the towns will have to be moved.


Heather Kendall-Miller of the Native American Rights Fund said she wants to make Congress aware of the problems Alaskans face.


"We hope to get congressional hearings set up in the coming months, so we can focus Congress' attention on this critical issue and to the unique needs of Native American communities in Alaska -- the need for money for relocation efforts, the need for legislation that caps emissions, the need for some kind of governmental entity that is responsive to these needs," Kendall-Miller said.


The group hopes to have hearings in August.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Column: Native legal advocates continue fight with new beat

- Sunday, May 6, 2007
by Jodi Rave

A bold illustration shows the Lakota Chief Sitting Bull looking stoic in braids, suit and tie, ready for a briefcase battle in the fight for tribal sovereignty. The lettering in this Ryan Red Corn piece reads: “The Indian Wars Never Ended.”The Internet version of this Native American Rights Fund public service announcement leads the viewer to a video in which a team of modern-day Native rights lawyers join forces with (pause) hip-hop artists. If this seems an unlikely alliance, well, the pairing actually works.

NARF, the country's oldest legal advocacy organization for Native issues, has been unfolding its first-ever public service announcements - whether they have a shelf life is yet to be seen - where the nonprofit group shares the stage with hip hop.
Virginia Cross, a tribal councilwoman for the Muckleshoot Tribe in Washington, saw the spring launch of NARF's public service announcement while attending this year's National Indian Gaming Association's annual trade show.Cross viewed “The Indian Wars Never Ended” PSA in Phoenix. She watched and remembered the day when the Muckleshoot Tribe owned a single acre of land in 1971.“We didn't even own a tribal building,” Cross said. The tribe needed to fight one of the most powerful energy companies in the Puget Sound area, but had no money to wage a lawsuit that would protect its treaty-related fishing and water rights.Muckleshoot leaders turned to the Native American Rights Fund, based in Boulder, Colo., to take them to battle.

Today the tribe is a co-manager of the watershed in King County, the most populous county in Washington. And their one-acre land claim now exceeds 1,100 acres. The tribe also now operates a thriving casino in the Seattle area.Seeing the NARF announcement prompted Cross, who has been on the tribal council for nearly 30 years, to go back to her tribe in Auburn, Wash., and ask them to consider making a cash contribution to NARF.

Last week, the Native American Rights Fund's executive director met Muckleshoot leaders in Washington, where they presented him with a $100,000 check.“I thought they did so much for us when we had absolutely nothing for the tribe,” Cross said. “I thought we should do something for them.”

The 67-year-old also said she understood NARF's move to imbue their public service message with a hip-hop theme.“I thought it was pretty good,” she said. “You have to deal with the culture the way it is today.” Fifty percent of Muckleshoot tribal citizens are below age 21. “That's the age group you need to be dealing with,” said Cross.

Crystal Echo Hawk, NARF's assistant development director, led the effort to include a hip-hop theme as a way to reach across generations. After all, NARF's mission affects the young and old.

During the past 36 years, NARF lawyers have battled states and the U.S. government over land claims, religious freedom, tribal termination and water rights.Echo Hawk turned to a 20- to 30-something group of artists to come up with a final product that reflects a trendy blend of mass media pop culture. They knew what they needed to do. They started their work with a basic question: “How do we indigenize that?”


Here are some of the creative team members: Red Corn worked on the graphic illustrations. Culture Shock Camp - which includes hip-hop artists Quese IMC and DJ Shock B, aka brothers Quese and Brian Frejo - provided the sound, lyrics and hip-hop beat.

Artist Bunky Echo Hawk also joined forces with this dynamic group to drive home a message that stands for protecting tribal sovereignty. John Echo Hawk, NARF's executive director, and members of the NARF legal team also take center stage in the video shoots, which can be seen in two 60- and 30-second video clips.

