Monday, September 29, 2014

New Tribal Supreme Court Project Memorandum now available
Are you interested in learning more about federal Indian law cases currently in front of the United States Supreme Court?  A new Tribal Supreme Court Project Memorandum is now available.  To read the memorandum, click here

The Tribal Supreme Court Project is part of the Tribal Sovereignty Protection Initiative and is staffed by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). The project was formed in 2001 in response to a series of Supreme Court cases that negatively affected tribal sovereignty.  The purpose of the project is to promote greater coordination and to improve strategy on litigation that may affect the rights of all Indian tribes.  To learn more about the project and to read past publications, click here.

Support NARF when you shop on Amazon

Native American Rights Fund
You can now support NARF while shopping on Amazon!  When you shop at, Amazon will donate a portion of the price of your AmazonSmile purchases to the charitable organization of your choice at no added cost to you.  To support NARF, click the link at right and start shopping – it’s that simple! 

Thank you for your support of NARF and our work to assert and defend the rights of Indian tribes, organizations, and individuals nationwide.

Friday, September 26, 2014

NARF Co-Sponsors the 11th Annual Indigenous Film & Arts Festival

Save the dates!  NARF is co-sponsoring the 11th Annual Indigenous Film & Arts Festival, which will be held October 7-13.  The Indigenous Film & Arts Festival celebrates film, art, and lively discussion around this year’s theme of “Family.”  The summary festival schedule is below.  All events are free, with a suggested donation ($5) accepted online or at the door.  Updates and film synopses will be posted at

Tuesday October 7, 5:30 - 7:30 PM
Art Opening: Raven Cry Message from the Stronghold, with artist Walt Pourier   
Artist's Talk by Walt Pourier at 6:00 p.m.
University of Denver Museum of Anthropology
2000 E. Asbury, Denver 80208

Wednesday October 8, 7:00 - 9:00 PM
Master Fancy Basket Maker Florence Benedict - Katsitsienhawi
Conversation w/ director RJ Joseph (invited), Morris
Te Whiti Love, James Hagadorn, and Mervyn Tano
Dessert & Coffee Reception
Denver Museum of Nature & Science
2001 Colorado Blvd., Denver 80205

Thursday October 9, 7:00 - 9:00 PM
The Migration and Ingredients: Hawai'i
Nighthorse-Campbell Native Health Bldg.
Anschutz Medical Campus
13055 East 17th Avenue, Aurora 80045

Friday October 10, 6:30 - 8:30 PM
Luisa Torres
Q&A with Luisa's granddaughters
Su Teatro, 721 Santa Fe Drive, Denver 80204

Saturday October 11, 6:30 - 9:00 PM
White Lies
Discussion led by Morris Te Whiti Love
Su Teatro, 721 Santa Fe Drive, Denver 80204

Sunday October 12, 6:00 - 8:30 PM
This May Be The Last Time (Espoketis Omes Kerreskos)
Discussion led by director Sterlin Harjo
History Colorado
1200 Broadway, Denver 80203

Monday October 13, time to be determined
Luisa Torres

Q&A with Luisa's granddaughters
Colorado College
Colorado Springs, CO

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

NARF co-sponsors training, Traditional Peacemaking: Exploring the Intersections Between Tribal Courts and Peacemaking, Including Alternatives to Detention

Please join us October 6-7 for the training, Traditional Peacemaking: Exploring the Intersections Between Tribal Courts and Peacemaking, Including Alternatives to Detention.  The training will be held at the tribally-owned Hard Rock Hotel in Catoosa, Oklahoma. The purpose of this training is to introduce Tribal Civil and Criminal Legal Assistance grantees and other attendees to the various peacemaking models that are being used in tribal courts, including those that are being used as alternatives to detention. The training will explore the ways in which tribal courts integrate traditional justice and community values into varied aspects of tribal civil and criminal justice, to provide experiential training and tips for accessing tribal judicial systems that utilize cultural forms of justice, and to provide explanation of how traditional peacemaking can unlock new approaches to provide effective representation of civil and criminal legal services clients, with special attention to indigent criminal defendants whenever appropriate.

