Friday, February 28, 2014

NARF files amici curiae brief in Yount et al. v. Jewell et al.

Earlier this week NARF filed an amici curiae (friend of the court) brief on behalf of Indian Peaks Band of Paiutes, the San Juan Southern Paiute, and the Morningstar Institute in the case Yount et al. v. Jewell et al.  In 2012, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar withdrew roughly a million acres from mining around the Grand Canyon.  The withdrawal did not impact valid existing rights as of that date, but would prevent future mining claims in the area.  Part of the reasoning for the withdrawal was that mining would impact many cultural, spiritual, and traditional resources within the area. 

The mining companies and Mr. Yount challenged the withdrawal on many grounds, including that the withdrawal violated the Establishment Clause by relying on Native beliefs.  Indian Peaks Band of Paiutes, the San Juan Southern Paiute, and the Morningstar Institute all have an interest in seeing Secretary Salazar’s withdrawal upheld, and thus NARF filed a amici brief addressing the Establishment Clause claim and the American Indian cultural resource arguments raised by the Plaintiffs.  To read a copy of the brief, click here.


NARF voting rights litigation highlighted in ProPublica story on the Voting Rights Act and federal oversight

Toyukuk et al. v. Treadwell et al, NARF's voting rights case on behalf of Alaska Natives, was highlighted in ProPublica's recent story, “Voting Rights Advocates Try to Put Oversight Back on the Map.”  To read the story, click here.  And, to learn more about Toyukuk v. Treadwell, click here.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Interested in the history of boarding schools? Check out our latest issue of the NARF Legal Review.

Photo credit: “Carlisle Indian Industrial School Portrait of Timber Yellow Robe, Henry Standing Bear and Wounded Yellow Robe, image NAA INV 00606600 National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.”

Are you interested in learning more about the history of religious and government boarding schools?  Beginning in the mid-1800s and continuing into the 1950s, Native American children were forcibly abducted from their homes and put into Christian- and government-run boarding schools.  This was done pursuant to a federal policy designed to “civilize” Indians and to stamp out Native cultures—a deliberate policy of cultural genocide.  The negative impacts of the cultural genocide persist today, manifest in the rampant alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic violence that plague Indian country.  The Native American Rights Fund is excited and proud to be part of a coalition in a groundbreaking effort to start our Native nations on a path toward healing from the boarding school policy.  View our latest issue of the NARF Legal Review here to read about the history of the boarding school era and outlines NARF’s efforts to secure justice and healing for the multi-generational victims. 

This issue also highlights recent work of the Tribal Supreme Court Project.  The Project was formed by tribal leaders in 2001 in response to a series of U.S. Supreme Court cases that negatively affected tribal sovereignty.  The Project promotes coordination and improved strategy on litigation that may affect the rights of all tribes.  It is jointly operated by the Native American Rights Fund and the National Congress of American Indians.

As these articles highlight, the need in Indian country for creative legal assistance to enable Indian tribes, as sovereign governments, to retain control over their resources and their destiny will continue.  We invite you to share your thoughts with us regarding the best ways for NARF to meet your legal needs.  Please feel free to call our Executive Director, John E. Echohawk—or our Board members or staff attorneys—with suggestions or questions of any kind.

Your steadfast support and loyalty makes NARF's work on behalf of this country’s Native Americans possible.  With your support we can continue to use that momentum to open doors to economic and political opportunities that have never before been available to our people.

From all of us at NARF, thank you very much for your commitment to Native American issues.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

NARF co-sponsors No Peace Without Justice: 3rd Bi-Annual Gathering of Peacemakers

Save the date!  On April 23-24, 2014, NARF is co-sponsoring No Peace Without Justice: 3rd Bi-Annual Gathering of Peacemakers at the Artesian Hotel in Sulphur, Oklahoma.  This conference will introduce participants to indigenous justice methodologies and examples of how such methodologies are incorporated into tribal justice systems.  This conference will be especially helpful for tribal leaders, tribal judges, peacemakers, tribal court planners, tribal prosecutors, tribal attorneys and tribal justice system officials.  This training is being hosted in collaboration with the Tribal Justice Institute, the Chickasaw Nation, the National Judicial College, and Fox Valley Technical College.

