Monday, April 23, 2012

NARF's 2011 Annual Report Now Available Online

NARF's 2011 Annual Report is now available online.

Click on the cover image to view the report

Friday, April 20, 2012

Klamath Tribes Score New Victories in Klamath Basin Water Rights Adjudication

An important milestone in the Klamath Tribes’ effort to secure their treaty-reserved water rights was reached on April 16 with Administrative Law Judge Joe L. Allen ruling in favor of quantification of the Tribes’ water rights for two water sources, the Klamath River and Klamath Lake, in the amounts claimed by the Tribes and the United States, Bureau of Indian Affairs as trustee for the Tribes.  The rulings were a resounding victory as they adopted, across-the-board, the water amounts sought by the Tribes, and confirmed, once again, that the Tribal water rights are the most senior in the Basin. The Proposed Orders add to six earlier victories achieved by the Tribes in December 2011 – for Tribal water rights in the Williamson, Sycan, Sprague, and Wood Rivers, the Klamath Marsh, and in 140 springs scattered throughout the former Klamath Reservation – and bring to a close this phase of the decades-long litigation of the Tribal rights.  

Since time immemorial members of the Klamath Tribes hunted, fished, trapped, and gathered throughout their vast ancestral homeland located in and around the Klamath Basin.  In their 1864 treaty with the United States, the Tribes reserved the right to continue their traditional harvest activities on the Klamath Reservation.  And for the last 36 years, the Tribes have been involved in litigation to secure the water rights necessary to support fish, wildlife, and plants to allow the Tribes to exercise their treaty-reserved harvest rights.
As in the six earlier Proposed Orders, Monday’s Proposed Orders confirmed the amounts of water claimed by the Tribes and the United States are the amounts necessary to establish and maintain a healthy and productive habitat for treaty species that will enable the Tribes to exercise their treaty-protected hunting, fishing, trapping, and gathering rights, and also ruled that the Tribal water rights can extend to off-reservation water sources where necessary to support the Tribes’ on-reservation harvest rights. Tribal Vice-Chairman, Don Gentry stated, “These rulings are definitely a victory for the fish and all the water dependent resources that are important to the Klamath Tribes.”

At the same time, the Klamath Tribes’ Negotiation Team has also been working hard on settlement negotiations regarding Klamath Basin water and related resource issues, resulting in the introduction of legislation last fall to enact the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA).  “These rulings reconfirm the role that the KBRA can play in resolving Basin resource issues.  The Tribes will continue to work with others in the Basin to determine the best path from here on,” said Jeff Mitchell who leads the Team. “With the results of the adjudication process becoming more clear, now is the time for Senator Wyden and Representative Walden to join Senator Merkley in supporting KBRA legislation and press forward with Senate hearings,” added Mitchell.

“This is an important step in the Adjudication, although much work remains to be done as the cases move on from here to the Oregon Water Resources Department Adjudicator and then on to the state circuit court. Meanwhile, it is a time for the Tribes to feel good about their commitment to protecting Treaty water rights and other resources,” said Tribal Attorney, Bud Ullman.

Along with Klamath Water Adjudication Project attorneys Bud Ullman and Sue Noe, the Native American Rights Fund has represented the Klamath Tribes throughout the Klamath Basin Adjudication process.  “NARF is honored to represent the Klamath Tribes and we are pleased for what these rulings mean to the Klamath Tribes and its citizens. This is a good time to recognize all those involved, notably NARF attorney David Gover and former NARF attorney Walter Echo-Hawk,as well as the support staff that is instrumental in these types of cases.  We also appreciate our counterparts at the U.S. Department of Justice and Bureau of Indian Affairs for their tireless efforts over the years, but we are mindful that it’s not over,” said NARF Executive Director, John Echohawk.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Tribal Trust Fund Settlement

Following on the heels of the White House announcement Wednesday regarding over $1 billion in settlements between the United States and 41 American Indian / Alaska Native Tribes as compensation for the tribes’ historical breach of trust accounting and mismanagement claims, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) today confirmed that 24 of the settlements involve tribal clients of NARF.