This event is co-sponsored by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), the National American Indian Court Judges Association, and Columbia Law School.  The training is free, but the participants must cover the cost of their travel, food, and lodging.  For more information on travel logistics and to register for the peacemaking training, click here.  For the draft agenda, click here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

NARF thanks 2014 Summer Law Clerk Christina Warner

Christina Warner at the NARF Boulder office
This summer, we highlighted the law students who were chosen to participate in NARF’s 2014 Law Clerk Program, and this week we're highlighting our final summer law clerk, Christina Warner.

Christina spent the summer in our Anchorage, Alaska, office and is now beginning her third year at the University of Colorado Law School in Boulder.  During the school year, Christina volunteers at NARF’s National Indian Law Library (NILL), the GLBT Center in Denver, and with the Marshall Brennan Center for Constitutional Literacy.  She received her B.A. from Johns Hopkins University and, during the summer of 2013, she interned for the Department of Treasury’s Alcohol Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau.  Thank you for all of your hard work, Christina!

And, don’t forget that NARF currently is seeking candidates for our 2015 Summer Law Clerk Program!  September 29, 2014 is the deadline to apply and more information can be found here.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

NARF co-sponsors Indigenous Film screening of Âs Nutayuneân: We Still Live Here

NARF is proud to co-sponsor another Indigenous Film @ Su Teatro, a monthly indigenous film series.  NARF co-sponsors the series with the International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management and the Denver American Indian Commission.

Please join us on Wednesday, September 10 for a screening of Âs Nutayuneân: We Still Live Here.  The event will take place at 721 Santa Fe Drive in Denver.  Doors open at 6:00pm and the film begins at 6:30pm, with a discussion about language, culture, and identity after the film.

Âs Nutayuneân: We Still Live Here was directed by Anne Makepeace.  This insightful documentary tells a remarkable story of cultural revival by the Wampanoag Indians of Southeastern Massachusetts.  Their ancestors ensured the survival of the first English settlers in America, and lived to regret it.  Centuries later, Jessie Little Doe Baird had dreams in which her ancestors spoke to her in Wampanoag, a language that hadn't been used for over 100 years.  Now the Aquinnah and Mashpee Wampanoag communities are bringing their language home again, saying loud and clear in their Native tongue, Âs Nutayuneân, "we still live here."  For more information on the film, follow this link

Friday, September 5, 2014

NARF joins 105 partners in asking broadcasters to stop using the offensive name of the Washington NFL team

Earlier this week NARF joined 105 other organizations in sending a united message from Indian Country and the civil rights community that it’s past time to change the mascot of the Washington NFL team.  NARF co-signed a letter asking broadcasters to stop using the offensive name of the Washington NFL team.  The letter also included a factsheet for broadcasters.  The letter states:
Dear Broadcaster,

As the new National Football League season approaches, we are writing to ask you to join other media organizations in refusing to broadcast the Washington team’s name on the public airwaves.  The team’s name is a dictionary-defined racial slur.  As of 2014’s U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruling, it is also a government-defined racial slur.  Those definitions are correct. 

Throughout history, this term has been used to disparage Native Americans.  It is the term used by bounty hunters to describe bloody Native scalps, and it was the epithet screamed at Native Americans as they were dragged at gunpoint off their lands.  No doubt, the bigotry of this word is why the team was originally given the name by its longtime owner, avowed segregationist George Preston Marshall. 

Civil rights organizations, religious leaders, sports icons, Members of Congress from both parties and the President of the United States have all called on the Washington team to change its name.  At the same time, more and more news organizations and icons of sports media have decided to stand on the right side of history by refusing to continue repeating the team’s name during their coverage of the NFL.  Rather than repeat-and therefore promote-the racial slur in question, they have decided to use more generic descriptions when referring to the team.

Some might argue that objectivity requires broadcasters to continue promoting the racial slur as long as Washington team owner Dan Snyder keeps denigrating Native Americans by using the epithet as his team’s name.  But in this particular fight for basic equality and mutual respect, there is no “objective” position.  Every time the slur is promoted on the public airwaves even in a non-critical way by a journalist, it is an endorsement of the continued use of this slur.  In other words, using this word is not just to legitimize it - it is to endorse its use, to ignore its definition and to defend its message.