For additional information, click here or see the conference flyer.  For questions, contact Lynnette at (701) 777-6306 or

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

NARF co-sponsors Niwot Native American Film Festival showing of On The Ice

On Friday, March 7 at 7:30pm, NARF will co-sponsor the Niwot Native American Film Festival showing of On The Ice.  On the Ice is a suspenseful feature-length drama about two teenage boys who have grown up like brothers in the comfortable claustrophobia of an isolated Alaskan town.  Early one morning, on a seal hunt with another teenager, an argument between the three boys quickly escalates into a tragic accident.  Bonded by their dark secret, the two best friends are forced to create one fabrication after another in order to survive.  The shocked boys stumble through guilt-fueled days, avoiding the suspicions of their community as they weave a web of deceit.  With their future in the balance, the two boys are forced to explore the limits of friendship and honor.

Sponsors include the Native American Producers Alliance (NAPA), Ni-wot Prairie Productions (NPP), Elysian Fields Auction Company, Native American Rights Fund (NARF), and WHIZZBang Studios.

Located at Elysian Fields Auctions 6924 79th Street, Niwot, Colorado (look for flags along 79th Street in Niwot near intersection of Niwot Road and 79th Street) Screenings are FREE with a suggested donation.  Ava Hamilton of Native American Producers Alliance & Film Festival Curator / Director will introduce the documentaries and films.

For more information, please contact Elizabeth Darling at: or 303-931-3084.  Native American Producers Alliance and Ni-wot Prairie Productions are 501(c)(3) organizations.

Friday, February 7, 2014

NILL Law Librarian David Selden publishes article on researching American Indian tribal law

Law Librarian David Selden of the National Indian Law Library (NILL) has recently published the article Researching American Indian Tribal Law in The Colorado Lawyer, the magazine of the Colorado Bar Association.  The article highlights the tribal law resources most often used by NILL, which answers more than 2,000 Indian law questions each year.

Tribal law comprises the laws developed by tribes or Indian nations, which apply within their territories and to their members.  According to the article, “It can be a difficult area of law to research because few primary and secondary resources are published and made available to the public.  Despite the lack of commercial publication, tribal law resources have become more accessible in the past ten years, with more primary and secondary resources available mostly in electronic form.” 

To read a full copy of the article, click here.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Native American Rights Fund calls for Department of Justice Investigation of ICWA violations

The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) has joined with a coalition of other national Native organizations in requesting that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division launch an investigation into the unlawful treatment of American Indian and Alaska Native children in private adoptions and public child welfare systems.  NARF joins with the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), and the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA) in asking DOJ to take a stronger role in enforcing compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA), a piece of landmark legislation passed to offset the cultural bias Congress found in state child welfare and private adoption systems that resulted in the unwarranted removal of nearly one in three Native children from their families.

NICWA Executive Director Terry Cross presented the letter on behalf of the four organizations during a meeting with DOJ hosted by Acting Attorney General for Civil Rights Jocelyn Samuels.  The organizations assert, “There is no question that where ICWA is applied, it has been integral to keeping countless Native American families together.”  However, the letter continues, “It is well known that there is minimal federal oversight over the implementation of, and compliance with, ICWA.”  The letter cites commonly reported infractions such as transporting Indian children across state lines in order to sidestep ICWA, the disregard of ICWA's placement preferences, adoption attorneys encouraging circumvention of the law, and judges denying tribes a presence during child custody proceedings, among others.  “These stories highlight patterns of behavior that are, at best, unethical and, at worst, unlawful,” the letter states.  “Although these civil rights violations are well-known and commonplace, they continue to go unchecked and unexamined.  So long as this is the case, Native children and families will continue to be victims of the very systems designed to protect them.”

To read the letter, click hereClick here to read recent press about the letter.