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

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