Wednesday, December 24, 2008
It's Not Too Late to Make Your Tax Deductible Contribution Before the End of The Year to Support Native American Rights
Times are hard for everyone this Holiday Season. Nonprofit organizations like NARF are feeling a dramatic and negative impact from the recession. Now, more than ever we need your support. We respectfully ask that you consider giving what you can by December 31st. Every dollar makes a difference in our battle to ensure justice and a brighter future for Native Americans. Every gift is 100% tax deductible. Again, any level of support can make a big difference for Native American rights in 2009.
Help defend the rights of Native Americans by:
Becoming a member of NARF
Renewing your membership
Becoming a monthly sustainer
Making a one-time gift
Including NARF in your estate planning
Giving non-cash gifts (stocks, bonds or mutual fund gifts)
We thank you for your time, consideration and for the support you have given to NARF this past year that has helped us achieve so much for Native Americans. As we look ahead to the New Year we hope that you will pledge once again to help NARF to continue to stand firm for justice for Native Americans in 2009.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
In these troubled economic times, NARF needs your support more than ever to ensure that we can continue our work to defend the rights of Native Americans. We are a 100% reliant on the generosity and support of people like you to sustain this important work that has made a tremendous difference for more than 250 tribes and thousands of Native Americans across our country. There are a number of ways that you can give generously this year. Your gift is a 100% tax deductible.
Make a one-time gift
Make a tribute or memorial gift in honor of a loved one
Give the gift of NARF annual membership
Become a monthly sustainer of NARF's work
Include NARF in your estate planning
Friday, November 21, 2008
The Agency Review Teams for the Obama-Biden Transition will complete a thorough review of key departments, agencies and commissions of the United States government, as well as the White House, to provide the President-elect, Vice President-elect, and key advisors with information needed to make strategic policy, budgetary, and personnel decisions prior to the inauguration. The Teams will ensure that senior appointees have the information necessary to complete the confirmation process, lead their departments, and begin implementing signature policy initiatives immediately after they are sworn in.
John Echohawk is a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and has served as NARF's Executive Director since 1977. Mr. Echohawk will be on personal leave from NARF during his period of service to the transition team as required by the President-elect's transition ethics requirements. For more information, please contact Dan Pfeiffer with the Obama-Biden Transition Team at email@example.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Read more at:
Obama names six Indians to transition team (The Bismark Tribune)
Obama appoints Native officials to transition team (Missoulian)
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Tuesday, November 18th, 2008
6:30-8:30 PM - FREE EVENT
Boulder Public Library Auditorium
1000 Canyon Blvd. Boulder, CO 80302
(Main entrance and extensive FREE parking located at 11th & Arapahoe)
-Screening of NARF Short Documentary "Modern Day Warriors"-a new film on the history of the Native American rights movement
-Reception with Native American foods offered
-Featured Speaker: Amy Bowers (Yurok), NARF attorney
Ms. Bowers will speak about the most pressing issues impacting Native Americans today. Topics will include human rights, global warming, government accountability & education.
For more information contact: Ghada at 303.441.4941 or Crystal at 303.447.8760, email@example.com
Monday, November 10, 2008
The land where the Pawnee reburial took place was gifted back to the Pawnee Nation by writer Roger Welsch. The 60 sixty acres given to the tribe once served as part of the traditional homelands to the Pawnee prior to their removal to Oklahoma in the late 1800's. 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. NARF attorney Walter 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.
Read more about the Pawnee reburial:
Joy, sorrow and pride at a Pawnee reburial (Indian Country Today)
WASHINGTON D.C. - On Monday, November 3, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Carcieri v. Kempthorne, an extremely important Indian law case involving a challenge by the State of Rhode Island to the authority of the Secretary of Interior to take land into trust for the Narragansett Tribe under Section 5 of the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA). The State of Rhode Island was represented by Ted Olson, a very experienced Supreme Court practitioner who has argued over 50 cases before the Court, was the attorney who argued Bush v. Gore on behalf of George W. Bush, and served as U.S. Solicitor General (2001-2004). Although the Court granted review on two questions raised by the State in its petition for writ of certiorari, the Court was clearly interested in hearing argument only on the broader question of whether Congress intended the benefits of the IRA to apply only to “recognized Indian tribes now under Federal jurisdiction” as of June 18, 1934, the date the IRA was enacted into law. The justices demonstrated no interest in hearing arguments on the narrow question of whether the 1978 Rhode Island Indian Claims Settlement Act created any limitation on the Secretary’s land to trust authority in relation to the Narragansett Tribe.
Although it is very difficult, and oftentimes risky to predict an outcome based on oral argument, a number of the justices, including Chief Justice Roberts, appeared supportive of Rhode Island’s position that the Secretary’s authority to take land in trust for the benefit of “Indians” was limited by Congress to recognized Indian tribes now under federal jurisdiction in 1934 who were adversely impacted by the 1887 Allotment Act. (Read more)
Additional news links...
Indian land case goes before Supreme Court (Rhode Island News)
Oregon Tribes' members eye Supreme Court Case (Associated Press)
Friday, October 24, 2008
"We felt it was important to support the Native American Rights Fund with this donation because of the important work they are doing to protect Native American rights and tribal sovereignty," said Secretary/Treasurer of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Keith B. Anderson.
"The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) wishes to thank the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community for their generous gift and support for our work to defend Native American rights and preserve Native lifeways. Shakopee has shown itself to be a philanthropic leader in Indian Country through the financial support and investment it has repeatedly made year after year in Native communities and organizations like NARF. This level of financial support has made a tremendous difference in the lives of many, including to the tribes and Native peoples we represent nationwide," said NARF Executive Director John Echohawk. Read more...
"Modern Day Warriors" contains powerful historic footage and interviews pertaining to some of the landmark moments for Native rights and tribal sovereignty over the last 40 years. Past and present tribal leaders and NARF attorneys also provide insight on some of the greatest legal and political challenges still facing Indian Country in the 21st Century. The film includes coverage on legal challenges faced by Native peoples pertaining to termination, treaty rights, American Indian religious freedom, trust fund mismanagement and global warming.
