Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Shinnecock Indian Nation is One Step Closer to Federal Acknowledgement

Boulder, CO - The Shinnecock Indian Nation (Nation) and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) welcomes the announcement by the Department of the Interior of the proposed finding in favor of acknowledgement of the Shinnecock Indian Nation. As a result of this finding, a 30-year plus effort for final federal acknowledgement of the Nation is finally within grasp.

"After 31 years of fighting for justice, the Shinnecock Indian Nation has today received a preliminary decision from the federal government to acknowledge it as an Indian Nation under federal law. During that fight, the Native American Rights Fund has stood side by side with the Nation and its peoples." Mark C. Tilden, NARF Senior Attorney.

The Nation and NARF first started their acknowledgement efforts more than three decades ago. The petition for federal acknowledgement was filed on September 25, 1998. The petition was finally placed on the Office of Federal Acknowledgement's (OFA) "Ready, Waiting for Active Consideration" list on September 15, 2003. On November 10, 2008, the OFA placed the Nation’s petition on active consideration.

The OFA must now publish the findings by December 20, triggering a 90-day comment period. During this period, anyone can comment. At the end of the comment period, the Nation has 30 days to respond. Once the comment period is completed, the BIA has 60 days to issue a final ruling. While it is possible the comment period could be extended, the Nation is on course to be formally and finally acknowledged by mid-summer 2010.

The Nation's Board of Trustees would like to thank those responsible for their active support, "As a result of this ruling, our more than 30-year quest for federal recognition is finally within our grasp . . . We look forward to reclaiming our rightful place on this list, which will enable us to qualify for federal programs long denied to our people. To be denied the ability to partner with the federal government on housing, healthcare, educational, and economic justice initiatives is no longer tolerable . . . This final recognition, when it inevitably comes, will come after years of anguish and frustration for many members of our Nation, living and deceased."

The Shinnecock Indian Nation is located on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation, adjacent to Southampton, New York.


To read the DOI news release click HERE.

To read the NY Times article click HERE.

©2009 Native American Rights Fund

Thursday, December 10, 2009

NATIVE AMERICAN RIGHTS FUND PLEASED WITH COBELL SETTLEMENT

A settlement agreement was announced on December 8 between Elouise Cobell, lead plaintiff in the Cobell v. Salazar class action lawsuit over federal mismanagement of individual Indian trust fund accounts, and the Obama Administration. Under the terms of the settlement, the federal government will create a $1.4 billion Accounting/Trust Fund and a $2 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund. The settlement also creates an Indian Education Scholarship fund of up to $60 million to improve access to higher education for Indians. The settlement agreement must be approved by Congress and a federal district court.

John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund, expressed support for the settlement. “We have been waiting for President Obama and his Administration to fulfill his campaign promise to settle the Indian trust fund litigation and he has met that commitment. We are very pleased," he said. The Native American Rights Fund was co-counsel for the Cobell plaintiffs when the case was originally filed in 1996 and participated in the case until 2006 when it undertook the filing of a similar case for Indian tribes over federal mismanagement of tribal trust fund accounts, Nez Perce Tribe, et al. v. Salazar.

Echohawk said that he is hopeful that the Obama Administration can soon focus its efforts on settlements for the tribal claims. The Native American Rights Fund currently represents 42 tribes in the Nez Perce case. There are also about 100 other tribal cases asserting claims stemming from federal mismanagement of tribal trust fund accounts. By the government’s own figures, tribal trust accounts hold five times as much money as the individual Indian trust accounts involved in the Cobell case.

Information on the Cobell settlement can be found at www.CobellSettlement.com

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Walter R. Echo-Hawk II, honored by Federal Bar Association

Walter R. Echo-Hawk II, former NARF staff attorney, was selected by the Federal Bar Association to receive the Sarah T. Hughes Civil Rights Award. The award - one of the major awards by the FBA - honors a person that has promoted civil and human rights and who exemplifies Judge Hughes' spirit of devoted service and leadership in the cause of equality.

The award recognizes Walter's lifetime of service, including his more than 35 years service as a lawyer for the Native American Rights Fund and his myriad civic, legislative, professional and other contributions. In addition to his active writing, Walter is also currently a member of the Carter Center's International Human Rights Council and serves as Chairman of the Board for the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, a new foundation dedicated to tribal philanthropy to preserve Indian art and culture. Walter is currently an attorney at Crowe & Dunlevy.

NARF congratulates Walter R. Echo-Hawk II, on this well-deserved recognition of his accomplishments and service.

John Echohawk honored with Mary G. Ross Award


John E. Echohawk was honored with the Mary G. Ross Award from the Council of Energy Resources Tribes at the American Spirit Award Dinner on November 4th in Tulsa, OK. John was flattered to be acknowledged for his 40 years of dedication to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations and individuals nationwide.


The Mary G. Ross Award, named for the Cherokee woman who became the first Indian and the first woman engineer at Lockheed, is presented to an American of indigenous heritage who has brought notable attention to the contributions by American Indians to the development of American society, and whose life reflects credibility upon and brings honor to all Americans.

John Echohawk was unable to attend the event because of the National Tribal Leaders Summit with the Obama Administration on November 5th, to see his acceptance speech click here.

