Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Native American Rights Fund Reaches 40-Year Milestone

Flagship Indian Rights Organization to Celebrate Four Decades of Service October 29th at Chickasaw Nation’s WinStar World Casino

Forty years after opening its doors as a pilot project to provide legal services to American Indians nationwide, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) will host a two-day celebration of four decades “Defending Tribal Sovereignty.” Established in 1970, NARF is the oldest and largest nonprofit law firm dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations and individuals nationwide.

NARF, which stemmed from government-funded legal service programs for the poor and disadvantaged in the 1960’s, will commemorate its 40th year of serving the American Indian community on October 29th at the Chickasaw Nation’s WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, OK.

“Community, tradition, culture and sovereignty are integral values to Native American people,” said John Echohawk, Executive Director of NARF. “This celebration is not only a recognition of NARF’s four decades of service, but also the commitment by American Indians to hold these values sacred.”

The event includes an Indian Law Forum, which will highlight the history of and review current concerns and challenges in Indian law. Attendees will have the opportunity to contribute to a collective vision for the future of NARF’s direction in Indian Law.

NARF will also host a celebration dinner to highlight 40 tribes, individuals and organizations that significantly impacted NARF in its 40 years of operation. Among those honored will be former NARF attorney Arlinda Locklear, who became the first American Indian woman to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court; and Walter Echo-Hawk for his tremendous contributions to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

Registration for the event is open to anyone. Those interested in participating in the Law Forum and Anniversary Dinner are invited to visit www.narf.org or call (303) 447-8760.

About the Native American Rights Fund
Founded in 1970, 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.

For more information, please contact Jennifer Redbone at 303-447-8760 or Jennifer@narf.org.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pamunkey Indian Tribe Files for Federal Acknowledgment

After years of preparing the necessary historical, legal, genealogical and anthropological evidence to fully document its petition for federal acknowledgment, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, located on the Pamunkey Indian Reservation, Virginia, filed its petition with the Office of Federal Acknowledgment, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) on October 14, 2010. It is the only Indian Tribe located in the Commonwealth of Virginia to have filed a fully documented petition. Established no later than 1646, the Pamunkey Indian Reservation is located next to the Pamunkey River, and adjacent to King William County, Virginia. The Reservation comprises approximately 1,200 acres and is the oldest inhabited Indian reservation in America.

The history of the Pamunkey people is rich and well documented. In the course of collecting evidence for the federal acknowledgment petition, researchers compiled more than a thousand documents recording their existence from the period of first European contact through the present. These documents comprise official censuses, correspondence between the Pamunkeys and officials of the Commonwealth and U.S. governments, numerous newspaper stories, church and school records, books by prominent scholars, popular authors, and federal officials, memoirs and much more. Because of these rich resources, continuous, detailed genealogies have been created for the Pamunkey Tribal members, which trace their lineage back over two hundred years.

Notably, documents have been preserved both in the United States and England that show the continual existence of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe as an independent sovereign since the first visit of Capt. John Smith in 1607, when the English settled Jamestown. At this time, Powhatan, father of Pocahontas, ruled a vast empire which included the great and powerful Pamunkey Indians who were at the core of his empire. A Treaty relationship between the Pamunkeys and Great Britain in 1646, followed by the Treaty of Middle Plantation in 1677, is still honored between the Pamunkeys and the Commonwealth of Virginia. One expression of this continuing relationship is the annual tribute ceremony at Richmond, Virginia where deer and other wild game are presented to the Virginia Governor by the Pamunkey Chief and members of Tribal Council.

The Tribe has survived intact as an identifiable Indian tribe, although they are not yet federally acknowledged. Tribal existence does not depend on federal acknowledgment. It is, however, necessary to establish a government-to-government relationship between the Tribe and the Federal government, which allows the Tribe access to federal services and benefits. The Tribe’s petition documents their continued existence from 1789 to the present and their self-governance throughout this time, which meets the federal acknowledgment regulations.

The Pamunkey Chief and Tribal Council state that “Current Pamunkey Tribal members respect and appreciate what our ancestors have accomplished since first European contact, especially their sustained and successful efforts to maintain the lands, identity and sovereignty that have belonged to the Pamunkey Indians for thousands of years. We believe that federal acknowledgment is the natural means to continue those traditions and honor the ancestors who have given us our birthright. We look forward to the day our existence as an Indian Tribe is formally acknowledged by the United States.”