"NARF was borne out of this remarkable era of direct action and social political change," explained Executive Director John Echohawk. "For more than 38 years, NARF has served on the frontlines with tribes and Native peoples all across the country in some of the most significant battles to achieve justice for Native Americans and to defend tribal sovereignty. This film is an important tool to not only educate the public about the history of the Native American rights movement but to also raise awareness that these struggles for justice are far from over," Echohawk added. Read more...
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
The nonfiction book recounts 130 years of history between two different communities, the Ogala Lakotas of Pine Ridge, South Dakota and the white settler border towns of Sheridan County, Nebraska. The Nebraska Center for the Book Newsletter in a review by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Professor Emeritus Paul Olson, called the work "an invaluable account of the wars against our Native American citizens."
Scott Zesch, author of the novel Alamo Heights and the narrative history The
Captured: A True Story of Abduction by Indians on the Texas Frontier, in a recent review said, "Part journalism and part history, this fine work of narrative nonfiction reads like a collection of related short stories, skillfully weaving together threads from the distant past, the recent past, and the present."
Magnuson said since the work spans such a long period of time, the talk will appeal to a wide variety of readers. "It should appeal to everyone. From Western History buffs, to those interested in the tumultuous social upheaval in the 1960s and 1970s and contemporary issues like Whiteclay," he says. Whiteclay is the controversial Nebraska border town where millions of cans per year are sold to residents of the reservation, where alcohol is prohibited.
It takes an in-depth look at the one of the seminal moments in the history of American Indian activism, the death of Raymond Yellow Thunder. On February 12, 1972, four white men abducted Yellow Thunder, stripped him from the waist down, and tossed him into the Gordon American Legion Hall during a USO dance. Eight days later, he was found dead in the back of a pickup truck in a used car lot. His death brought the American Indian Movement, and its charismatic leaders, Russell Means and Dennis Banks, to the area for the first time. The book provides the first, full account of Yellow Thunder's death, the AIM march and occupation of Gordon's city auditorium, and the sensational trial of the perpetrators in Alliance, Nebraska. Magnuson is the only journalist to have interviewed Les Hare, the ringleader of the crime.
Magnuson will sign copies afterwards.
The newly opened City Vista Busboys and Poets is the third location of the popular DC-area chain of bookstores and restaurants. For more information about City Vista Busboys and Poets, call (202) 789-2227. The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.myspace.com/stewmagnuson.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Second, in State of Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Court will review a decision by the Supreme Court of Hawaii which held that the State of Hawaii should be enjoined from selling or transferring “ceded lands” held in trust until the claims of the native Hawaiians to the ceded lands have been resolved. Read more...
Download the Complete Tribal Supreme Court Project Update.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
NARF Executive Director John Echohawk welcomes audience to 7th annual auction held August 22nd in Santa Fe at La Fonda Hotel.
SANTA FE, NM - 2008 proved to be another banner year for NARF’s annual Visions for the Future Art Auction. With more than 300 attendees and over 100 works of art for sale at the auction, NARF raised $114,411 in art sales and donations that will directly benefit NARF’s national work to defend the rights of Native peoples.
Some of the hottest and most respected artists in the Indian art world contributed one-of-a-kind artwork to the auction to support NARF. A range of businesses and tribes also contributed auction items this year. Art sales totaled $49,064-a new record for NARF besting last year’s record. In addition, more than $63,000 was raised through major event sponsorships and individual contributions to NARF’s event from tribes, businesses and supporters from
across the country.
Major highlights of the event included major bidding wars on several pieces including a lithograph by Rance Hood that drew a winning bid by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The piece went for more than three times its value. Nearly every item sold by the end of the night making it a truly a special and successful night to benefit the rights of Native Peoples!
And we have seen just that! Using this contribution, NARF and the Tulalip Tribes of Washington launched the Preserving Native Lifeways Matching Gift Challenge to raise a total of $100,000.
NARF was pleased to announce at our Santa Fe Benefit Art Auction that the Preserving Native Lifeways Campaign has raised $127,560 in support of defending the rights of Native Americans, their cultural and spiritual lifeways and the environment.
Chariman Melvin R. Sheldon of The Tulalip Tribes of Washington commented on the campaign by saying, "from the Tulalip Tribes and our Board of Directors, our hands go up to each and every contributor in this campaign. Every day our inherent right as the first people of the United States to govern ourselves, provide for our communities, and retain our cultural identity is under attack. Our collective efforts during this fundraising campaign guarantee the Native American Rights Fund’s continued leadership in this battle."
We couldn’t have done this without the support of our dedicated friends and supporters. Special thanks to the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin who contributed $50,000 as well as to the Sac & Fox Nation of Oklahoma and the Citizen Potawotami Nation who contributed $10,000.
Thank you to each and every one of our Preserving Native Lifeways contributors for all that you have done to defend Native rights!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
- Bid on artwork, trips, sports memorabilia and more until August 19th!
- Sneak preview of items exclusively available at NARF's 7th Annual Santa Fe Art Auction, August 22nd!
Sac & Fox Nation Secretary Gwen McCormick Wilburn, Principal Chief George Thurman and Second Chief Cheryl Topfi present NARF with $10,000 contribution to the "Preserving Native Lifeways Campaign."
Chairman John Barrett of the Citizen Potawotami Nation welcomes Oklahoma Tribal Water Summit attendees and makes a $10,000 pledge to NARF.
Shawnee, OK - In an unprecedented move last month, the Tulalip Tribes of Washington used their charitable contribution of $50,000 to launch a nationwide campaign called "Preserving Native Lifeways" established to protect Native American Rights by supporting the Native American Rights Fund. The Tulalip Tribes' Chairman Melvin R. Sheldon Jr. issued a national challenge" to ALL tribes, individuals, organizations and businesses to join us with a commitment of their own." This challenge was generously answered at the end of July by the Sac & Fox Nation and Citizen Potawotami Nation, both of Oklahoma. Each tribe contributed $10,000 to the Preserving Native Lifeways Campaign and helped NARF pass the half-way mark to its $100,000 campaign goal.