NARF Testimony Strengthens the Indian Child Welfare Act


In September, NARF Staff Attorney Mark Tilden represented the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) and provided testimony for the Wisconsin Legislature on a LRB 0150/3, which would enact a state Indian Child Welfare Act into law.

To begin, Tilden testified that the bill is designed to remedy the continuing problem of Native American children being disproportionately over-represented in the substitute care system. Tilden discussed the history of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), stating that Congress intended to give the ICWA a broad scope because of the massive problem it meant to remedy.

Read More >

Monday, November 30, 2009

Supreme Court Update Available

With the beginning of the October 2009 Term, much of the attention and speculation has been focused on the addition of Justice Sotomayor to the Court, as well as the possible retirement of Justice Stevens at the end of the term. The implications for Indian country as a result of these changes are still unfolding, but at present, Indian country is 0 for 5 before the Roberts’ Court.

To date, no Indian law cases are currently pending before the Court on the merits. In a disappointing outcome, on November 16, 2009, the Court denied review in Harjo v. Pro-Football, Inc. The D.C. Circuit’s decision held that the doctrine of laches (i.e. long delay in bringing lawsuit) precluded consideration of a petition seeking cancellation of the “Redskins” trademarks owned by Pro-Football, even though the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board’s found that the trademarks disparaged Native Americans. The Tribal Supreme Court Project coordinated four amicus in support of the petition: (1) the NCAI-Tribal Amicus Brief which summarizes the efforts of the Native American community over the past forty years to retire all Indian names and mascots; (2) the Social Justice/Religious Organizations Amicus Brief which focuses on the social justice and public interests present in the case; (3) the Trademark Law Professors’ Brief which supports and enhances the trademark law arguments put forward by petitioners; and (4) the Psychologists’ Amicus Brief which provides an overview of the empirical research of the harm caused by racial stereotyping. Attention will now focus on the Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc. litigation which was brought in 2006 by young Native Americans in an effort to avoid the laches defense, and then stayed pending the outcome in the Harjo case.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Native American Rights Fund's climate change work is highlighted in Indian Country Today


BOULDER, Colo. – Climate change may be only the latest of many challenges facing Indian country, but it is having devastating effects in parts of the far North where at least one Native village faced with inundation by melting polar ice is suing energy companies it says are responsible.
John Echohawk, executive director of Boulder-based Native American Rights Fund, said the village of Kivalina, Alaska, located on the Chukchi Sea coastline, is suing energy companies for contributing to the public nuisance of global warming it says is going to force the community to relocate to avoid being flooded out.

Read full article here.

Celebrate Native American Heritage Month



Celebrate Native American Heritage Month by hosting a Native Justice house party on American Indian Heritage Day, November 27, 2009. Order your Community Action House Party Kit from NARF today and host a party with your friends and family.

The Washington, DC office of NARF has moved!



After nearly forty years at its 1712 N Street address, the DC Office of the Native American Rights Fund has moved to join with the National Congress of American Indians at the “Embassy of Tribal Nations” – an historic office building and carriage house located near Dupont Circle.

The new office address is: Native American Rights Fund, 1514 P Street, NW (Rear) Suite D, Washington, D.C. 20005. The phone and fax numbers remain the same: phone: (202) 785-4166; fax: (202) 822-0068.

To mark the move and celebrate the historic opening of the Embassy of Tribal Nations, Executive Director John Echohawk will join Tribal leaders, NCAI and NARF-DC staff in a Blessing Ceremony on Tuesday morning, November 3rd, followed by an Open House later in the afternoon. John Echohawk will then join Tribal leaders on November 5th at the Tribal Nations Summit – the first of what-is-promised-to-be an annual Nation-to-Nation meeting between Tribal leaders and President Obama.

Embassy of Tribal Nations Gala Open House

This event is open to the public. Please RSVP to Tonya Deal at tdeal@ncai.org

Time: 2:00-8:00 p.m.


NARF Attorney to Deliver Library of Congress's 2009 Celebration of Native American Heritage Month Keynote Address

Dawn Sturdevant Baum, Native American Rights Fund Staff Attorney, will deliver Native American Heritage Month keynote address for the Library of Congress's 2009 celebration of Native American Heritage Month on Nov. 18. This year's national theme is "Pride in Our Heritage. Honor to Our Ancestors."


This event is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009
2:00 p.m.
Library of Congress's Thomas Jefferson Building
Whittall Pavilion (first floor)
10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C.

Click here for more information

NARF to appeal Kivalina environmental case dismissal



On September 30, 2009 the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a lawsuit by the Native Village of Kivalina (Native Village of Kivalina v. Exxon Mobil, et al) against twenty-four oil, energy and utility companies. The Village sought damages under a federal common law claim of nuisance, based on the companies contribution to the excessive emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases which the Village claims is causing global warming. Judge Armstrong concluded that the Village’s federal claim for nuisance is barred by the political question doctrine and for lack of standing under Article III of the United States Constitution.

This case will now be appealed to the Ninth Circuit to overturn the Judge’s decision. Since the September ruling, the Fifth and the Second Federal Appellate Courts (a total of six judges) have now disagreed with Judge Armstrong. Read More

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

KGNU Interview


Click here to listen to the October 7, 2009 Dot Org interview on KGNU about NARF and the Gary Farmer benefit concert.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blues for Native Justice

Gary Farmer and the Troublemakers
to perform benefit concert for Native American Rights Fund

On October 9, 2009, at 7:00 pm Gary Farmer and the Troublemakers will perform at the Rock N Soul Café in Boulder in support of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF). This performance will be a blues filled evening with information about Native American Rights Fund.

Click HERE for more information.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

NARF News of Interest




The City Of Bethel, NARF And ACLU Agree On Voting Rights Act Measures
Measures providing additional language assistance for Yup'ik speakers at municipal elections in Bethel, Alaska were agreed upon as part of a settlement among the city of Bethel, Native American Rights Fund (NARF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and two local Alaska Natives. Yup'ik is the primary language of a majority of citizens in the Bethel region. The settlement agreement follows a lawsuit filed against the city by NARF and the ACLU on behalf of the two local Alaska Natives. Read More...



Nebraska Supreme Court Affirms Tribal Rights
In a unanimous decision, the Nebraska Supreme Court reversed and remanded a decision by a Nebraska county court which had refused to allow the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska to intervene in a child custody case involving two children that are members of the Tribe. The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the absolute and unconditional right of an Indian tribe to intervene in a child custody proceeding under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Read More...



NARF Announces New Alliance with Westlaw to Improve Access to Tribal law
The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) is pleased to announce a new strategic alliance with West, a Thomson Reuters business. Under this alliance, NARF and West will work to improve access to Native American tribal law available through NARF's National Indian Law Library (NILL) and Westlaw, West's premier online legal research service. Select tribal law content will be editorially annotated by West for Westlaw and will be cross-linked to court opinions and other law on Westlaw when available. Unannotated tribal law will be freely available through the NILL website. Select materials may also be published in West print products and law books. Content will include tribal codes, ordinances, constitutions, and intergovernmental agreements. Read More...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

2009 List of Federally Recognized Tribes 8/11/09

The Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs has published "Indian Entities Recognized and Eligible To Receive Services From the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs." on 8/11/09.

The list includes 564 tribal entities in the contiguous 48 states and Alaska.

Two tribes have been added to the list since the last publication. Federal relations have been reestablished with Wilton Rancheria pursuant to a court-ordered settlement and government-to-government relations were reestablished with the Delaware Tribe of Indians through its reorganization under federal statute, the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act. In addition, name changes and corrections have also been made.

See the notice on the Access GPO web site: PDF, Text.

Supreme Court Update Memorandum Available

At present, the U.S. Supreme Court is in summer recess, with the October 2009 Term scheduled to start on Monday, October 5, 2009. The big news continues to be the addition of a new Associate Justice to the Court. Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee conducted four days of hearings for the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David Hackett Souter. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to mark-up the nomination of Judge Sotomayor this week, with a final Committee vote next week. The full Senate will likely hold its final roll call vote on her confirmation before the August recess (by August 7, 2009).

As reported in the last update, Judge Sotomayor is considered a centrist and pragmatist, in the mold of a Justice Souter. NARF conducted an extensive review of her record which reveals that she has had very little exposure to, or experience in federal Indian law. Our research of her years as an Assistant District Attorney, as an attorney in private practice, or as a federal district court judge has not uncovered any cases dealing with issues pertaining to Indians or Indian tribes. During her tenure on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor participated in only a handful of cases involving Indians, Indian tribes, or issues involving some aspect of federal Indian law. NARF has prepared a memo which provides more background information and a summary of her Indian law cases, a copy of which can be obtained by contacting Richard Guest at richardg@narf.org.

The approach of the October 2009 Term also provides an opportunity to review the work of the Tribal Supreme Court Project during this past term, and since the beginning of the Roberts’ Court era in 2005. During the October 2008 Term, the Court issued three Indian law decisions – ruling against tribal interests in all three cases. The Tribal Supreme Court Project coordinated resources and developed strategy in each case at the merits stage, with NCAI appearing as an amicus party in all three cases and NARF preparing amicus briefs in two of the three cases. It is significant that in all three cases – United States v. Navajo Nation, State of Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Carcieri v. Salazar – the tribal interests had been upheld by the lower courts of appeal with no conflict between the lower courts on the legal issues presented in each case. This development is a continuation of a disturbing trend in Indian law cases granted review since Chief Justice Roberts joined the Court (tribal interests have lost in two other cases – Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land & Cattle Co. and Wagnon v. Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation – under similar circumstances). At present, tribal interests are 0 for 5 in the Roberts’ Court!

