Wednesday, August 13, 2008

NARF's Online Auction Is Open-Bid Now & Support Native Rights!

Oklahoma Tribes Answer Fundraising Challenge in Support of Native Rights

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)

Court to decide jurisdiction over tribal trust claims in class action

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

The Native American Rights Fund Online Auction Is Officially Open!

So what are you waiting for?...The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) Online Auction is Open-Bid Now!

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

Don't Miss NARF's Live Auction Event in Santa Fe!
NARF's 7th Annual
Visions for the Future Benefit Art Auction
Friday, August 21st, 2008
La Fonda Hotel, Lumpkins Ballroom
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

Federal Court Upholds Voting Rights Of Alaska Natives Who Need Language Assistance

NARF And ACLU Victory Protects Yup’ik-Speaking Voters

July 31, 2008

James Freedland, ACLU national, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666;
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:

More information about the ACLU’s work on voting rights is available at: