Friday, May 25, 2012

NARF joins in urging President Obama to attend Rio+20 Summit

NARF has joined twenty-one other national groups in calling on President Obama to lead the United States delegation at the upcoming Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development in Brazil next month.  As stated in the joint letter sent to President Obama, his presence at the Summit “would signal its critical importance to all Americans, demonstrate our country’s deep concern over urgent global issues that will inevitably affect our security and wellbeing, and highlight our nation’s determination to be a contender in the race to a low-carbon green economy.”

To read the full letter, click here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Federal Judge Approves Over $350 Million in Tribal Trust Case Settlements

At a public hearing at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington, DC Judge Thomas F. Hogan yesterday approved settlement agreements for 25 tribes represented by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF). The settlements end cases that have been in the Court for six to ten years against the United States government over claims by tribes for historical breach of trust accounting and trust funds and trust resources management duties.

NARF’s clients were among 35 tribes whose settlements were approved. Brooklyn Baptiste, the Vice Chair of the Tribal Executive Council of the Nez Perce Tribe located in Idaho was among NARF’s clients to attend the hearing. The Nez Perce Tribe served as the lead plaintiff in a case filed by NARF in 2006. “We were happy to head up a fight that has led to the resolution of so many tribal claims,” said Vice Chair Baptiste.

Following an opening summary by attorneys for the United States, NARF Staff Attorney Melody McCoy addressed the Court’s queries about the scope and fairness of the historic settlements. She assured the Court that the settlements involved only the claims of the respective Tribes, that each Tribe made an informed and independent decision regarding its own settlement terms and that the settlements were the product of arms’ length high level government to government negotiations.

The United States attorney in Court credited the initiation of the unique settlement process in these cases to a letter written to President Obama in September 2009 by NARF and other attorneys on behalf of dozens of tribes in trust cases. The letter reminded the President of his campaign promise to tribal leaders to seek fair settlement of the over 100 cases filed by tribes against the government that the Obama Administration would inherit. “Now, less than four years later, we have these settlements of century old claims,” said NARF Executive Director John Echohawk. “It’s remarkable, but it can be done.”

The total amount that the government will pay under the 25 court approved NARF client settlements is over $350 million. The Court’s approval of the settlements triggers payment from the Department of the Treasury to the settling tribes which is expected to occur within the next six to eight weeks. NARF continues to work on settlement of more than twenty of its remaining tribal clients’ historical breach of trust claims.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

NARF Staff Attorney Melody McCoy to testify at U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs 

NARF Staff Attorney Melody McCoy to testify at U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Oversight Hearing on Fulfilling the Federal Trust Responsibility: The Foundation of the Government-to-Government Relationship

Tomorrow, Thursday, May 17, 2012, NARF Staff Attorney Melody McCoy will testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Oversight Hearing on Fulfilling the Federal Trust Responsibility: The Foundation of the Government-to-Government Relationship.  The hearing will begin at 2:15pm EST and a live webcast will be available here.  
For a full list of the hearing participants, see below.

Panel #  1

Ms. Melody McCoy
Staff Attorney
Native American Rights Fund, Boulder, CO

Mr. Matthew L. M. Fletcher
Professor of Law and Director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center
Michigan State University College of Law, East Lansing, MI

Mr. Daniel Rey-Bear
Nordhaus Law Firm, LLP, Albuquerque, NM

Panel #  2

The Honorable Levi Pesata
Jicarilla Apache Nation, Dulce, NM

Mr. Ray Halbritter
Nation Representative
Oneida Indian Nation, Verona, NY

The Honorable Fawn Sharp
Quinault Indian Nation, Taholah, WA

The Honorable Brooklyn D. Baptiste
Nez Perce Tribe, Lapwai, ID

An Evening with author Stephen L. Pevar author of The Rights of Indians and Tribes

Meet the Author

The Rights of Indians and Tribes

By Stephen L. Pevar

Presentation, Discussion and Book Signing

Date: Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Time: 5:30 – 7:00 PM
Place: Native American Rights Fund 1506 Broadway Boulder, CO 80302

Join us for a memorable evening as Stephen Pevar discusses the genesis of his benchmark book, The Rights of Indian Tribes. See slides from his first days as a young attorney on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation and hear how needing to "learn by doing" led to a guide for all who followed. Mr. Pevar will answer questions after the presentation.

About the Author
Stephen L. Pevar is a senior staff counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union. Mr. Pevar worked for Legal Services on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation from 1971-1974, and taught Federal Indian Law at the University of Denver School of Law from 1983-1999. He has litigated numerous Indian rights cases and has lectured extensively on the subject.