At present, the Tribal Supreme Court Project continues to dedicate substantial resources in the wake of the Court’s disastrous decision in Carcieri v. Salazar. In Carcieri, the Court held that the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to take land in trust for Indian tribes under the provisions of the Indian Reorganization Act (“IRA”) is limited to tribes that were “under Federal jurisdiction” in June 1934, the date the IRA was enacted. NCAI and NARF are coordinating tribal efforts to pursue a legislative “fix” to reverse the Court’s damage to Congress’ overall policy of Indian self-determination and economic self-sufficiency. This legislative fix will clarify that the benefits of the Indian Reorganization Act are available to all Indian tribes, regardless of how or when they achieved federal recognition, and retroactively ratify all past decisions made by the Secretary on behalf of tribes pursuant to the IRA. As we pursue this legislative fix, the Project remains vigilant in persuading the Department of the Interior to adopt a broad, inclusive definition of “under Federal jurisdiction” in relation to pending applications to acquire lands in trust. READ MORE

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

National sacred sites day raises justice issues

From Indian Country Today -
originally printed at http://www.indiancountrytoday.com/national/50624427.html

BOULDER, Colo. – The U.S. legal system has become antagonistic to Indian interests, including those involving sacred sites, said John Echohawk, executive director of the Native American Rights Fund.

Echohawk addressed those who gathered for a sunrise ceremony June 19 at NARF headquarters for one of the country-wide observances of National Day of Prayer to Protect Native American Sacred Places.

Tribal nations “may have to use the political process” because of shortcomings in the legal system, asking President Barack Obama to enlist Congress’ aid in sacred sites protection, he said.

Valmont Butte is a volcanic formation that juts upward from the plains east of Boulder, Colo. and faces the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It is held sacred or of special significance by a number of Plains tribes, and its preservation is sought by the Valmont Butte Heritage Alliance in partnership with the Native American Rights Fund and other groups.

He pointed to a slow decline in equity on Indian issues in the nation’s court system.

“In 1970, when many of us were just starting to go to law school, you found you may have legal rights on paper, but they may be meaningless if you don’t have lawyers to protect those rights in court.”

The new lawyers “had some successes with judges who respected Native rights, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to sustain that success.”

“We don’t have the kinds of judges or the courts as sympathetic to us as they used to be, especially on the highest level of the Supreme Court,” where there is “great difficulty” in winning any kind of Indian rights cases.

NARF worked with other attorneys and organizations in an attempt to halt the use of treated sewage water for snowmaking at an expanded ski resort on Forest Service lands in the San Francisco Peaks of Arizona, sacred to a number of tribal nations.

“We asked the Supreme Court to protect us and see that we have religious rights, but it fell on deaf ears” and the high court refused to hear the case, Echohawk noted.

Indian people need Supreme Court justices who will be “sympathetic to our cause and take time to get to know us.”

NARF is a partner with tribes and other organizations in the Valmont Butte Heritage Alliance, which seeks to preserve and protect Valmont Butte, east of Boulder, a site considered sacred by Arapaho, Cheyenne and other tribal nations

NARF has also been proactive in working to address government intervention in the use of eagle feathers by tribal members who use them traditionally and, as Echohawk said, “A lot of people are not doing anything wrong – we do have our ceremonial ways.”

“The sacred sites we pray for are the center of everything,” said Ray Ramirez, a NARF staff member. “That’s where these ways come from.”

Andy Cozad, of the Native American Church, conducted a prayer and blessing ceremony.

“How come we can’t have the freedom we want in the U.S.? This is our land here, a way of life for our people.

“The white man doesn’t want to respect our ways. Something is not connecting between the Indian and non-Indian cultures.”

Cozad, who smudged the NARF staff and prayer ceremony attendees with cedar, was presented with a star quilt for his service to the organization.

The ceremony in Boulder was one of many sacred site gatherings nationwide June 19 – 23; and in the Denver area a number of Sweatlodge ceremonies took place at the same time as other solstice observances.

As part of its mission, NARF advocates for sacred site protection, religious freedom efforts and cultural rights. Its attorneys and staff participate in local and national gatherings and discussions about how to protect lands sacred to Native Americans.

NARF also works to protect First Amendment rights of Native American religious leaders, prisoners and members of the Native American Church, and to assert tribal rights to cultural property and human remains in compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Supreme Court Rejects Challenge of the Voting Rights Act




On June 22, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5, (called the preclearance provision) of the Voting Rights Act (“VRA”) in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One (“NAMUD”) v. Holder. This provision generally required that covered jurisdictions (of which Alaska is one) submit any voting changes to the Department of Justice before implementing them. The DOJ then accepts or rejects that proposed change based on whether it will negatively impact the ability of protected minorities to cast their vote. In the 8 to 1 opinion, authored by Chief Justice Roberts, the Supreme Court recognized that "[t]he historic accomplishments of the Voting Rights Act are undeniable." The ruling also described Section 5's critical importance in addressing voting discrimination faced by citizens throughout our country. Read more.

Eagle feather group meets with U.S. government



The Native American Rights Fund established a working group of Indian organizations and tribal leaders to address government intervention in the lives of Native people who work with or use eagle feathers in traditional ways. Since time-immemorial, the eagle and other raptor birds have been an integral part and intrinsic to the traditions, culture and religion of many tribes, pre-dating U.S. colonization. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife (FWS) and other federal law enforcement agencies have been conducting raids, confiscations and interrogations on many Indian reservations and Pow-wow events, in at least 14 states of the western United States under what purportedly is referred to as an “Eagle Feather Sting Operation.” Read more.