During a dinner held in conjunction with the Oklahoma Tribal Water Summit held at Fire Lake Grand Casino on July 29th, Principal Chief George Thurman and the Sac & Fox Nation's Business Committee presented NARF attorneys with a check for $10,000 as part of the Preserving Native Lifeways Campaign. The Oklahoma Tribal Water Summit was a joint project organized by the Sac & Fox Nation and NARF that brought Oklahoma Tribal Leaders together to learn about and discuss Indian water rights and water issues facing their respective Nations.
“It is the Sac and Fox Nation’s privilege to make a contribution to NARF, " stated Sac & Fox Nation Principal Chief George Thurman. "NARF has been meeting a need in Indian Country for nearly 40 years; a need which has not gone unnoticed. The Nation appreciates NARF’s dedication to all tribes and individual Indians. Principal Chief Thurman added, "The Nation also looks forward to continued excellence from NARF for generations to come and we are pleased that we can contribute to their work.”
NARF, in turn, honored the Sac & Fox Nation's contribution by a presentation of a star quilt to Principal Chief Thurman and with an honor song by the Black Bird Singers for the Sac & Fox Nation's Council. "We were deeply touched and honored by the Sac & Fox Nation's generous contribution to NARF and our Preserving Native Lifeways Campaign," stated NARF attorney David Gover.
Immediately following the check presentation ceremony, the Citizen Potawotami Nation's Tribal Chairman, John Barrett, made a generous pledge of $10,000 on behalf of his Nation to the Preserving Native Lifeways Campaign.
The contributions by the Sac & Fox Nation and Citizen Potawotami Nation has now propelled the Preserving Native Lifeways Campaign past the half-way mark of reaching its goal of raising $100,000 for NARF. To date, the Tulalip Tribes' challenge campaign has raised approximately $76,000 to support NARF. The Preserving Native Lifeways has now extended its campaign deadline to August 15th in effort to reach its goal of $100,000 raised. Updated campaign results will be announced at NARF 7th Annual Visions for the Future Benefit Art Auction in Santa Fe, New Mexico on August 22nd. (READ FULL STORY)
Washington D.C. - On July 24, 2008, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia heard oral arguments on 3 motions in Nez Perce Tribe v. Kempthorne, a tribal trust fund case in which NARF represents 12 named plaintiffs suing the government for accountings and breaches of trust regarding their almost 2-centuries old trust funds.
The government argued for dismissal of the Nez Perce and 7 other of 37 tribal cases. When the Court asked why these 8 cases were targeted, the government responded, “These are the tribes that want to litigate . . . it’s really not much more complicated than that.” Tribes in the other 29 cases have accepted the government’s offer to try to resolve their claims through informal processes. The Court took the “very complex” dismissal motion under advisement and likely will decide it by the end of September 2008.
NARF attorney Melody McCoy argued that the Nez Perce case should be a class action on behalf of 260 tribes. “There are hundreds of tribes that do not have the resources to bring their own cases.” The Court was reluctant to certify a class of tribes because that might “trespass on their sovereignty,” but wondered whether some or all of the unrepresented tribes would voluntarily join the Nez Perce case. NARF attorneys are researching and assessing that option as the Court considers the class certification motion.
The third motion argued was by the Nez Perce and 22 other tribes for a trust records preservation order. The Court denied that motion on the grounds that it saw no need for judicial oversight of lost or damaged trust records at this time.
The three-hour hearing was well-attended by many, including Nez Perce Tribal Chairman Sam Penney. “I was pleased to represent my Tribe and the potential class members at the hearing and to support NARF’s battle on our behalf.” Also in attendance was NARF Board of Directors’ Chairperson Delia Carlyle of the Ak-Chin Indian Community. “I’m very nervous about the outcome of the Nez Perce case and my own tribe’s case. The court doesn’t seem to understand what we’re up against with the government.”
(Photo Above: NARF attorneys Melody McCoy & Dawn Baum with Nez Perce Tribal Chairman Sam Penney)
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Place Your Bid.
Whether you're looking for something unique for yourself, searching for a gift for a special someone, wanting to attain fine Native American art work, or looking for an amazing get-away you're sure to find something in our auction catalog. Every bid helps support NARF in our work to defend the traditional lifeways and rights of Native peoples.
Tell Your Friends.
The success of NARF's online auction depends on spreading the word to as many people as possible. We need your help. Please Refer a Friend and encourage them to participate so they don't miss a single moment of the fun and excitement.
View All Auction Items
NARF's 7th Annual
Visions for the Future Benefit Art Auction
Friday, August 21st, 2008
100 E. San Francisco
Santa Fe, NM
6PM: Reception & Silent Auction
7PM: Live Auction
Featured Artist: Brent Greenwood (Ponca/Chickasaw)
Works by renowned artists to be auctioned including:
Michael Horse, Jane Otsi, Terence Guardipee, Bunky Echo-Hawk, Na Na Ping, Andrew Rodriguez & Michael Roanhorse
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 31, 2008
James Freedland, ACLU national, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666; email@example.com
Natalie Landreth, Native American Rights Fund, (907) 360-3423
Jeffrey Mittman, ACLU of Alaska, (907) 258-0044 x103
ANCHORAGE — Late yesterday, a federal court ordered Alaska’s state and local elections officials to provide effective language assistance to citizens who speak Yup'ik, the primary language of a majority of voters in the Bethel region of Alaska. The victory came in a legal challenge brought by Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of four Alaska Natives and four tribal governments.
“This is a huge victory, not only for Yup’ik voters, but for all Alaska Natives who want to participate in the democratic process,” said NARF attorney Natalie Landreth, who is lead co-counsel in the case. “The state of Alaska has recently taken the first step towards complying with its obligations under the law. But as the court recognized, the state’s recent efforts to provide Yup’ik language assistance are ‘relatively new and untested’ over 30 years after Alaska was first required to provide that assistance. Yup’ik voters will remain vigilant to work with the court to make sure the state’s first steps are not its last. Voting is too precious a right to be denied by bureaucratic neglect.”
The landmark ruling protects Yup’ik-speaking voters in the Bethel region of Alaska by requiring that the state provide language assistance, including trained poll workers who are bilingual in English and Yup’ik; sample ballots in written Yup’ik; a written Yup’ik glossary of election terms; consultation with local tribes to ensure the accuracy of Yup’ik translations; a Yup’ik language coordinator; and pre-election and post-election reports to the court tracking the state’s efforts. Alaska is required to comply with the order under the penalty of contempt.