The last time I talked with Crystal Echo Hawk, she told me I was the seed that brought life to the group's message. The seed started growing when I was a journalism student at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

One of my student projects led me to work for NARF. I was asked to write the forward in an annual report for the organization's 25th anniversary.After reading about all the work NARF accomplished in a quarter-century, I was taken by the sheer magnitude of what this team of lawyers was fighting to protect. They fought for Indian rights in several landmark cases, including the Boldt Decision, Maine Land Claims, Menominee Restoration Act, Native American Graves Protection Restoration Act, American Indian Religious Freedom Act and the ongoing Elouise Cobell class action suit,I remember feeling overwhelmed and inspired at these modern-day battles in the courtroom being fought by modern-day warriors, the lawyers.

And I started writing: “The Indian Wars never ended. They merely changed venue. ...”Reporter Jodi Rave can be reached at 1-800-366-7186 or at jodi.rave@lee.net


To view the NARF PSA "The Indian Wars Never Ended," please visit www.moderndaywarrior.org

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Idaho, Nez Perce Tribe, and Federal Government Finalize Snake River Water Agreement

May 2, 2007
For release immediate release

The State of Idaho, the Nez Perce Tribe, and the U.S. Department of the Interior finalized a major water rights agreement for the Snake River today. The settlement resolves a number of water rights issues as part of the Snake River Basin Adjudication (SRBA).

Since 1998, the Nez Perce Tribe, the United States, the State of Idaho, and local communities and water users in Idaho have been working to resolve the claims of the Nez Perce Tribe in the Snake River Basin. The SRBA is the legal inventory of about 150,000 water rights in 38 of Idaho’s 44 counties. The Nez Perce claims had been the largest outstanding issue in the Snake River Basin.

The parties have now finalized a settlement of the case. It defines the rights and responsibilities of the parties over a broad spectrum of terms, ranging from quantified tribal water rights to collaborative Endangered Species Act agreements. It also provides federal funding for tribal water and fisheries projects, tribal water supply systems, and mitigation funding for several counties in Idaho.

Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Carl Artman, praised the significant accomplishment “I am pleased that all of the parties have been able to come together to resolve a number of long-standing issues. This settlement will provide benefits to the Nez Perce Tribe, help rebuild salmon and steelhead runs, and provide needed certainty about water rights. It is a model for tribes, states, and the federal government working together.”

Governor Butch Otter noted the significant effort that went into the Settlement. “I want to thank the Idaho Congressional Delegation, members of the Legislature, the Attorney General and his staff, the Idaho water users, and the Nez Perce Tribe for all of their dedication and hard work in finding creative solutions that will provide benefits to the people of Idaho for many years.”

Rebecca Miles, the Chair of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee, said “This settlement has been a difficult decision for the Tribe. For generations to come, however, we think it will provide benefits to the Tribe and help rebuild salmon and steelhead runs that are so important to our community.”

Congress passed the Snake River Water Rights Act in 2004 to implement the settlement and authorize Federal funding. The Idaho Legislature and Nez Perce Tribe ratified the settlement in March 2005. The SRBA Court Consent Decree process was completed in March 2007. Today’s actions certify that all preconditions for finality of the Settlement have been completed.


For more information contact:
Idaho: David Hensley, 208-334-2100
Nez Perce Tribe: Heidi Gudgell, 208-843-7355
Department of Interior: Nedra Darling, 202-219-4150

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

NARF Assists the Pawnee Nation in Return of 60 acres of traditional homeland by Nebraska Couple


PAWNEE, OK – On April 21st, over a 100 tribal members from the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and their Nasharo Band Chiefs gathered at the Pawnee Nation danceground to honor writer Roger Welsch and his wife, Linda, for their gift of approximately 60 acres of land in Nebraska to the tribe.
The deed to the land, located near the Loup River and Dannebrog, Nebraska, was given to the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma in a ceremony followed by a feast, an honor dance, and Mr. Welsch and his wife being made honorary members of the Pawnee Nation. Representatives from NARF, including Walter Echo-Hawk, were also in attendance at the tribal ceremony and honoring. Echo-Hawk, a Senior NARF Staff attorney assisted the tribe with the land transfer.