NARF attorneys and clients outside the White House on Wednesday, April 11, 2012. Pictured left to right are Bradley Hight, Vice-Chairman, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe; Peter Ortego, General Counsel, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe; Melody McCoy, NARF Staff Attorney; John Echohawk, NARF Executive Director; and Gary Hayes, Chairman, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

NARF, which is headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, represents over 40 tribes in such cases some of which have been in court for 20 years, and all of which have been – and some of which still are -- in settlement negotiations with the government.  “The 24 whose settlement agreements were announced yesterday are simply the ones who reached agreements first for a variety of reasons,” stated Melody McCoy, the lead NARF Staff Attorney on the cases

The 24 Tribes are located in 14 different states. Many have a variety of trust assets – including land, oil and gas, timber, and other natural resources, as well as trust fund dollars -- that were subject to historical federal mismanagement and for which the government as trustee had never properly accounted.  McCoy said that while the tribes had some common issues, “each tribe’s claims are unique,” and it was important to both sides that the negotiations be done “on a government-to-government basis.”  “All of our clients have put a lot of work into assessing their claims and options,” she added, “and when decisions are made with favorable results, we are very happy to support them.”

McCoy and NARF Staff Attorney Donald Wharton, along with NARF Executive Director John Echohawk, attended the White House Tribal Trust Case Settlement Event Wednesday along with several of NARF’s settling clients.  The Event highlighted the extraordinary high-level commitment of the Obama Administration to settle historical tribal claims against the government in a just manner.  “These landmark settlements come directly from President Obama through his staff and spokespeople,” said Echohawk.  “He is the first President to truly ‘own up and owe up’ to centuries of bad trusteeship for Indian tribes

The settlement agreements filed in court yesterday must still be approved by the court, which is expected to happen in the next few weeks.  Court approval will trigger the settlement payments to the settling tribes.  NARF continues to work on settlement of its remaining tribal clients’ historical breach of trust claims.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Natalie Landreth in Bethel, Alaska for AVCP Tribal Court Training

Today NARF Staff Attorney Natalie Landreth was in Bethel, Alaska for the Association of Village Council Presidents tribal court training.  Topics of the meeting included diversionary courts, peace-making, and Alaska Native models of alternative dispute resolution.  NARF has a long history of work in tribal court development – for a description of NARF’s cases defending tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction, click here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

NARF Law Clerk Jacquelyn Jampolsky wins First Place for Best Brief at the 20th Annual NALSA Moot Court Competition

NARF Law Clerk Jacquelyn Jampolsky recently won First Place for Best Brief at the 20th Annual National Native American Law Students Association Moot Court Competition.  Jacquelyn is of Cherokee descent and is a student at the University of Colorado Law School where she is President of the Colorado Law’s Native American Law Students Association.  Jacquelyn has been a dedicated law clerk, having worked at NARF since the fall of 2010. 

For more information on the 20th Annual National Native American Law Students Association Moot Court Competition, click here.

For more information on NARF’s law clerk program and application deadlines, click here.

Congratulations, Jacquelyn!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cucuklillruunga! I voted!
Today NARF Staff Attorney Natalie Landreth is speaking at the Alaska Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights on the topic of barriers to voting for Native Alaskans. Natalie’s talk will address whether Alaska is complying with the Voting Rights Act’s requirements that the state provide language assistance to voters who speak Native languages, and whether Alaska’s decision to close early voting in almost all Native villages impairs the right to vote.  For more information on NARF’s voting rights work, click here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Friday, April 6th -  7:30pm-9:30pm
Located at Elysian Fields Auctions
6924 79th Street, Niwot  (Look for the signs!)
Festival is free – Donations accepted!
Film Festival Director Ava Hamilton (Arapaho filmmaker) will introduce the film.  
Poison Wind tells the story of unconscionable greed and a policy of destruction aimed at the Indigenous People and former uranium miners from the 1940's until today.

This documentary speaks about the Indigenous landscape of the Desert Southwest and desire for future drilling in the Grand Canyon. We also focus on the lives being destroyed by this deadly legacy and the health effects of radiation exposure... as a cruel secret is carried on the face of the wind.

"We are at war for our survival"... Norman Patrick Brown - Navajo Nation
Selected for more than a dozen international film festivals, including Talking Stick (Santa Fe), Cline Festival (San Antonio), Globians (Germany), Heart of England, Swansea Bay and Ireland.

Festival is hosted by Native American Producers Alliance & Ni-wot Prairie Productions
Sponsors: Elysian Fields Auctions, Native American Rights Fund, and WHIZZBang Studios
Contact info: 303-931-3084