In issuing his ruling, U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess concluded that the Yup’ik voters and tribes clearly established that they were likely to succeed on the merits of their language and voter assistance claims under the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA). Judge Burgess cited evidence of “strikingly similar experiences” of “multiple voters, in different districts and with different poll workers” being denied the opportunity to receive voting assistance. He also found that while the state recently took some steps to address the longstanding lack of language assistance, its “efforts to overhaul the language assistance program did not begin in earnest until after this litigation began.”
“We applaud the court for this important ruling,” said Jason Brandeis, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Alaska. “It is time to turn the page on the discriminatory practices of the past and fully allow Yup’ik voters and other Alaskan Natives the right to be included in the political process. Remedies including outreach, qualified translators, sample ballots and allowing voters to get assistance when they need it will provide these voters with some of the mandated tools they need to participate in the most fundamental act of citizenship.”
Alaska is one of just five states covered in its entirety by the language assistance provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Those provisions, sections 4(f)(4) and 203, apply to areas that meet certain threshold 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 sections 4(f)(4) and 203, were reauthorized by Congress in 2006 for an additional 25 years.
“Since Alaska became covered by the Voting Rights Act over 30 years ago, it has viewed its obligations as optional and nothing more than an administrative inconvenience to be set aside for higher priorities,” said James Tucker, an attorney with the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. “This order tells the state, ‘enough is enough.’ Yup’ik voters are entitled to language assistance for every election, not merely when it is convenient for election officials.”
Defendants in the lawsuit include Lt. Governor Sean Parnell, Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai, Regional Elections Supervisors Becka Baker and Michelle Speegle and Bethel Municipal Clerk Lori Strickler.
Attorneys for the Alaska Natives are Landreth of NARF, Brandeis of the ACLU of Alaska, Neil Bradley of the national ACLU Voting Rights Project and Tucker of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office.
The order granting NARF and ACLU’s motion for a preliminary injunction is online at: www.aclu.org/votingrights/gen/36220lgl20080730.html
More information about the ACLU’s work on voting rights is available at: http://www.votingrights.org/
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Tulalip Tribes Award $50,000 to Native Rights Organization & Launch "Preserving Native Lifeways" Campaign
TULALIP RESERVATION, Wash. July 21, 2008
The Tulalip Tribes of Washington announced late last week the award of $50,000 to the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), a national non-profit legal and advocacy organization committed to defending the rights of Native Americans. In an unprecedented move, the Tulalip Tribes are using its contribution to launch a nationwide "Preserving Native Lifeways" fundraising campaign with NARF in order to raise an additional $50,000 to match the Tulalip Tribe's contribution. The proceeds of the campaign will support NARF's efforts to preserve tribal existence (sovereignty & treaty rights), natural resources, and human rights. The organization also works to hold state and federal governments accountable to Native Americans. The "Preserving Native Lifeways Campaign" hopes to reach its $100,000, goal, which includes Tulalip's contribution, by August 1, 2008.
"Our funding today to NARF and in support of the "Preserving Native Lifeways Campaign" includes an ongoing commitment to support NARF and we also issue a challenge to ALL tribes, individuals, organizations and businesses throughout the nation to join us with a commitment of their own,"" said Mel Sheldon, Chairman of the Tulalip Tribes. ""Contrary to popular belief, the wars against Native peoples, our traditional cultural and spiritual lifeways and our simple right to exist have never stopped,"" said Sheldon. ""Every day here at Tulalip our legal team and scientists work to maintain treaty guaranteed rights such as access to off-reservation fishing and marine resources and protection of our area environment. We also deal with jurisdictional rights on our own reservation to include control of natural and cultural resources and the activities of people."
Sheldon went on to explain that "The Preserving Native Lifeways Campaign" is a powerful means to show how tribes and Native and non-Native peoples can come together in unity to invest in important non-profit organizations like NARF who are committed to defending the rights of Native Americans, their cultural and spiritual lifeways and the environment." The Chairman added that "This campaign represents a truly historic effort across all sectors to reach its goal of raising $100,000 to benefit the rights of Native Americans. Tulalip is proud to lead this campaign effort on behalf of NARF and its important work. We sincerely hope people from all walks of life will join the Tulalip Tribes and give generously to this respected organization and its mission."
To learn more about the Preserving Native Lifeways Campaign, watch a video challenge made by Chairman Mel Sheldon of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington. To make a contribution please visit: http://narf.convio.net/match. An update on the results of the fundraising campaign will be announced at NARF's 7th Annual Visions for the Future Benefit Art Auction held in Santa Fe, New Mexico on August 22, 2008. All contributions are 100% tax deductible.
Founded in 1970, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) is the oldest and largest nonprofit law firm dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations and individuals nationwide. The organization is headquartered in Boulder, Colorado with branch offices in Washington, D.C. and Anchorage, Alaska. NARF’’s practice concentrates on five key areas that face constant encroachment:
- Tribal existence - Protecting tribal sovereignty and the rights of self-determination necessary to preserve traditional customs and ways of life;
- Asserting tribal resource rights to land, water, hunting, fishing and gathering rights, environmental protection, and development of mineral resources;
- Promoting and securing Native American human rights in such areas as education, and cultural and religious freedom; and
- Accountability of governments to Native Americans guaranteeing that federal and state governments are accountable for the proper recognition and enforcement of the many laws and regulations which govern the lives of Indian people;
- Developing Indian law and educating the public about Indian rights, laws and issues, compiling and distributing Indian law resources to everyone working on behalf of Indian rights.