The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) has represented the Pamunkey Indian Tribe in this effort since 1988, joined by the law firm of Tilden McCoy, LLC this year. For any questions, please contact Robert Gray, Chief, Pamunkey Indian Tribe, 804.339.1629 or RGray58@hughes.net; Tribe's legal counsels: Mark C. Tilden, Tilden McCoy, LLC at mctilden@tildenmccoy.com, 303.323.1922 or 1942 Broadway, Suite 314, Boulder, Colorado 80302, or David Gover, NARF, dgover@narf.org, 303.447.8760 or 1506 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80302.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Shinnecock Nation's federal acknowledgment finally realized

The Shinnecock Indian Nation (Nation) and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) are celebrating the October 1, 2010 decision by the U. S. Interior Board of Indian Appeals (the “IBIA”) dismissing two requests for reconsideration of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Final Determination for Federal Acknowledgment of the Nation (the “FD”), because the requesters failed to demonstrate that they were interested parties under the federal acknowledgment regulations. With the ruling, the FD is immediately effective, thereby rendering the Nation the 565th federally recognized Indian nation in the United States. NARF is proud and honored to have represented the Nation in its federal acknowledgment petition efforts during this time, along with Mark C. Tilden of the law firm Tilden McCoy, LLC.

The decision ends a 32-year saga initiated by the Nation and NARF when NARF filed the Nation’s initial petition and litigation request in 1978 with the U. S. Department of the Interior. The events in the following years finally culminated in the Department issuing a FD dated June 13, 2010 concluding that the Nation met the seven mandatory federal acknowledgment criteria under 25 C.F.R. § 83.7. (See 75 Fed. Reg. 34,760 (June 18, 2010)). The FD was challenged in the IBIA by the requesters who claimed to be interested parties. But, the IBIA rejected their challenges.

Chairman Randy King of the Nation's Board of Trustees eloquently stated, "After 32 years, the Shinnecock Indian Nation has finally obtained formal federal acknowledgment, thus closing a long chapter on the Nation's epic struggle. The Native American Rights Fund was part of this effort and the Nation is grateful that it crossed the finish line with NARF by its side.”

John Echohawk, NARF Executive Director, reflected on the long fight by his modern day warriors, the NARF attorneys, lamenting “It took forever to achieve federal acknowledgment for Shinnecock, but with the persistence of the Nation and the expertise of former NARF attorney Mark Tilden and NARF attorney Kim Gottschalk, we finally got it done.”

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

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hogan v. Kaltag Tribal Council Decision

October 4, 2010


Contact: Natalie Landreth, Staff Attorney and Counsel for Kaltag, (907)276-0680.

This morning the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the State’s appeal in the case of Hogan v. Kaltag Tribal Council, thus effectively ending the case and clearly reinforcing the rule that tribal courts have authority to initiate and fully adjudicate children’s cases.

The Kaltag Tribal Council had taken emergency custody of one of its member children due to allegations of abuse and neglect and, after conducting hearings and finding a suitable home, it terminated the rights of the birth parents and issued an order of adoption to the adoptive parents in Huslia. Kaltag then notified the State of Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics about the adoption and requested a new birth certificate reflecting the names of the adoptive parents and the new last name of the child. The State refused, claiming that it did not owe full faith and credit to the decision of the Kaltag Tribal Court because Kaltag did not have jurisdiction to initiate the case at all.

In the fall of 2006, NARF filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Kaltag Tribal Council and the adoptive parents to enforce the full faith and credit provision of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). In February 2008, the United States District Court rejected the State’s claims and held that Tribes have jurisdiction to adjudicate adoptions and child-in-need-of-aid (CINA) type cases over their member children, and that the Tribal Court’s decisions are entitled to full faith and credit by the State. In a detailed and thoughtful opinion, the Court reaffirmed what the United States Supreme Court stated in the Holyfield case that the ICWA created “concurrent but presumptively tribal jurisdiction in the case of children not living on a reservation.” The Court also noted that denying tribal jurisdiction in CINA-type cases would leave Tribes “powerless to help children in their own villages at the most critical time.” The Court’s decision was then summarily affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

This case reaffirms the rule that when Tribes adjudicate domestic matters of their own member children, whether it is a simple voluntary adoption or a CINA-type case, their decisions are entitled to full faith and credit.