Thursday, July 2, 2009

Symposium on the Settlement of Indian Rserved Water Rights Claims

The Western States Water Council and the Native American Rights Fund will hold their eleventh Symposium on the Settlement of Indian Reserved Water Rights Claims on August 24-26, 2009 at the Silver Reef Hotel, Casino and Spa in Ferndale, Washington. Session topics will include: Negotiation of Indian Water Rights Claims - the Basics; Settlements and Ground Water - the Administration's Settlement Policy; and Settlement Legislation - Getting Bills Through Congress.
The Symposium will begin on Monday, August 24, at 8:30 a.m. and continue throughout the day, with an evening reception. Discussions will continue throughout the morning of August 25, followed by a social/cultural event that afternoon and evening. The Symposium will conclude on August 26 at noon after a morning discussion panel. Each attendee will receive materials.

Early registration deadline is July 30.

Hotel Accommodations:

The Silver Reef Hotel has reserved rooms for August 23-26 for $109 per night (single/double occupancy). Make room reservations by calling the hotel directly at (866) 383-0777. Please specify that you are attending the WSWC/NARF Symposium. The cut-off for room reservations at the discounted rate is Monday, August 3.

The Lakeway Inn and Convention Center located at 714 Lakeway Drive in Bellingham (roughly 20 minutes away) has also reserved rooms for August 23-25 for $129/$139 (single/double occupancy). For reservations, please call the hotel directly at (888) 671-1011 and reference room block "WSWC" to get the special rate. The cut-off for room reservations at the discounted rate is Thursday, July 23.

Click here for the Registration Form.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Supreme Court Update Memorandum Available



On Tuesday, May 26, 2009, President Obama announced the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. If confirmed, Judge Sotomayor, who currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, will replace Justice David Hackett Souter who announced his retirement from the Court on April 30, 2009. Currently, Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee are scheduled to begin on July 13, 2009, with President Obama pushing to complete the hearings with a vote by the full Senate before the August recess.

Judge Sotomayor graduated from Princeton University and then attended Yale Law School, where she served as an editor to the Yale Law Journal, writing a student note entitled Statehood and the Equal Footing Doctrine: The Case for Puerto Rican Seabed Rights. Following her graduation from law school in 1979, she went to work as an assistant district attorney for the New York County District Attorney’s Office, where she earned a reputation as “a fearless and effective prosecutor.” In 1984, she entered private practice in a small civil litigation firm, representing corporations on matters related to international commercial law. In 1991, Judge Sotomayor was nominated by President George H.W. Bush for a federal judgeship in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In 1997, President William J. Clinton nominated her to served as an appellate judge – and the first Latina – on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Generally, Judge Sotomayor is considered a centrist and pragmatist, in the mold of a Justice Souter. An extensive review of her record reveals that she has had very little exposure to, or experience in federal Indian law. Our research of her years as an Assistant District Attorney, as an attorney in private practice, or as a federal district court judge has not uncovered any cases dealing with issues pertaining to Indians or Indian tribes. During her tenure on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor participated in only a handful of cases involving Indians, Indian tribes, or issues involving some aspect of federal Indian law. NARF has prepared a memo which provides more background information and a summary of her Indian law cases, a copy of which can be obtained by contacting Richard Guest at richardg@narf.org.

You can see the full text of the most current Supreme Court Update Memorandum by clicking HERE.

Friday, June 12, 2009

National Day of Prayer




The National Day of Prayer to Protect Native American Sacred Places is being observed at the Native American Rights Fund on Friday, June 19, 2009.


The public is welcome to a sunrise ceremony that will be held on NARF's front lawn beginning at 7:00 a.m. The program is expected to last for one hour with a prayer ceremony, Andy Cozad from the Native American Church and John Echohawk, NARF Executive Director will be speaking, as well as other NARF staff. Speakers will be followed by a moment of silence to show concern for the sacred places that are being damaged and destroyed today.


The Native American Rights Fund is headquartered at 1506 Broadway in Boulder, Colorado. NARF extends an open invitation to its program and requests that participants bring a chair or a blanket to the front lawn and to bring food and/or beverages to share at the completion of the program.


As part of its mission, the Native American Rights Fund advocates for sacred site protection, religious freedom efforts and cultural rights. NARF attorneys and staff participate in local and national gatherings and discussions about how to protect lands that are sacred and precious to Native Americans.


The Native American Rights Fund utilizes its resources to protect First Amendment rights of Native American religious leaders, prisoners and members of the Native American Church, and to assert tribal rights to cultural property and human remains, in compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.


Please join us!

Friday, May 15, 2009

NARF Executive Director Suggested as a Possible U.S. Supreme Court Nominee

From an editorial in The Nation's online magazine:

"It goes without saying that President Obama's nominee to replace Justice
David Souter on the Supreme Court should be a person of extraordinary
intelligence, integrity and moral vision. And since archconservative
justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito are in their 50s, it wouldn't
hurt if the first Democratic appointee in fifteen years is relatively
young and in good health. It should also go without saying that the
president has the prerogative and political capital to nominate a
justice who agrees broadly with his interpretation of the Constitution
as a document that protects "people who may be vulnerable in the political process, the outsider, the minority...those who don't have a lot of clout" and grants a right to privacy. Luckily, there is no shortage of candidates who meet these criteria. "

To read the full article click here. John Echohawk is discussed on page two in the section regarding Garrett Epps.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

NARF Establishes Working Group on Native American Eagle Feather Use


The Native American Rights Fund is initiating a working group to address government intervention in the lives of Native people who work with or use eagle feathers in traditional ways, and tribes are speaking out on the issue. See the Indian Country Today story published May 11, 2009.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Environmental sustainability in our work and at our office

A scientific consensus has emerged in recent decades that human activities are causing significant changes to our climate and environment. Among the documented changes are higher temperatures, rising sea levels, warming oceans and melting polar ice sheets. Climate change is a global phenomenon and will affect everyone under even the most conservative scientific projections. However, climate change will not affect everyone equally. Native peoples find themselves already at ground zero in a fight that will ultimately determine the survival of their tribal nations. Native communities are exceptionally vulnerable to the effects of climate change and the devastating results have already begun to fall disproportionately on tribes. Despite the fact that Native peoples have historically left a negligible carbon footprint, they are suffering and will suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change. Read more here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

SLA Honors NILL Librarian as a "Green Champion" With Special Presidential Citation

Individuals and Organizations Planting the Seeds of Change by Providing "Knowledge to Go Green"

In recognition of Earth Day, April 22, 2009, Special Libraries Association (SLA) announced 12 recipients of the 2008 SLA Presidential Citation honoring SLA "Knowledge to Go Green" Champions. The 2008 Green Citation, presented in early 2009, was a special one-year citation created by Past President of SLA Stephen Abram in recognition of the association's commitment to green practices through the "Knowledge to Go Green" initiative. Read more here.

Supreme Court continues to rule against tribes and Indian country

On April 6, 2009, the Court decided United States v. Navajo Nation (Navajo II), part of the ongoing litigation between the Navajo Nation, Peabody Coal and the United States (as trustee) which reached the Supreme Court in 2003. In Navajo I, the Court had held that the Indian Mineral Leasing Act of 1938 (IMLA) and its regulations did not constitute the substantive source of law necessary to establish specific trust duties which mandate compensation for breach of those duties by the Government, and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. On remand the Federal Circuit held that provisions of the Navajo-Hopi Rehabilitation Act of 1950 and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) create specific trust duties which the Government had violated, as well as their violation of the “common law trust duties of care, candor, and loyalty” that arise from the comprehensive control exercised by the Government over tribal coal. Justice Scalia, writing for the Court, found that the IMLA governed the coal lease at issue here and, as the Court held in Navajo I, the IMLA does not constitute the requisite substantive source of law. Click here to read more.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Position Opening - Director of Development

The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) in Boulder, Colorado, is seeking applicants for the position of Director of Development. NARF is a non-profit national Indian law firm that provides legal representation to American Indian tribes throughout the United States. NARF is an Equal Opportunity Employer. For more information click here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

2008 Annual Report Available Online


NARF's 2008 Annual Report is now available online. Click the cover to view the report.

Monday, April 13, 2009

New Supreme Court Update Available

The Tribal Supreme Court Project April 9, 2009 Memorandum is now available.


"The Tribal Supreme Court Project is part of the Tribal Sovereignty Protection Initiative and is staffed by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF). The Project was formed in 2001 in response to a series of U.S. Supreme Court cases that negatively affected tribal sovereignty. The purpose of the Project is to promote greater coordination and to improve strategy on litigation that may affect the rights of all Indian tribes. We encourage Indian tribes and their attorneys to contact the Project in our effort to coordinate resources, develop strategy and prepare briefs, especially at the time of the petition for a writ of certiorari, prior to the Supreme Court accepting a case for review. You can find copies of briefs and opinions on the major cases we track on the NARF website."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Teacher Training Guides in Support of Land Based Curriculum Released

The Tribal Education Departments National Assembly (TEDNA) and the Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF) are pleased to announce the ILTF's land base curriculum, Lessons of Our Land and the supporting teacher implementation guides recently developed by TEDNA and Reinhardt & Associates.[1] Grants are available from ILTF to implement the curriculum in your community, school or organization.

The ILTF curriculum, Lessons of Our Land was developed to offer quality Indian land tenure educational opportunities for Head Start, K-12, college, adult and community education, tribal leaders and Indian landowners. While this curriculum positions Native American tribal issues and values at the forefront, the curriculum framework places emphasis on the fundamental relationship between land and people in general, not just Native Americans. Whether you teach on an Indian reservation or in an urban school with students from many ethnic backgrounds, you will find lessons that are both timely and adaptable for each and every one of these students.
However, the primary goal of this curriculum is for all Indian students to become intellectually reconnected to the land and to internalize its significance to their past, present and future as sovereign and land based peoples. Through this curriculum, Indian allottees, their children and other family members who will inherit their land, and landless tribal members will acquire the knowledge necessary to achieve self-determination through informed and responsible decision making concerning land assets. The ILTF and TEDNA believe that successful implementation of this curriculum is one of the best ways to strengthen Native communities and prevent further loss of Indian lands.