About the Tulalip Tribes
The Tulalip Tribes of Washington is a federally recognized Indian tribe and the successor in interest to the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish and other allied tribes and bands signatory to the Treaty of Point Elliott. The 22,000 acre Tulalip Indian Reservation is located north of Everett and the Snohomish River, and west of Marysville, Washington. The Tribes maintain an aggressive environmental preservation program, both on and off of the Reservation to complement the Snohomish region’’s natural resources: marine waters, tidelands, fresh water rivers and lakes, wetlands, and forests. Developable land and an economic development zone along the I-5 corridor provide revenue and services for Tribal members. Tribal government provides health and dental clinics, family and senior housing, utilities, cultural activities, schools, childcare, higher education assistance, recreation, cultural and historical activities. The Tribes have approximately 4,000 members, with 2,500 members living on the Reservation. The governing body is the seven-member Tulalip Board of Directors. For more information, visit http://www.tulaliptribes-nsn.gov/ .
# # #
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Tulalip Tribes Public Affairs,
Crystal Echo Hawk, Assistant Director of Development
Native American Rights Fund
office: 303-447-8760 (Boulder, CO)
Monday, June 30, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Wednesday slashed the $2.5 billion punitive damages award in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster to $500 million. The court ruled that victims of the worst oil spill in U.S. history may collect punitive damages from Exxon Mobil Corp., but not as much as a federal appeals court determined.
Justice David Souter wrote for the court that punitive damages may not exceed what the company already paid to compensate victims for economic losses, about $500 million compensation.
Souter said a penalty should be "reasonably predictable" in its severity.
Exxon asked the high court to reject the punitive damages judgment, saying it already has spent $3.4 billion in response to the accident that fouled 1,200 miles of Alaska coastline.
A jury decided Exxon should pay $5 billion in punitive damages. A federal appeals court cut that verdict in half in 1994.
The Supreme Court divided on its decision, 5-3, with Justice Samuel Alito taking no part in the case because he owns Exxon stock.
Exxon has fought vigorously to reduce or erase the punitive damages verdict by a jury in Alaska four years ago for the accident that dumped 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound. The environmental disaster led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of seabirds and marine animals.
Nearly 33,000 Alaskans are in line to share in the award, about $15,000 a person. They would have collected $75,000 each under the $2.5 billion judgment.
In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens supported the $2.5 billion figure for punitive damages, saying Congress has chosen not to impose restrictions in such circumstances.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also dissented, saying the court was engaging in "lawmaking" by concluding that punitive damages may not exceed what the company already paid to compensate victims for economic losses.
"The new law made by the court should have been left to Congress," wrote Ginsburg. Justice Stephen Breyer made a similar point, opposing a rigid 1 to 1 ratio of punitive damages to victim compensation.
Writing for the majority, Souter said that traditionally, courts have accepted primary responsibility for reviewing punitive damages and "it is hard to see how the judiciary can wash its hands" of the problem by pointing to Congress for a solution.
A jury decided that the company should pay $5 billion in punitive damages. A federal appeals court cut that verdict in half.
The problem for the people, businesses and governments who waged the lengthy legal fight against Exxon is that the Supreme Court in recent years has become more receptive to limiting punitive damages awards. The Exxon Valdez case differs from the others in that it involves issues peculiar to laws governing accidents on the water.
Overall, Exxon has paid $3.4 billion in fines, penalties, cleanup costs, claims and other expenses resulting from the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
The commercial fishermen, Native Alaskans, landowners, businesses and local governments involved in the lawsuit have each received about $15,000 so far "for having their lives and livelihood destroyed and haven't received a dime of emotional-distress damages," their Supreme Court lawyer, Jeffrey Fisher, said when the court heard arguments in February.
In a hypertechnical distinction which the dissent found unpersuasive, Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito, distinguished between sales of fee land by non-Indians on the Reservation, over which the majority opined that Tribes have no regulatory authority, and activities by non-Indians on fee lands which may implicate a Tribe's sovereign interests and be subject to tribal regulation. According to the majority, since the discrimination claim “is tied specifically to the sale of the fee land” land alienated from tribal trust land and removed from tribal control the Tribe has no authority to regulate the terms upon which the land can be sold, even if those terms are discriminatory and favor non-Indians over Indians. Lacking authority to regulate fee land sales, the Tribe has no adjudicatory authority over claims based on such sales since a Tribe's adjudicatory authority cannot exceed its regulatory authority. Interestingly, however, because the majority expressly made clear that it was not addressing whether the Tribal Court had jurisdiction over the Longs’ breach of contract and bad faith claims (the Bank had not appealed those claims), that leaves the Tribal Court jury award of $750,000 to the Longs possibly open to be the subject of further proceedings.
Justice Ginsberg, joined by Justices Stevens, Souter and Breyer, dissented, finding the majority’s position “perplexing.” If the tribal court has jurisdiction over the Longs’ breach of contract and bad faith claims “that the Bank has broken its promise or acted deceptively in the land-financing transactions at issue” the dissent was hard pressed to understand why the Tribe could not likewise enforce its laws prohibiting discrimination arising out of those same transactions. In the view of the dissent, “the Longs case, at heart, is not about ‘the sale of fee land to non-Indian individuals,’ ‘[r]ather, this case is about the power of the Tribe to hold nonmembers like the Bank to a minimum standard of fairness when they voluntarily deal with tribal members.’”
Plains Commerce Bank is the first Indian law case since the addition of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito to the Court. Although it is only one case, the opinion is disturbing in its resort to technicalities to chip away at tribal sovereignty and its willingness to ignore the Bank's lengthy and extensive dealings on the Reservation, including its successful use of the Tribal Court as a plaintiff in numerous other cases against tribe members. It is unclear what the long-term effects of the decision will be, but it is not a promising beginning to the Robert's era.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Re-published courtesy of Anchorage Daily News
By LISA DEMER firstname.lastname@example.org, Published: June 12th, 2008
The state of Alaska was in federal court in Anchorage on Wednesday, battling demands that it provide ballots and other election materials in Yup'ik as well as English to residents of the Bethel area.
Lawyers from the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who represent four Yup'ik elders and four tribal councils in Western Alaska say the need for precise written translations is clear. They are suing the state and the city of Bethel.
But lawyers for Bethel and the state say Yup'ik is not covered in that way by the federal Voting Rights Act. Poll workers in the area already help non-English speakers adequately, they say.
As evidence that current practices are not good enough, lawyers for the Yup'ik speakers asked a couple of poll workers to translate the language of a 2002 ballot initiative to create a gas pipeline development authority. The results were incomprehensible, Natalie Landreth, a lawyer in Anchorage with the Native American Rights Fund, told the judge.