Welsch, a writer, stated in an interview with the Tulsa World that, "It's something we had no choice in because it had to be done," Welsch said. "These people are not guests on our land, but rather we are guests on their land," stated Welsch in reference to the fact that Nebraska once served as part of the traditional homelands to the Pawnee prior to their removal to Oklahoma in the late 1800's.
Speeches were made by a number of tribal officials, including the President of the Pawnee Nation, Ron Rice, and the Nasharo Chiefs. Other speakers included Walter Echo-Hawk, who spoke on the legal work and assistance that NARF has provided to the tribe. NARF currently represents the Pawnee Nation in the reburial efforts of 800 human remains in Nebraska. NARF worked with the Pawnee Nation and its Repatriation Committee to assist in the facilitation of the transfer of Mr. Welsch's land to the Pawnee Nation for use as a reburial and cultural site. Echo-Hawk also assisted the tribe in attaining an opinion from the Nebraska Attorney General last year that clarified the tribe's right to conduct reburials on private land.

While addressing tribal leaders and members during the gathering, Echo-Hawk encouraged Pawnee Nation leadership to consider renaming the tribe to "the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and Nebraska," in light of the return of the lands.
Mr. Francis Morris, Pawnee Nation Repatriation Director explained to a Tulsa World reporter that, "The Loup River was a favored site of the Pawnees," adding "It is our country." Mr. Morris went on to add that prior to the Welsch's gift of the land to the Pawnee Nation, that the tribe had no place to bury the remains of their ancestors. The tribe is currently leading an effort to collect blankets, shawls, and to raise funds to assist with the tribe's efforts to conduct the reburials this fall on the land.
*Photo Credit: Tribal member Junior Pratt dances in honor of land return by Nebraska couple. Photo by Bill Howell

"Administration's Proposed Trust Settlement Unacceptable":


WASHINGTON D.C.-On March 29, 2007, NARF Executive Director John Echohawk testified before the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on the tribal trust funds class action lawsuit against the Department of the Interior. NARF filed a case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for full and complete trust fund accountings on behalf of eleven named plaintiff tribes, Nez Perce Tribe, et al. v. Kempthorne, et al., which seeks class action status on behalf of all other tribes that did not file their own cases for full and complete accountings and that do not wish to exclude themselves from the class for their own reasons. As discussed here in brief, Mr. Echohawk’s testimony addressed three points.

1) Need for Full and Complete Accounting: In 1996 the BIA provided tribal account holders with Arthur Andersen "Agreed-Upon Procedures Engagement Reports" of their trust accounts for the limited time period of July 1972 through September 1992. Even though everyone – including Arthur Andersen itself, the BIA, the Office of the Special Trustee, and the Government Accountability Office – has admitted that the Arthur Andersen reports are not full and complete accountings, the government has tried to get tribes to agree that the Arthur Andersen reports are full and complete accountings.

The pending tribal trust claims in federal district courts seek: 1) declarations that the government has fiduciary obligations to tribal beneficiaries; 2) declarations that the government is in breach of its fiduciary obligations; 3) full and complete accountings of tribal trust accounts and funds; 4) restatement of or restitution to trust account and trust fund balances as if there had been no breaches of trust; and, 5) declarations of future lawful and proper fiduciary accounting for and management of tribal trust accounts and funds.

2. The Administration's Proposal of March 1, 2007 is Unacceptable: NARF has reviewed carefully the Administration's proposal to settle Indian trust litigation as set forth in the letter from Secretary Kempthorne and Attorney General Gonzales to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs dated March 1, 2007. The March 1, 2007 proposal proposes to resolve all Indian trust litigation and other trust reform matters for an "investment" of $7 billion or less. In comparison, it was not that long ago when the government expended $125 billion to bail out the savings and loan institutions industry from a scandal in which the government had no fiduciary trust obligations.

The Administration's proposal is unacceptable for reasons that include: 1) the proposal was developed without consultation with tribal governments; 2) the proposal seeks to resolve arbitrarily trust claims which never have been adequately analyzed or valued due to the government's failure to provide full and complete accountings; 3) the proposal would set unprincipled and impractical limits on federal liability for any and all tribal claims of past and present federal neglect and mismanagement of tribal trust accounts and resources, and it would preclude any future liability for such claims; and, 4) the proposal would negate thirty-five years of federal law and policy promoting Indian self-determination and adhering to federal-tribal government-to-government relations by forcing on tribes involuntary termination of the federal trust responsibility.