The Rights of Indians and Tribes, first published in 1983, has sold over 100,000 copies and is the most popular resource in the field of Federal Indian Law. Incorporating a user-friendly question-and-answer format, The Rights of Indians and Tribes addresses the most significant legal issues facing Indians and Indian tribes today, including tribal sovereignty, the federal trust responsibility, the regulation of non-Indians on reservations, Indian treaties, the Indian Civil Rights Act, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and the Indian Child Welfare Act. This fully-updated new edition features an introduction by John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund.

"As a tribal leader, I have found Stephen Pevar's book to be both an excellent and useful resource."
--W. Ron Allen, Chairman, Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, and Treasurer of the National Congress of American Indians

"Every Indian should read this book."
--Suzan Shown Harjo, President, The Morning Star Institute (Cheyenne & Hodulgee Muscogee)

"Stephen Pevar's book is an indispensable part of the toolkit for American Indian lawyers, leaders, and scholars. Nothing is a more accessible, comprehensive, and realistic treatment of modern day tribal sovereignty than The Rights of Indians and Tribes. This was my introduction to Indian law and still frames much of my thinking on the future of Indian law and policy. Another edition of Pevar's ground-breaking work is just cause for celebration."
--Matthew Fletcher, Michigan State University College of Law

"This is a remarkable book, and there is nothing else like it. It explains the complex subject of federal Indian law in a clear and concise way. Both lawyers and non-lawyers will find this book very helpful, as I have."
--Honorable BJ Jones, Chief Judge of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate and Prairie Island Indian Community, and Director of the Tribal Judicial Institute, University of North Dakota School of Law

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Staff Attorney Natalie Landreth Gives Keynote Address at Alaska Tribal Court Symposium

Today NARF Staff Attorney Natalie Landreth gave the keynote address at the Alaska Tribal Court Symposium on Child Safety and Protection. The purpose of the Alaska Tribal Court Symposium is to provide tailored training and technical assistance on issues relating to justice and advocacy for Native children and to discuss the effects of recent Alaska Supreme Court cases with Tribal child advocates and judges.

For more information on NARF’s work involving the Indian Child Welfare Act, tribal children, and tribal courts, click here.

NARF Joins with Other National Organizations to Call for End to Judicial Vacancy Crisis

Yesterday NARF joined with 28 other national organizations to call for an immediate end to the persistent and destructive obstruction of judicial nominees in the United States Senate.  The joint statement released by NARF and others reads as follows:

Regardless of where you live or what issues you care about, all Americans deserve a judiciary that works for them.  Today’s White House briefing with community leaders, legal experts and advocates for an effective judiciary is an unequivocal statement about that priority.

Recent cases demonstrate that no matter the issue – health care, immigration, marriage equality, workers’ rights, employment discrimination, environmental regulation, privacy, and ethics – the courts will continue to play an increasingly important role in the lives of hardworking Americans. But the courts can’t function without judges.  Unprecedented obstruction by a minority in the Senate has left the nation with 96 current and future vacancies on the federal courts, leading to a substantial backlog of cases that undermines our system of justice and makes it impossible for most Americans to have their case heard in a timely manner.

It’s troubling to realize that, more than four months into 2012, the Senate has voted only on nominees who were pending on the Senate floor last year and eligible for a confirmation vote in 2011.  Today, in fact, marks the first time this year that the Senate is scheduled to vote on nominees who were not pending in 2011.

This vacancy crisis, which has left 250 million Americans living in communities with unstaffed federal courtrooms, must end, and the confirmation process must not be allowed to be slowed even further by election-year politics.  We believe that every nominee submitted by the President this year deserves a yes-or-no vote confirmation vote.  Together, we will continue to fight for a fair judiciary and stand with the American people to ensure they have timely access qualified judges to hear their disputes and have their day in court.

Alliance for Justice
American Association for Justice
American Constitution Society for Law and Policy
American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)
Asian American Justice Center, member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Center for American Progress
Communication Workers of America (CWA)
Compassion & Choices
Constitutional Accountability Center
Defenders of Wildlife
Hispanics for a Fair Judiciary
Hispanic National Bar Association
Human Rights Campaign
The Justice at Stake Campaign
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
League of United Latin American Citizens
NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc.
National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA)
National Bar Association
National Congress of American Indians
National Council of Jewish Women
National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA)
National Partnership for Women & Families
National Women’s Law Center
Native American Rights Fund
People For the American Way
Union for Reformed Judaism