"I would be careful to add that we are in no way criticizing the translators -- they are obviously talented people who have been asked to perform an impossible task, namely to translate a college level ballot into Yup'ik on the fly with no training, no glossary and no model ballot," Landreth wrote in a follow-up e-mail.
In the end, the case known as Nick v. Bethel may boil down to whether Yup'ik is a historically unwritten language. The state argues that would make it exempt from requirements for written translations.
NARF & ACLU lawyers for the elders and the tribal groups say the two governments are violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by failing to provide ballots and other materials in Yup'ik to voters who don't speak English well or at all.
Voters struggle especially to understand ballot measures that are often too complicated even for people who grew up speaking English. But other information needs to be translated too, such as voting instructions. As it is, people who speak mainly Yup'ik may not vote, because they are afraid of voting the wrong way, their lawyers say. READ FULL STORY
For Corey Bird, graduation marked the end of the hard work of high school. But it also marked the end of a battle to wear the feathers that represent his family and his Native American heritage.
FAYETTEVILLE - For every high school senior, graduation is a day they've anticipated for years. It's a day when they're surrounded by family members to celebrate and remember their accomplishments. For Purnell Swett senior Corey Bird, it was a chance to remember family members who are no longer with him. That’s why he wore two feathers on his robe when he walked across the stage.
It means a lot,” he said. “It's in remembrance of my mother and my grandfather, and it allows them to be here with me."
For Bird, graduation marked the end of the hard work of high school. But it also marked the end of a battle to wear the feathers that represent his family and his Native American heritage. Last month, principals told him he could be pulled from the graduation if he wore the feathers. Corey, supported by his father and family, choose instead to take a stand for the right to wear his feathers.
The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on June 5th sent a letter to Robeson County school officials expressing their concerns about a policy that would have prevented Corey Bird from wearing two eagle feathers on his graduation gown or cap.
Katherine Parker, legal director with ACLU North Carolina, said that school's " policy is bad and violates the rights of Corey and his father, Samuel Bird.
Steve Moore, senior staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, Colo., said other schools have struggled with this issue and have understood that permitting the wearing of the eagle feathers at graduation is not only good policy, “but the right thing to do from a human perspective.”
Both NARF and the ACLU urged the school district to allow Corey to wear his feathers. Corey's cousin Olivia also was battling for her right to wear three small eagle feathers on her graduation outfit. On June 13th, the Board of Education granted Corey and his cousin permission to wear them.
"I'm just so proud of my son that he stood up for what he believed in," Corey’s father Samuel said after the graduation. Bird graduated from Purnell Swett with honors.
NARF attorney Steve Moore stated that NARF will be working on a "resource kit" for Native students and their families that will provide information and resources to aide other students like Corey who run into struggles with wearing their eagle feathers and/or traditional regalia at their graduation ceremonies. The resource kit will be available through NARF's website in the near future.
NARF Still Seeking Donations of Items for Its 7th Annual Benefit Art Auction
NARF is still seeking donations for its 7th Annual Visions for the Future Art Auction to be held Friday, August 22, 2008 at La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The auction, held the night before Santa Fe Indian Market opens, is NARF's biggest special event of the year. Live, silent and online auctions are held where buyers from all over the country and world come to purchase artwork, jewelry, merchadise, travel get-aways and unique items all to help support our work to defend the rights of Native peoples. Last year, NARF was able to raise over $200,000 to support our legal and advocacy work for Native peoples at the auction.
This historic success was made possible through the generosity of artists, organizations, tribes, businesses and invididuals that donated items to the auction.We ask you to please consider donating any of the following items to support NARF's efforts to support its work for Native peoples:
- Native American Artwork
- Gift Certificates
- Travel/Resort Get-Aways
To learn more about the benefits of donating an item, please download our art and item donation information kit.
If you are ready to donate an item, simply fill out our Donation Pledge Form and return it to NARF.
Heartfelt Thanks to All the Artists, Businesses, Organizations & Individuals Who Have So Far Pledged Items to Our 7th Annual Visions for the Future Benefit Auction!
Artists: Brent Greenwood, Michael Horse, Terence Guardipee, Rance Hood, Eric Ginsberg, Na Na Ping, Amado Peña, Jessie Hummingbird, Kimberly MacLoud, Bunky Echo-Hawk, Eddie Morrison, Chris Pappan, Andrew Morrison, Michael Roan Horse, Hans Rose, Tennyson Reid, David Bernie, Diane Lucero, Shirely Miolla, Andrea Hill, Thayne Hake, Leonard Benari, Sybil Amber, Luz-Marie Lopez & Larry Fitzgerald
Businesses: Morongo Casino Resort & Spa, NAPT, Inn of the Anasazi, Towa Golf Club, Georgia O'Keefe Museum,The Message Company, Encantado Resort & Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino
Many more items are still needed, so please consider lending your support to the biggest night for Native rights and donate an item today!
Are You Looking For a Great Way to...
Become a Sponsor for NARF's Benefit Art Auction!
There are numerous benefits to becoming a sponsor for our 7th Annual Visions for the Future Benefit Art Auction. To learn more, please download our Visions for the Future Sponsor Opportunity Information. All sponsorships are 100% tax-deductible.
Many Thanks to Our Current Sponsors Who Include:
Table Mountain Rancheria
Mary Alice Johnston Trust
Thursday, June 5, 2008
For more on this story, read Native Graduate wins case; walks with feathers
*** PRESS RELEASE *** PRESS RELEASE *** PRESS RELEASE ***
ACLU of North Carolina and Native American Rights Fund Express Deep Concerns Over School’s Refusal to Allow Student to Wear Spiritual Attire at Graduation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, June 5, 2008
CONTACT: Katherine Parker, Legal Director,Rebecca Headen, Racial Justice Project Director,
ACLU-NC, Raleigh 919-834-3466 ; Steve Moore, Senior Staff Attorney, Native American Rights Fund 303-447-8760
PEMBROKE The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) today sent a letter to the Robeson County School District expressing concern over a school system policy for graduation attire that provides no exception for religious and/or spiritual beliefs, resulting in an unreasonable application to one student. That student is Corey Bird, a senior at Purnell Swett High School in Pembroke who is Lumbee and an enrolled member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Tribe of South Dakota. Bird has been told by school officials that school policy does not permit him to wear an eagle feather during graduation on June 13.
