Thursday, May 20, 2010

Supreme Court Update 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 (

On April 19, 2010, the Supreme Court granted review in United States v. Tohono O’odham Nation, a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit involving claims for breach of fiduciary duties which could impact a number of other “companion” cases filed by Indian tribes against the United States in both the Court of Federal Claims and the Federal District Court. In Tohono O’odham, the Federal Circuit found that 28 U.S.C. § 1500 does not preclude jurisdiction in the Court of Federal Claims when a Indian tribe has also filed an action in Federal District Court seeking different relief (e.g. money damages versus historical accounting). Specifically, the question presented is:

Under 28 U.S.C. 1500, the Court of Federal Claims (CFC) does not have
jurisdiction over "any claim for or in respect to which the plaintiff * * * has
* * * any suit or process against the United States" or its agents "pending in
any other court." The question presented is: Whether 28 U.S.C. 1500 deprives the
CFC of jurisdiction over a claim seeking monetary relief for the government’s
alleged violation of fiduciary obligations if the plaintiff has another suit
pending in federal district court based on substantially the same operative
facts, especially when the plaintiff seeks monetary relief or other overlapping
relief in the two suits.

Click here to read full update.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Congress Preparing to Take Major New Action Proposed by NARF for Native American Students

Boulder, CO - May12, 2010 – The U.S. Congress is preparing to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which is the most important federal law that applies to American Indian and Alaska Native tribal students. There are over 650,000 elementary and secondary tribal students nationwide. Over 90% of these students attend state public schools; the others are served primarily by schools funded through the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE).

The ESEA was first enacted in 1965. In each periodic reauthorization, Congress has attempted to address the needs of tribal students with various supplemental programs, advisory committees, and unfunded options and mandates. Major reports have repeatedly suggested more fundamental changes are needed to improve tribal student opportunities and performance. For over 20 years, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and other experts have urged Congress that the key to tribal student success is to enhance and support the roles of sovereign tribal nations in the ESEA. NARF is anticipating that this Congress, and the current Administration, will finally support such efforts.

On Friday, May 14th at 10:00 a.m. EDT the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will host a briefing on Tribal Education Departments to discuss NARF's legislative recommendations on behalf of its client, the Tribal Education Departments National Assembly (TEDNA). TEDNA is a membership organization for the Education Departments, Divisions, and Agencies of American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes. Over 200 of this country's over 562 federally recognized tribes have such Departments.