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


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.

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.