Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Native American Rights Fund files amicus curiae brief on behalf of National Congress of American Indians in Jim Thorpe case

Earlier this week NARF Staff Attorney Matthew L. Campbell filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in the Jim Thorpe case.

The Thorpe family and the Sac and Fox Nation filed suit to repatriate Jim Thorpe’s remains so that he could be buried in Oklahoma on tribal land, as was his wish.  The Thorpe family and Tribe obtained a ruling in federal district court that NAGPRA applies to the Borough of Jim Thorpe in Pennsylvania, where Thorpe’s remains are in a mausoleum.  The Borough appealed that decision.  NARF, representing NCAI, filed an amicus brief in support of the lower court’s decision.  NARF also defended the constitutionality of NAGPRA, which the Borough challenged for the first time on appeal.   

The case was originally filed by Jim Thorpe’s son, John Thorpe, who has since passed away.  The case is now carried on by Jim Thorpe’s last remaining children and the Sac and Fox Nation.  To read the brief, click here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Please join us at 5:30 PM on Saturday, November 2nd

Author and former NARF attorney Walter Echo-Hawk will sign copies of his newest book, In The Light of Justice, at NARF on Saturday, November 2nd.  Mr. Echo-Hawk will also speak about writing the book and read an excerpt from it. 

The new book, subtitled “The Rise of Human Rights in Native America and the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples,” is already receiving praise from experts:

“All Indian Nations should take heed of this book!  It is devoted to the proposition that Native American rights are inherent and inalienable human rights.” -Wallace Coffey, Chairman, Comanche Nation 

“…he is also a masterful story teller, weaving an Indigenous cultural narrative throughout that is profound, moving and quite powerful. This book is a must-read for students and scholars of Federal Indian law, as well as the leaders and advocates that serve Indian Country”. -Rebecca Tsosie, Professor of Law, Arizona State University

NARF Staff Attorney Heather Kendall-Miller testifies at Senate Committee on Indian Affairs field hearing

This past weekend NARF Staff Attorney Heather Kendall-Miller testified at a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs field hearing on the health, food security, and viability of Alaska Native villages.  The field hearing was hosted by Senator Mark Begich and Senator Lisa Murkowski and included testimony on the Alaska Native subsistence way of life.  To read Heather’s testimony, click here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

NARF Staff Attorney Kim Gottschalk to speak at University of Colorado Law School conference on Free, Prior and Informed Consent

On November 1, NARF Staff Attorney Kim Gottschalk will speak at University of Colorado Law School conference on Free, Prior and Informed Consent: Pathways for a New Millennium. 

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), along with treaties, instruments, and decisions of international law, recognizes that indigenous peoples have the right to give "free, prior, and informed consent" to legislation and development affecting their lands, natural resources, and other interests, and to receive remedies for losses of property taken without such consent. With approximately 150 nations, including the United States, endorsing the UNDRIP, this requirement gives rise to emerging standards, obligations, and opportunities – and creates considerable uncertainty -- for governments, industries, and investors who work with indigenous peoples.

In this conference, the very first to address “FPIC” on a global and national scale, Colorado Law convenes leading experts to discuss legal standards, best practices, and new partnerships with respect to FPIC implementation in natural resource development, climate change, and cultural heritage matters. Join us for a cutting-edge, high-level discussion of interest to attorneys, indigenous nations, governmental agencies, NGO’s, environmental advocates, institutional investors, and industry leaders in energy, natural resources, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and others.

The event is presented by the American Indian Law Program and Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy & the Environment and is free and open to the public.  For information on how to register, click here.


Friday, October 11, 2013

NARF voluntarily dismisses federal district court civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Veronica Brown

In consultation with our client, Angel Smith, the attorney appointed by the Cherokee Nation courts to represent the best interests of Veronica Brown, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) has voluntarily dismissed the federal district court civil rights lawsuit that was filed in South Carolina.  Along with our partners at NICWA and NCAI, we ask that in moving forward, we all come together to work to make sure that no family ever has to go through this again.  Angel Smith’s press statement is as follows:

I was appointed to represent the legal rights and claims of Veronica. It included her legal right to a best interest hearing for custody and, at a minimum, for the process of transfer of custody. Her rights and claims were taken up in multiple forums, and much to my regret, no court took present consideration of her best interest in the decision for custody or transfer.

No matter how fit or even wonderful both families are or may be, it is disheartening that Veronica was ever in a position to know one mom and dad at bedtime one day, and the next night to be in a different home with another mom and dad. The fact that she did is unquestionably a failure of the legal systems as to this child. It is the judicial systems placing upon the little head of Veronica the issues many courts had an opportunity to and should have resolved under the legal right of Veronica to a present best interest hearing. 

In legal matters, any child -including Indian children- hold legal rights and claims under various tribal, state, federal and/or international law. These legal rights are those of the child and independent of any other party. Failure of judicial systems to consider these independent rights and claims due the child is truly a failure to protect the most vulnerable of our societies and puts upon children the historic semblance of property. All our children deserve and are legally guaranteed more from our judicial systems. For that failure in these matters, my apologies to dear Veronica and both her families because it is now the two families who are left to pick up the pieces of Veronica and help her heal.

Today finds me in a place where continued litigation only places my client at the heart of potentially years of legal proceedings with no guarantee of outcome.  This is not in the interest of my client, and it is Veronica who I was appointed to represent.  It is time for all of the United States and Indian country, the legal systems, and any acts growing out of self-motivation or hatred to quietly step aside.  Yes, there remains work to do for children and Indian children, but it is time to allow Veronica and her families to heal and grow together in private.

Wa do.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

NARF Staff Attorneys Melody McCoy and Matthew L. Campbell to speak at TEDNA at Ten, TEDNA’s 10th annual membership meeting

Next week NARF Staff Attorneys Melody McCoy and Matthew L. Campbell will present at the Tribal Education Departments National Assembly (TEDNA) 10th annual membership meeting.  This event – TEDNA at Ten – will take place in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Sunday, October 13 from 8:00am to 5:00pm. 

NARF and TEDNA have a long history of working together to support tribal education departments (TEDs).  After over 20 years of work, NARF and TEDNA secured the first source of direct federal funding – $ 2 million – for TEDs in the Labor, Health, and Human Services Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations Bill to be distributed by the U.S. Department of Education via a competitive grant process under the State Tribal Education Partnerships (STEP) Program.

To learn more about TEDNA or to see TEDNA’s new website, click here.  To learn more about NARF’s work with TEDNA, click here.  And, to view the event agenda, click here.