3. Exploration of Legislative Settlement Efforts that Tribes Can Support: NARF believes tribes are committed to further educating the Committee about their trust claims, which are legitimate legal claims notwithstanding attempts to label them as "unreasonable." Any legislative settlement effort must respect the claims, rights, and options of each tribe, including the prerogative of tribes to pursue their own claims in court, in alternative dispute resolution forums, in administrative settings, through negotiated settlements, or through other forms of claim resolution. As long as legislative settlement provisions are voluntary for each and every tribe, at least some tribes and their attorneys are willing to work together to help the Committee determine what, if anything, can be done legislatively to resolve tribal trust claims.

For more information on NARF's Class Action Suit, please visit http://www.tribaltrust.com/ or contact NARF at 303.447.8760.

Friday, April 27, 2007

John Echohawk & NARF Honored by National Indian Business Leaders

John Echohawk, NARF Executive Director, was honored with the Tribal Leadership Award by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) in Las Vegas in mid-March. Echohawk was honored at the Res2007 Conference which is the largest and longest-running business and trade fair in the United States. The event is organized annually by NCAIED. More than 2,500 Tribal and Indian business leaders and Fortune 500 Companies attended the conference this year.

John Echohawk and NARF were honored at the Res2007 Awards Banquet attended by more than 750 tribal and business leaders. David Lester (Muscogee Creek), Executive Director of the Council of Energy Resource Tribes (CERT) and NCAIED board member presented the award to Echohawk. During his award presentation speech, Lester spoke of the profound impact that Echohawk and NARF’s leadership had on tribal sovereignty and economic development success in Indian Country over the last 36 years. It was also noted by Lester that John Echohawk has also served as a board member of NCAIED for 20 years. He has been a tireless advocate for tribal sovereignty and the opportunities it brings to tribes and Indian Country for economic self-sufficiency and the creation of sustainable tribal economies. Echohawk and NARF received a touching standing ovation from NCAIED membership and Indian and non-Indian business leaders in attendance. Five other Indian and non-Indian business and tribal leaders were also honored at the Res 2007 Awards.

NARF Launches National Media Campaign to Mobilize Intergenerational Support

"THE INDIAN WARS NEVER ENDED”
MODERN DAY MESSAGE FOR MODERN DAY TIMES
Click Here to View the "Indian Wars Never Ended" PSA.

On Monday, March 26th, 2007, attorneys and staff of the Native American Rights Fund premiered its first ever national, multi-media Public Service Ad Campaign at the opening ceremonies of the National Indian Gaming Association’s annual convention and trade show in Phoenix, Arizona. The :60 and :30 second PSA’s, entitled, “The Indian Wars Never Ended,” are part of a greater campaign to generate renewed awareness and intergenerational support for NARF’s continued mission and work to defend tribal sovereignty and the rights and lifeways of Indian peoples. The campaign was also launched simultaneously online to thousands of viewers.

NARF has launched its new multi-media ad campaign with the goal of reaching out and engaging younger generations as well as to build unity across all generations and cultures to join and support the struggle to defend tribal sovereignty. “The Indian Wars Never Ended” PSA represents an intergenerational message of NARF as it establishes a modern-day message for modern-day times.

Featured in the PSA production are NARF Executive Director John Echohawk (Pawnee) and members of his legal team, as well as the award-winning Pawnee/Seminole hip-hop duo, Culture Shock Camp comprised of DJ Shock B and lyricist and PSA composer/producer, Quese IMC, as well as one of Indian Country’s hottest young artists, painter Bunky Echo-Hawk III.

NARF’s “The Indian Wars Never Ended” PSA represents an unprecedented multi-media campaign that will appear online, and on radio, TV, and in print publications in the effort to build support and unify generations and cultures around the defense of tribal sovereignty and Native rights. The campaign will run throughout the year with a number of special events, updates, and ways that can get involved and mobilize support for NARF in your own community. To view “The Indian Wars Never Ended” PSA’s and learn more about how you can take a stand and be a Modern Day Warrior for Native rights visit: http://www.moderndaywarrior.org


Nez Perce Water Settlement to be Implemented

On May 15, 2004, the Nez Perce Tribe, the State of Idaho, and the federal Department of the Interior announced publicly that a settlement of the tribe's claims in the Snake River Basin Adjudication (SRBA) had been reached. Since 1998, the Nez Perce Tribe, the United States, the State of Idaho, and local communities and water users in Idaho had engaged in mediation as part of the SRBA to resolve the claims of the Nez Perce Tribe in the Snake River and several of its tributaries. The SRBA is the legal inventory of about 150,000 water rights in 38 of Idaho's 44 counties. The Nez Perce dispute had been the biggest outstanding dispute in the Snake River Basin.

For the Tribe, the settlement: quantified the Tribe's on‑reservation consumptive use reserved water right at 50,000 acre feet a year with a priority date of 1855; established a $50 million multiple‑use water and fisheries resources trust fund; provided $23 million for the design and construction of water supply and sewer system improvements on the reservation; transferred management authority of Kooskia National Fish Hatchery to the Tribe; and transferred a portion of Bureau of Land Management‑administered land -- about 12,000 acres -- within the Nez Perce Reservation valued at $7 million to the Tribe. The settlement also provided that instream flows will be established and held by the Idaho Water Resources Board for over 200 streams and rivers selected by the Tribe as critical salmon habitat; required the State of Idaho to administer two cooperative agreements under the Endangered Species Act; and established a Habitat Fund to provide funding for habitat improvement projects.

In November of 2004, the United States Congress enacted a law -- PL 108‑447-- approving the settlement, and authorizing the payment of the settlement funds to the Tribe. President Bush signed the law on December 8, 2004. In the Spring of 2005 both the Idaho Legislature and the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee enacted legislation approving the settlement agreement.

On January 9, 2007, the SRBA Court heard the Joint Motion for Entry of Consent Decree filed by the Tribe, the United States, and the State of Idaho, and on January 30, 2007 the presiding judge entered a written order approving the Consent Decree. No appeals were filed with the Idaho Supreme Court challenging the final consent decree.

It is expected that in April 2007 the Secretary of the Interior will enter findings in the Federal Register that all the conditions of the Term Sheet have been met. The State and the Tribe will issue similar contemporaneous statements that all of the Term Sheet conditions have been met. Once the three sovereigns enter their final findings, the settlement provisions relating to the transfer of the 11,000 acres of BLM land; shared management of the Dworshak National Fish Hatchery; and management of the Kooskia National Fish Hatchery will be finally carried out.

Related Web Sites:

Case web page

The Nez Perce Water Rights Settlement

Snake River Basin Adjudication

Friday, February 9, 2007

Significant Forward Progress on Implementing Nez Perce Water Settlement

On May 15, 2004, the Nez Perce Tribe, the State of Idaho, and the federal Department of the Interior announced publicly that a settlement of the tribe's claims in the Snake River Basin Adjudication (SRBA) had been reached. Since 1998, the Nez Perce Tribe, the United States, the State of Idaho, and local communities and water users in Idaho had engaged in mediation as part of the SRBA to resolve the claims of the Nez Perce Tribe in the Snake River and several of its tributaries. The SRBA is the legal inventory of about 150,000 water rights in 38 of Idaho’s 44 counties. The Nez Perce dispute had been the biggest outstanding dispute in the Snake River Basin.