Counsel for Kaltag, Natalie Landreth, said “The fact is that the Kaltag Tribal Court was doing what it, and the 561 other tribes in this country, has been doing since time immemorial: taking care of their own children. This case never should have been appealed to the United States Supreme Court, and the Plaintiffs are very glad that their victory stands.” Moreover, the Native American Rights Fund and plaintiffs Kaltag Tribal Council and Hudson and Selina Sam call upon Governor Parnell and Attorney General Sullivan to rescind the Renkes Opinion issued in October 2004 and instead take this opportunity to work with tribes and tribal courts to ensure the protection of all children, no matter which court their case is in.

Monday, October 4, 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 (www.narf.org/sct/index.html).

The U.S. Supreme Court held its opening conference on Monday, September 27, 2010, in which it considered eight petitions for writ of certiorari in Indian law and Indian-law related cases. In its order of October 4, 2010, the Court requested the views of the U.S. Solicitor General in one Indian law case, Thunderhorse v. Pierce, which seeks review of a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit which held that the prison’s enforcement of its grooming rules, including the prohibition of long hair on men with no exception for Native American religious practitioners, does not violate the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person’s Act.

Without comment, the Court denied review of the other seven Indian law petitions (see the full update memo for details). The denial of review preserves important victories in the lower courts in Hoffman v. Sandia Resort & Casino and Hogan v. Kaltag Tribal Council. In Hoffman v. Sandia Resort & Casino, the Court denied a petition seeking review of a decision by the Court of Appeals of New Mexico which held that the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity barred a non-Indian’s claims related to a $1.5 million jackpot payout from a slot machine that “malfunctioned.” The Court of Appeals also held that the limited waiver of immunity within the tribal-state gaming compact for physical injury to persons or property did not apply to his claims. The petitioner had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to carve out “a narrower and more equitable application of tribal immunity in the context of tribal gaming under the provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.”

In Hogan v. Kaltag Tribal Council, the Court denied the State of Alaska’s petition seeking review of a Ninth Circuit decision which upheld the authority of the Kaltag Tribal Court over a tribal member-child placement proceeding. In the view of the State, since there are no reservations (with one exception) in Alaska, Native villages have no authority under the Indian Child Welfare Act over child placement proceedings, except the authority to request transfer of tribal member-child placement proceedings from state courts. In its petition, the State sought to characterize the dispute as a challenge to “the tribe’s effort to enforce a decree entered in a child custody proceeding involuntarily initiated in tribal court involving non-members domiciled outside of Indian country.” The Court had invited the U.S. Solicitor General to file a brief expressing the views of the United States in which the Solicitor General recommended that the Court deny review.

The Court’s next scheduled conference is October 8, 2010, during which it will consider Madison County v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York. In Madison County, the Second Circuit held that the Tribe is immune from suit in foreclosure proceedings for non-payment of county taxes involving fee property owned by the Tribe. This petition is the latest chapter of a lengthy dispute over payment of taxes addressed by the Supreme Court in 2005 in City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York. Five amicus briefs, including an amicus brief on behalf of the State of New York joined by seven other states, have been filed in support of the petition. This is definitely a petition to watch!

You can find copies of briefs and opinions on the major cases we track on the Project’s website (www.narf.org/sct/index.html).

To view the complete Update Memorandum CLICK HERE.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Join NARF for the 2010 TEDNA ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING, Sunrise Room, San Diego Town and Country Convention Center, San Diego, CA, Wednesday, October 6, 2010, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (pst), in conjunction with the NIEA Annual Conference. The meeting is free and no registration required. Topics include:

Tribal Sovereignty in Federal Education Law: What should it Look Like?

Idaho Indian Education Coordinator and NIEA President Elect, Mary Jane Oatman Wak-Wak joins the BIE Director, Keith Moore, and Don Yu, Special Council, Department of Education, and Dr. David Beaulieu for a discussion on tribal sovereignty in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Topics include increasing tribal access to federal education funding; increasing the role of tribal governments in public schools; and increasing the role of culture and language in Indian education.

Implementing Tribal Sovereignty in Education: What Does Your Tribe Need?

National Indian Education leaders Kevin Shendo, New Mexico Indian Advisory Council Chair and Pueblo of Jemez Education Director; Denny Hurtado, Washington State Indian Education Director; and Quinton Roman Nose, TEDNA President unite to discuss building tribal education department capacity. Topics include building data systems, infrastructure to support programs and services, and building partnerships to improve academic performance.

Join U.S Department of Education Data Specialists and Acting Director of Indian Education:

Ever wondered what type of data the U.S. Department of Education has on tribal students? Ever needed more data on your tribal students to shape tribal education programs and services? Come to this workshop to find out how to access data on tribal students.

See www.tedna.org or email info@tedna.org for more information.