With the assistance of Reinhardt & Associates, TEDNA has developed teacher implementation guides to support the ILTF curriculum in Head Start, K-12, college, adult and community education programs. Grant money is available to communities interested in utilizing the curriculum. For more information simply, send an email to info@tedna.org indicating your interest in learning more about the curriculum. TEDNA will send you the curriculum and the teacher training guides free of charge!

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[1] TEDNA is a nonprofit organization that supports Tribal Education Departments; it strives to increase tribal sovereignty over education by improving law and policy and sharing information with our membership. For more information about TEDNA, see www.tedna.org. The ILTF strives to return land within original reservation boundaries or of cultural significance back to tribal ownership. For more information about ILTF, see www.indianlandtenure.org.

Monday, March 16, 2009

New memorandum from the Tribal Supreme Court Project

The Tribal Supreme Court Project February 28, 2009 Memorandum is now available.

"The Tribal Supreme Court Project is part of the Tribal Sovereignty Protection Initiative and is staffed by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF). The Project was formed in 2001 in response to a series of U.S. Supreme Court cases that negatively affected tribal sovereignty. The purpose of the Project is to promote greater coordination and to improve strategy on litigation that may affect the rights of all Indian tribes. We encourage Indian tribes and their attorneys to contact the Project in our effort to coordinate resources, develop strategy and prepare briefs, especially at the time of the petition for a writ of certiorari, prior to the Supreme Court accepting a case for review. You can find copies of briefs and opinions on the major cases we track on the NARF website."

Native spiritual and tribal rights are the focus of legal discussion


(Reprinted Courtsey of Indian Country Today)BOULDER, CO-In contemporary law, human rights tend to be equated with individual rather than collective rights, and government can interfere with Native spiritual practices by claiming it has a compelling interest in doing so, according to legal experts who gathered for a conference Feb. 27.
“It’s all about the rights of the conqueror and the colonized and I don’t know if that’s ever going to change,” said Steven C. Moore, a senior staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund, Boulder. READ MORE

NARF Bids Farewell to a True Modern Day Warrior: Walter Echo-Hawk Jr


BOULDER, CO-It is with great sadness and with well wishes that NARF bids farewell to senior staff attorney Walter “Bunky” Echohawk. Walter will be retiring from NARF in April. He has served as an attorney for NARF since 1973 and has been a true pioneer and icon of Indian law. His contributions to the field are far too numerous to entirely mention. Walter has tirelessly served as a lawyer, tribal supreme court judge, scholar, writer and activist for more than 35 years. His legal experience includes cases involving Native American religious freedom, prisoner rights, water rights, treaty rights, and reburial/ repatriation rights. Among Walter’s most important contributions to Native American rights was his involvement in the development and passage of The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), a Federal law passed in 1990. READ MORE

Supreme Court’s decision threatens to be destabilizing for a significant number of Tribes


Washington D.C. - On February 24, 2009, the Supreme Court issued an extraordinarilytroubling decision, limiting the authority of the Secretary of the Interior under the provisions of the Indian Reorganization Act (“IRA”). This case involved a challenge by the State of Rhode Island to the authority of the Secretary to take land in to trust for the Narragansett Tribe under the IRA. The Court has invoked a strained and circular reading of a few sentences in the Indian Reorganization Act to create different “classes” of tribes. Given the fundamental purpose of the IRA was to organize tribal governments and restore land bases for tribes that had been torn apart by prior federal policies, the Court’s ruling is an affront to the most basic policies underlying the IRA. READ MORE

Monday, March 2, 2009

Nation’s Tribes Asking Congress for Swift Action on Climate Legislation


Nation’s Tribes Asking Congress for Swift Action on Climate Legislation

***PHOTO & INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE***

WASHINGTON-Tribal leaders from around the country have come to Washington, D.C., to press their Senators and Representatives for support of federal climate legislation in 2009. Historically, tribal communities have borne the brunt of negative environmental impacts generated primarily by non-tribal activities, and are recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as disproportionately impacted by the effects of global warming.


To fight global warming and preserve their ways of life, America’s tribal governments call for national legislation that results in mandatory reductions in climate change pollution, the development of renewable energy sources within a timeframe that prevents irreversible harm to public health, the economy and the environment, and includes dedicated funding for fish and wildlife conservation and restoration. The tribes also call for legislation that supports tribal efforts to lessen climate change impacts on tribal communities, lands and natural resources, and cultural traditions, and provides tribes with equal access to economic development opportunities presented by renewable energy development, energy efficiency, carbon trading mechanisms, and other mitigation strategies.


“Every day, our people are impacted by global warming and the changes to our environment,” said Jerry Pardilla, executive director of the National Tribal Environmental Council (NTEC) and member of the Penobscot Nation. “It is important for tribes to participate in national efforts to mitigate the causes of global warming and to develop adaptation strategies for the anticipated changes in our homelands.”
NTEC, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) are calling for federal climate legislation that addresses the following:

Indian tribes should be specifically referenced as sovereign partners in addressing the problems of climate change.

Indian tribes, states and local governments should be treated equally in climate legislation to the degree that each of these jurisdictions should have equal access to the same technical support and financial resources.

When referencing national and international efforts to address climate change, Indigenous peoples domestically and throughout the world should be given the status and rights recognized in the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Tribal set-asides should be established for tribes to address the disproportionate climate impacts upon their infrastructures, services, lands and resources, and traditional lifeways, and ensure their participation in green job transition training.

Tribal efforts to develop their vast renewable energy potential, obtain access to energy infrastructure, and implement energy efficiency programs should be supported through federal programmatic support and removal of barriers to implementation

As the majority of Alaska Native Villages must be relocated due to rising water levels, flooding, and erosion, sufficient federal support should be provided for their safe relocation with their free prior and informed consent. .

Appropriate weight should be given to traditional tribal knowledge of the environment in climate legislation.

NTEC, NCAI, NARF, and NWF hope that climate legislation will help tribes address the many challenges posed by a changing climate.

Contacts:
Bob Gruenig, National Tribal Environmental Council, (505) 242-2175
Jose Aguto, National Congress of American Indians, (202) 553-7202
Myra Wilensky, National Wildlife Federation, (303) 725-3157
Kim Gottschalk, Native American Rights Fund, (303) 775-1315

The National Tribal Environmental Council (NTEC) is comprised of 184 member tribes with a mission to enhance each tribe’s ability to protect, preserve and promote the wise management of air, land, and water for the benefit of current and future generations.

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is the oldest and largest intertribal organization in the country with over 250 member tribes, serving as the major national tribal government organization, monitoring federal policy and coordinating efforts to inform federal decisions that affect tribal government interests.

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is America's conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future. NWF partners with sovereign tribal nations to solve today’s conservation challenges for future generations.

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. NARF's practice is concentrated in five key areas: the preservation of tribal existence; the protection of tribal natural resources; the promotion of Native American human rights; the accountability of governments to Native Americans; and the development of Indian law and educating the public about Indian rights, laws, and issues.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

NARF Attorney to speak at United Nations

NEW YORK, NY-NARF Attorney Heather Kendall-Miller will be speaking at the United Nations in New York on Friday, Febraury 6th. She will be speaking on the issue of climate change at a conference entitled "Year of Change: New Prospects for America at the United Nations. Kendall Miller will be one of three speakers on climate change at the UNA-USA Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference at the United Nations. Keynote speakers at the conference are U.S. Senator Robert Mendez and U.S. Ambassador Suan Rice. For more information, download the conference flyer.

Tribal Supreme Court Project Update: Supreme Court likely to make decision soon in land-into-Trust case

The Tribal Supreme Court Project, a joint project of NARF & NCAI, anticipates a decision in the very near future in Carcieri v. Kempthorne, a case involving a challenge by the State of Rhode Island to the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to take land in to trust for the benefit of the Narragansett Indian Tribe under the provisions of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. Rhode Island argued 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.

The Project has continued to focus its energy and resources on two other Indian law cases that the Court is scheduled to decide this term: United States v. Navajo Nation and State of Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs. In addition, the Project has committed substantial resources to the petition for writ of certiorari in Navajo Nation v. U.S. Forest Service filed on January 7, 2009 which seeks review of a decision by an en banc panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversing a three-judge panel decision and holding that the U.S. Forest Service’s approval of a permit allowing the use of recycled sewage waste-water to manufacture snow for a ski resort on the San Francisco Peaks a sacred-site for many American Indian Tribes does not violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”). (Read more)…

Troubled Times For All: NARF to postpone Santa Fe Benefit Auction

SANTA FE, NM-After careful thought and consideration, NARF has decided to postpone its 8th annual Visions for the Future Benefit Art Auction scheduled to be held in August 2009 during Santa Fe Indian Market. The Auction will be tentatively postponed until 2010.

"Given the current economic crisis and the hardships it has created for so many, including our supporters, artists and NARF itself, we believe it is prudent to postpone the auction this year, stated NARF Executive Director John Echohawk. "In light of the economic challenges we believe it will be extremely difficult to match the fundraising success the auction has enjoyed in recent years. We do however want to thank all the artists, auction sponsors, donors and supporters who have helped to make NARF's Santa Fe Auction such a success. We are hopeful that the event can return in 2010. In the meantime, we ask that our auction supporters consider alternative means of giving to support NARF's work. This level of support, especially in these hard times, is both necessary and greatly appreciated," Echohawk added.

NARF, like everyone else has also been impacted severely by the financial crisis. As a result, NARF will intensify its fundraising efforts to support our legal and advocacy work for Native American rights in a variety of ways. NARF will release announcements in the near future regarding alternative fundraising efforts to our Santa Fe auction. For more information please contact Don Ragona, Director of Development at 303.447.8760.

Friday, January 16, 2009

NARF Legal Review: Summer/Fall 2008 issue now available

The latest issue of NARF's semiannual newsletter, the NARF Legal Review, is now available at http://www.narf.org/pubs/nlr/nlr33_2.pdf This issue discusses:
  • Federal Court orders Alaska to provide language assistance to tribes.
  • NARF Attorney is one of four equal justice heroes to receive national awards at NLADA annual conference.
  • NARF Executive Director and two former NARF Attorneys named to Obama transition team.
  • Case updates.

Previous issues can be accessed online at http://www.narf.org/pubs/nlr/index.html or by contacting NARF's National Indian Law Library.