For the Tribe, the settlement: quantified the Tribe’s on-reservation, consumptive use reserved water right at 50,000 acre feet a year with a priority date of 1855; established a $50 million multiple-use water and fisheries resources trust fund; provided $23 million for the design and construction of a water supply and sewer system on the reservation; transferred management authority of Kooskia National Fish Hatchery to the Tribe; and transferred a portion of Bureau of Land Management-administered land – about 12,000 acres – within the reservation valued at $7 million to the Tribe. The settlement also provided that instream flows will be established and held by the Idaho Water Resources Board for selected streams of importance to the Tribe; required the State of Idaho to administer a cooperative agreement under the Endangered Species Act; and established a Habitat Fund to provide funding for habitat improvement projects.

In November of 2004, the United States Congress enacted a law – PL 108-447 – approving the settlement, and authorizing the payment of the settlement funds to the Tribe. In the Spring of 2005 both the Idaho Legislature and the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee enacted legislation approving the settlement agreement.

On January 9, 2007, the SRBA Court heard the Joint Motion for Entry of Consent Decree filed by the Tribe, the United States, and the State of Idaho, and on January 30, 2007 the presiding judge entered a written order approving the Consent Decree. There is a 42 day appeal period that is presently running.

Once the court proceedings are finished, the Secretary of the Interior will enter findings in the Federal Register that all the conditions of the Term Sheet have been met. The State and the Tribe will issue similar statements that all of the Term Sheet conditions have been met. Once the three sovereigns enter their final findings, the settlement provisions relating to the transfer of the 11,000 acres of BLM land; shared management of the Dworshak National Fish Hatchery; and management of the Kooskia National Fish Hatchery will be transferred to the Tribe.

Related Web Sites:

Case web page

Snake River Basin Adjudication

The Nez Perce Water Rights Settlement

Thursday, January 11, 2007

White House Withdraws Nomination of William G. Myers III

On Tuesday, January 9, 2006, William G. Myers III, a former Solicitor for the Department of the Interior whose nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was opposed by Indian tribes and environmental groups, asked that his name be withdrawn from consideration. When Mr. Myers was first nominated by President Bush in 2003, the Native American Rights Fund, along with the National Congress of American Indians and numerous Indian tribes and inter-tribal organizations, took the unprecedented step in formally opposing a judicial nominee to a lifetime appointment on the federal bench.

In the private sector, Mr. Myers has largely represented the mining and cattle industries as their lawyer and lobbyist. During his tenure as Solicitor – as the top lawyer at the Department of the Interior from 2001 to 2003 – Mr. Myers displayed a complete lack of understanding of the government-to-government trust relationship between the Federal government and Indian tribes, while demonstrating a calculated bias in favor of mining, grazing and other special interests. Mr. Myer’s record regarding issues impacting Indian country was unmistakably clear: He is hostile to the rule of law whenever the law does not serve the special interests he represents in the private sector. His record demonstrated a bias – a wholesale bias against the fundamental and sound interests of Native peoples. Indian country had grave concerns with Mr. Myers ability to apply the law fairly and impartially as a federal judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which contains over 400 Indian tribes and millions of acres of Indian lands.

Through the Judicial Selection Project of the Tribal Sovereignty Protection Initiative, the Native American Rights Fund continues its work with the National Congress of American Indians in researching the backgrounds and evaluating the records of judicial nominees to the U.S. District Courts, the U.S. Courts of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court whose decisions will have a direct impact on Indian tribes and Indian people.

Related News Stories:

• • Myers withdraws nomination for 9th Circuit seat (Indianz.com) 1/10/07

• • 4 Nominees To Appeals Courts Are Dropped (Washington Post) 1/10/07

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Tribes File Trust Funds Mismanagement Lawsuit Against Federal Government

On December 28, 2006, the Native American Rights Fund filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of tribes for mismanagement of tribal trust funds. This suit seeks a full and complete accounting of hundreds of tribal accounts that were required to be managed by the U.S. government. The tribal accounts are worth billions of dollars and are related to income from natural resources. The suit, filed before the 12/31/06 deadline set by Congress, names eleven tribes but may affect more than 250 tribes nationwide.

Read the entire press release.

Complaint filed by NARF at the U.S. District Court

Tribal Trust Funds Accountings Lawsuit Website

Related News Story:

• • Tribes file class action trust accounting lawsuit (Indianz.com) 1/4/07