Monday, July 30, 2012

Native American Rights Fund Receives Historic Contribution

John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), announced the receipt of a $3 million contribution last week, the largest single donation in its over 40-year history. The donation, from the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho, was given in recognition of NARF’s work on behalf of the Tribe in its trust fund lawsuit against the United States government. The suit, filed in 2006, sought historical accountings of the Tribe’s funds and assets held in trust by the government. The Nez Perce Tribe was one of over 100 tribes to file such claims, more than 40 of which were represented by NARF.

The Department of the Interior, represented by the Department of Justice and under the direction and leadership of President Barack Obama, late last year chose to settle the lawsuits rather than take them to trial. In April this year the Administration announced settlements totaling more than $1 billion for over 40 tribes. Several more settlements have been reached since.

The settlements help avoid years of difficult litigation between the tribes and the United States. In a statement, the Nez Perce Tribe credited NARF for the historic achievement:

"The Nez Perce Tribe sincerely appreciates the tremendous amount of work that NARF has invested in this case, not only on behalf of the Nez Perce Tribe but many other tribes in Indian Country. NARF has been and continues to be a true advocate for tribes all over Indian Country. The Nez Perce Tribe hopes this contribution from its settlement will continue to carry that work forward into the future."
NARF Senior Attorney Melody McCoy (Cherokee) led the tribal trust cases legal fight. "Large cases like this can be overwhelming, but once the government opted to seek a settlement, the pieces began to fall in place. It has been a privilege working with the Nez Perce Tribe since they stepped up to be the lead plaintiff in a case with over 40 tribes. We are grateful for their generous donation and their kind words of appreciation."

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 Morgan O’Brien, (303) 447-8760.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

First Stewards Symposium

This week NARF Staff Attorney Heather Kendall-Miller and Staff Attorney Erin Dougherty are in Washington, D.C. for the First Stewards Symposium, a gathering for hundreds of tribal leaders, witnesses, and scientists join climate experts and policymakers for a first-of-its-kind national event to examine the impact of climate change on indigenous coastal cultures.

First Stewards is being held at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian and is hosed by four tribes — the Hoh Indian Tribe, the Makah Tribe, the Quileute Tribe, and the Quinault Indian Nation.

Erin was a presenter on the Alaska Panel, which was introduced by Senator Mark Begich and included representatives from four Alaskan villages suffering from severe erosion.  Erin discussed NARF's work with Alaska Native tribes and their efforts to deal with the effects of climate change on village infrastructure and subsistence.

For more information on First Stewards, click here.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Meet the Author - Joy Harjo

Join us at NARF to meet author/poet/musician Joy Harjo
Help celebrate the release of her new memoir - Crazy Brave: A Memoir

Date: Wednesday, July 25
Time: 5:00 – 7:00 PM
Place: Native American Rights Fund at 1506 Broadway Boulder, CO 80302

Over her long career as a performer, musician and writer, Joy Harjo has produced works of art that both testify to her unique experience and grant voice to a disinherited community. Acclaimed poet Adrienne Rich has written, “I turn and return to Harjo’s poetry for her breathtaking complex witness and for her world-remaking language.” N. Scott Momaday has called her classic collection of poetry, She Had Some Horses, “a literary event of importance. The poetry here is of mythic and timeless character, native and lyrical in its expression, profound in its reflection of a worldview that is at once precise and comprehensive.”

Through Harjo’s story, populated by spirits and impulses as much as by real-life figures, we witness a woman’s coming-of-age on the verge of the sexual revolution, the making of an activist-poet fiercely committed to Native American rights, and the evolution of a mother who must learn to fend for herself—and for her children—at a very young age, with limited resources. Throughout, Harjo is assured in her prose and in the path her life has taken, unflinching in her recollections of the obstacles she overcame to become the renowned artist she is today.

Joy Harjo is an internationally known performer and writer of the Muscogee/Creek Nation. She has written seven books of poetry, including She Had Some Horses and How We Became Human. Visit her website at

"Joy Harjo has always been able to see with more than her eyes. Her writing is a testament to this gift. Her Memoir honors her own journey as well as those who fell along the wayside. Her hero's journey is a gift for all those struggling to make their way." — Sandra Cisnero

Immediately following the meet and greet at NARF, Joy will be having a booksigning at the Boulder Bookstore at 1107 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO 80302. You are more than welcome to join us at this event as well!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Preserve Sacred Places Now

Native Americans have held ceremonies, made spiritual journeys, and buried their relatives according to time-honored customs and traditions on sacred lands. These places are forever tied to our cultural identity and everyday life. And yet many of these hallowed grounds are once again being threatened.

Mining, reservoir projects, oil and gas development, and even recreational parks are causing tribal, sacred places to become vulnerable. For example, a mine proposed by Cortez Joint Venture, Ltd., would destroy Mt. Tenabo, a precious cultural site of the Western Shoshone.

You have to put a stop to this.

Donate generously to the Native American Rights Fund now, and your gift will be matched, dollar-for-dollar, by the Tzo’-Nah Foundation who has established a Matching Gift Challenge Fund for the protection of sacred Native places.. $25 becomes $50; $100 becomes $200; and so on.

Your gift will help us continue to fight for these sacred places, and for rights of Native Americans.

We only have until August 9th, so donate today!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Kim Gottschalk Testifies at SCIA Oversight Hearing

Tomorrow, Thursday, July 12, NARF Staff Attorney Kim Gottschalk will testify at a U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs oversight hearing on “Federal Recognition: Political and Legal Relationship Between Governments.”  The hearing will begin at 2:15pm EST and will examine the process of recognizing tribes through the Administrative and Congressional processes.

For more information on the hearing or to watch the webcast, click here.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Meet the 2012 NARF Summer Law Clerks!


Each summer NARF hosts the summer clerkship program, a ten to twelve week program for second year law students. Law clerk projects consist mainly of legal research and writing. The projects are extremely challenging because NARF practices before federal, state, and tribal forums, and because most of its cases – whether at the administrative, trial, or appellate level – are complex and involve novel legal issues. This past year the law clerk program was supported by the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians through the Siletz Tribal Charitable Contribution Fund, University of Denver-Sturm College of Law, University of Colorado Law School and the Ungar Foundation/Smith, Shelton, Ragona and Salazar LLC.

To learn more about the summer law clerk program, click here.

We appreciate all of the hard work of our summer clerks!  Here are the law clerks who are currently working with us:

Boulder Office
Samuel Kohn (Crow)
Samuel is a rising 3L at the University of Wisconsin Law School, where he is a member of the Wisconsin Law Review, the Indigenous Law Students Association, and the University of Wisconsin Moot Court Board. He received his B.A. in Native American Studies from Dartmouth College (where his thesis was “Impact of American Indian Education on Native American Students”). Samuel has been a student attorney at the Frank J. Remington Center Oxford Federal Project and also at the Wisconsin Judicare, Inc., Indian Law Office. In the Summer of 2008, Samuel was an Intern for the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities. In 2010, Samuel was an Indian Affairs Associate at the United States Senate Committee on Finance. Samuel is a member of the Crow Tribe of Montana.

Darren Modzelewski (Blackfeet)
Darren is a joint JD/PhD candidate at the University of California Berkeley. He is co-president of NALSA, a volunteer at the National Indian Justice Center, and a member of their American Indian Graduate Program Advisory Committee. He will complete his Anthropology Ph. D this summer with a Dissertation “Constructing Native American Identity in the Context of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.” Darren obtained his B.A. from Brown University. Darren is the first clerk of a new partnership between NARF and the Environment Defense Fund (EDF), in which students enjoy a joint clerkship at NARF and EDF. Darren will be at NARF for 5 weeks and EDF for 5 weeks. Darren is a descendant of the Blackfeet Nation.

Jacquelyn Jampolsky (Cherokee)
JJ is working towards (2014) a joint JD/PhD degree at CU Law (American Indian Law Certificate and Environmental Social Science), where she is President of their NALSA chapter. She graduated Phi Betta Kappa, majoring in Conservation and Resource Studies and minoring in Global Poverty and Practice, from the University of California-Berkeley. Her Moot Court team was awarded “Best Brief” at the National Native American Moot Court Competition in 2012. She was also awarded second place in the 2012 American Indian Law Review Writing Contest for her paper “Mapping Indigenous Cultural Property.” JJ is a descendant of the Cherokee Nation.

Washington, D.C. Office

Joe Keene (Osage/Cherokee)
Joe is a rising 3L at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University where he is active in NALSA serving as the Native American Bar Association of Arizona Student Representative and Chair of the Pro Bono Committee. He obtained his Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Haskell Indian Nations University. Joe has been a legal intern at the Standing Bear Law Office and also at the Osage Nation Attorney General’s Office. Joe is an enrolled member of the Osage and Cherokee Nations.

Anchorage Office

Helen Poitra-Chalmers (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa)
Helen is a rising 3L at the New York University School of Law where she is co-president of the NYU Native American and Indigenous Student Group and Staff Editor of the Journal of Legislation and Policy. She obtained her B.A. from Scripps College where she was a Cultural Studies major. Helen has been a Legal Intern at the European Roma Rights Centre and an Immigration Legal Services Intern at The Door Legal Services. Helen is a descendant of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.