The organizations became involved after the student and his father, Samuel Bird, requested backing from Lumbee tribal leaders, who called the school’s enforcement of its policy in this instance “a disgrace.” The Sisseton-Wahpeton tribe and other American Indian tribes traditionally use eagle feathers for ceremonial purposes. Typically, an eagle feather is given only in times of great honor for example, eagle feathers are given to mark great personal achievement. The gift of an eagle feather to a youth is a great honor and is typically given to recognize an important transition in his or her life. Many young people are given eagle feathers upon graduation from high school to signify achievement of this important educational journey and the honor the graduate brings to his or her family, community and tribe. Corey’s feathers were gifted to him by his father for this occasion, and they have even greater meaning to him because Corey wants to spiritually honor his mother and grandfather, who are both deceased.
The Lumbee Tribal Council passed a resolution of support for Corey to wear the eagle feathers to graduation, but still the school would not budge, prompting the organizations to step in. The following quote can be attributed to Katherine Parker of ACLU-NC: “In addition to being just plain bad policy, the school district’s decision also appears to violate Corey’s right to freely exercise his religion under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as Corey’s father’s fundamental right to parent under the Fourteenth Amendment. We urge the school district to rethink its short-sighted decision.”
The following quote can be attributed to Steve Moore of NARF: “Given the Native American reverence for eagles, and the high honor represented by a school graduation, we at NARF cannot imagine a more appropriate setting for the dignified wearing of an eagle feather. Most schools in America that have struggled with this issue in the past few decades have understood that permitting the wearing of eagle feathers at graduation is not only good policy but the right thing to do from a human perspective.”
Robeson County is approximately 40% Lumbee, according to the U.S. Census. The Robeson County School Board’s next scheduled meeting is June 10. The organizations look forward to attending along with parents, community members and supporters to address the matter.
The Native American Rights Fund is a national organization that provides legal representation and technical assistance to Indian tribes, organizations and individuals nationwide. The ACLU-NC, a nonprofit organization with 9,000 members in North Carolina, is dedicated to defending the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.
READ Joint Letter from NARF & ACLU to Robeson County School officials strongly urging them to allow Corey to weather his feathers to graduation
For more on this story read: "Soaring Strong: Lumbee student fights to wear feathers to graduation," Indian Country Today, 6/4/08
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
La Fonda Hotel, Santa Fe, NM
SANTA FE--NARF's Visions for the Future Benefit Art Auction is held annually on the eve of the world-famous Santa Fe Indian Market. This year's event will be held Friday, August 22nd in the ballroom at La Fonda Hotel. NARF’s auction has become one of the premiere events during the Market. Last year’s Benefit Art Auction was the most successful in NARF’s history with more than 400 people attending from across the United States and more than $200,000 raised to support NARF’s non-profit legal and advocacy work to defend the rights and traditional cultural lifeways of Native Americans. Attendees include tribal and business leaders, artists, celebrities, media, art collectors, philanthropists and supporters of Native rights from all walks of life.
NARF's Visions for the Future Benefit Art Auction is our biggest and most important special event of the year and with out question the biggest night for Native rights. Our goal is to make NARF's 7th Annual Auction even more successful than last year's event. We are reliant on the generosity of individuals, businesses, foundations and tribes to be partners with NARF to help us reach that goal. All proceeds benefit the non-profit legal and advocacy work of NARF to defend the rights of Native peoples. Please take a moment to learn more about how you can support Native American rights by investing in the sponsorship opportunities we are offering for the auction and/or by donating items to be auctioned at the event.
- Interested in being a sponsor for NARF's auction? Download our Auction Sponsor Information Kit & learn about the numerous sponsor benefits NARF is offering this year
- Are you an artist interested in donating your original art to NARF's auction? See here for the benefits of donating!
- Interested in donating artwork, gift certificates, jewelry, merchandise or other items for NARF's silent, online and live auction in Santa Fe? See her for more details on how you can make a difference!
- See all the great event photos from NARF's 2007 Visions for the Future Auction-the most successful in NARF's history!
NARF AND ACLU Ask Federal Court To Stop Disenfranchisement of Alaska Natives Who Need Language Assistance
ANCHORAGE — On behalf of four Alaska Natives and four tribal governments, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion in federal court today ordering state and local elections officials to provide effective oral language assistance and voting materials to citizens who speak Yup’ik, the primary language of a majority of voters in the Bethel region of Alaska. The motion comes in a lawsuit filed in 2007 charging state and local elections officials with ongoing violations of the federal Voting Rights Act.
“The state of Alaska and city of Bethel continue to violate the Voting Rights Act by blocking Alaska Natives from participating in the democratic process,” said NARF attorney Natalie Landreth, who is lead co-counsel in the case. “Election officials expect Yup’ik voters to understand translations which are incomprehensible, inaccurate, confusing, and cause them to vote the wrong way. Under federal law, state and local elections officials must 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.”
Read the full story
See Additional Media Coverage:
Yup'ik voters want help at polls, Anchorage Daily News
Election officials roll out programs for Native speakers, NBC Affiliate KTUU
Bethel area residents ask for elections assistance in Yup'ik, Seattle Post Intelligencer
Thursday, May 15, 2008
The first National Prayer Day was conducted on June 20, 2003, on the U.S. Capitol West Lawn and nationwide to emphasize the need for Congress to enact a cause of action to protect Native sacred places. That need still exists.
Friday, May 9, 2008
From the article:
Echohawk, a veteran of water rights issues, said that over the course of almost four decades, NARF has encountered a consistent challenge - federal inability to fund the resolution of tribal water rights claims.
''For centuries, the federal government has promoted and subsidized non-Indian water rights to the detriment of vested tribal water rights. In the past four years alone, the Bush administration spent $2.3 billion on water infrastructure in Iraq, $1.6 billion on water-related issues in other countries, and $2.5 billion on water rights claims in the [American] West outside of Indian country. ... We strongly urge this committee [Natural Resources, through its subcommittee on water and power] to support the New Mexico senators ... We believe securing a permanent funding mechanism will resolve most of the problems of settling Indian water rights throughout the West.''
Read the full article
The Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF) has awarded the Tribal Education Departments National Assembly (TEDNA) with grant monies to develop Indian education professional development materials, and promote and market the ILTF Indian Land Tenure Curriculum.
In recognition that education of tribal youth is one of the most important areas of sovereignty, TEDNA and ILTF will spend the next year working collaboratively to create professional development materials that support the ILTF Curriculum and incorporate the Curriculum into schools across the nation.
The ILTF Curriculum was designed with Native American tribal issues and values in mind, but the context illustrates the important relationship between land and people in general, not just Native Americans. The main goal is for students to become intellectually reconnected to the land and aware of its importance to their past, present and future.
ILTF Program Officer, Terry Janis explains, “TEDNA is an ideal partner as it has a nationwide network of tribal education departments, private businesses and government employees working in education. Our message, one of traditional Native American land values, will reach all tiers of education.”
ILTF is a community foundation that works with Indian Nations to help them regain and effectively manage their land base. Because education is a critical component of this mission ILTF has developed a unique land-based curriculum for public and private schools. The ILTF Curriculum is based on universal themes of land-based learning, and the importance of land to Indian Nations.
The ILTF Curriculum and the professional development materials will be highlighted at TEDNA’s upcoming Tribal Education Department’s Forum to be held in Reno, Nevada June 1, 2008 in conjunction with the National Congress of American Indians’ mid-year meeting. For more information, please see http://www.tedna.org or contact email@example.com.
Friday, April 25, 2008
"Losing Ground will provide an important platform and voice for the people of Kivalina to tell their story of the real and imminent threats they are facing due to global warming," stated NARF Director of Development Don Ragona. "NARF is grateful to Miss Monet and the Tzo-Nah Fund for making this important film possible," added Ragona.
"Losing Ground" will premiere at 6pm, Sunday, April 20th at the National Tribal Environmental Council (NTEC) and the New Mexico Tourism Department's inaugural Global Green Indigenous Film Festival. The film festival will be held in conjunction with NTEC’s 15th Environmental Conference April 15-18, 2008.
The premiere of Losing Ground is timely with the filing of a case representing the Alaska Native Village of Kivalina against 24 major corporations that includes ExxonMobil Corp., Peabody Energy Corp., Southern Company, American Electric Power Co. Kivalina faces imminent destruction from global warming due to the melting of sea ice that formerly protected the village from coastal storms during the fall and winter. The diminished sea ice due to global warming has caused a massive erosion problem that threatens the village’s existence and urgently requires the village be relocated.
The lawsuit filed at the end of February by NARF, The Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment and six law firms seeks damages due to the defendant companies’ contributions to global warming and invokes the federal common law of public nuisance. The suit also alleges a conspiracy by some defendants to mislead the public regarding the causes and consequences of global warming.
"Losing Ground" will one of several environmentally-themed films to be shown this weeked at the Global Green Indigenous Film Festival. Both the Film Festival and the conference will be held at the El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (See complete Global Green Film Festival Schedule).
NARF's John Echohawk testifies before House Subcommittee on Water and Power.
Excerpts of article by Noelle Straub, Gazette Washington Bureau reprinted courtsey of BillingsGazette.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - NARF Executive Director John Echohawk was among several tribal leaders who testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources' Subcomittee on Water and Power on Wednesday, April 16th, at an Oversignt Hearing on "Indian Water Rights Settlements." With several American Indian water rights settlements heading to Congress soon, including three from Montana, NARF, tribal and state leaders called Wednesday for a federal fund to pay the government's share and for a more robust federal role in talks.
Those involved with negotiations for numerous tribes told of a lack of federal funding and problems with the process that result in many settlements moving at a snail's pace. An Interior official said the costs of such settlements could rise to $4 billion.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling 100 years ago gave tribes water rights on their reservations, but since then only 21 claims have been resolved or are near resolution, said Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., who heads the Natural Resources panel's water and power subcommittee.
Four bills addressing Indian water rights are before Congress, and nine more are expected this session, Napolitano said. Montana has concluded agreements with six of the seven tribes in the state and has three settlements being readied for congressional approval this year, said Susan Cottingham, director of the Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission. She also testified on behalf of the Western Governor's Association.
The settlements have avoided costly and lengthy litigation, come up with practical solutions to difficult allocation issues and fostered sound management practices, she said. But for years they have faced two problems: the lack of funding and the difficulty states and tribes "have had getting the federal folks engaged at an early stage," Cottingham said. Because there is no permanent fund, settlements have had to compete with other Interior programs, she said. Montana has spent more than $50 million on settlements, she said.
A recent idea to pay for the federal share out of the Reclamation Fund, which takes in revenue from water resource development and some sales, leases and rentals of Western federal lands, is a "very exciting development," she said.
"Even though they seem expensive now, they're going to be even more exorbitantly expensive 10 or 20 years down the road, and they are an obligation that the United States has to these tribes and to Western communities," she said.
The funding and process problems are the same as they were in the early 1990s, said Jeanne S. Whiteing, who is legal counsel to the Blackfeet Tribe of Montana in its water rights negotiations and is a member of the tribe. Despite significant water resources on the reservation, the tribe has been unable to benefit in any meaningful way, she said. The federal negotiating process has made the road to Congress a rocky one, she said. The federal criteria have been used as an "actual impediment to settlements."
"The key in my opinion is a clear and firm funding mechanism. It frees up the department to be involved in the settlements in a more substantive way, and it frees up the department to come up with creative solutions," she said.
The funding issue is the most difficult in negotiations, agreed John Echohawk, executive director of the Native American Rights Fund. "Getting the federal government to pay its fair share of these settlement costs is still the most important issue that we're facing," he said.
Cottingham and Echohawk also agreed that tribes thought the federal government would be on their side during negotiations, but, actually, states and tribes have agreed on settlements only to have to try to persuade Congress to approve them, usually without administration support.