Last week, CBS sports anchor James Brown publicly declared that he believes the Washington team must change its name. That statement was particularly significant because it followed CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus telling a magazine that his network has not forced its broadcasters to keep repeating this racial slur in their coverage of the NFL.

Though we would prefer networks institute rules prohibiting their resources from promoting dictionary- and government-defined racial slurs, we are hopeful that other sports media executives will at least follow McManus by allowing their individual employees not to promote this epithet.  We are also hopeful that with such editorial freedom, more sports media figures will follow Mr. Brown and speak out clearly against this continued injustice.

Attached to this letter is a list of the news outlets and sports media figures who have already decided to take a stand on the right side of history.  They have either editorialized against the R-word or refused to keep promoting the Washington team’s name.  We now ask you to do the same.
For over twenty years, NARF has publicly denounced use of the name, supporting and participating directly in various legislative and litigation efforts to put an end to use of this offensive name.  "NARF has long worked, and will continue to work, to put an end to this racial slur masquerading as a team name," said NARF Executive Director John Echohawk.

For a full copy of the letter, including all signatories, click here.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Redskins group infringes on NARF trademark

Native American Rights Fund logo
September 4, 2014

John E. Echohawk (303)-447-8760

It has recently come to the attention of the Native American Rights Fund, also known as NARF, that a group variously calling itself "Native American Redskins Fans" and "Native American Redskins Family" is improperly holding itself out as "NARF," in support of the continued use of the racially derogatory name used by the Washington D.C. National Football League franchise, and against which NARF has long battled.

This cynical use of NARF's trademark has caused confusion both inside and outside of Indian Country, and NARF would like to set the record straight: NARF does not advocate, nor has it ever advocated, for the use of the name used by the Washington NFL football team.
For over twenty years, NARF has publicly denounced use of the name, supporting and participating directly in various legislative and litigation efforts to put an end to use of this offensive name.  "Race-based stereotyping and behaviors in sports persist today," said John Echohawk, NARF's Executive Director, "including, in particular, the racially derogatory name of the 'Washington Redskins' professional football organization.  NARF has long worked, and will continue to work, to put an end to this racial slur masquerading as a team name."

Having been publicly known as NARF for over 40 years, NARF's superior legal rights to use its name and trademarks (and to exclude others from doing so) cannot be questioned, and NARF will use all means available to protect its name from misappropriation by others.  Legal counsel representing NARF have sent cease-and-desist letters demanding a halt to this infringement on a website misappropriating its “NARF” trademark, and reserving NARF’s rights to take legal action.

Founded in 1970, the Native American Rights Fund is the national Indian legal defense fund dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations and individuals nationwide.  NARF’s legal advocacy is concentrated in five priority 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.  See our website — 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Alaska Natives win landmark voting rights lawsuit

September 3, 2014

Natalie Landreth, Native American Rights Fund, (907) 360-3423,
James Tucker, Wilson Elser, (702) 727-1246,
Richard de Bodo, Bingham McCutchen, (310) 255-9055, 
ANCHORAGE— In an historic victory for Alaska Native voters, a Federal Court in Anchorage found the State of Alaska violated the Voting Rights Act by failing to provide translations of voting materials to voters whose primary language is Gwich’in or Yup’ik in the Dillingham, Wade Hampton, and Yukon-Koyukuk Census Areas.  United States District Court Judge Sharon Gleason issued the decision today after presiding over a two week trial in June and July.

Last summer, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the national law firms Wilson Elser LLP and Bingham McCutchen LLP, acting on behalf of four tribal councils and two Alaska Native voters, filed the lawsuit.  In the complaint, Plaintiffs Mike Toyukak of Manakotak, Fred Augustine of Alakanuk, the Native Village of Hooper Bay, the Traditional Village of Togiak, the Arctic Village Council, and the Village of Venetie Council asked the Court to order state election officials to comply with the language assistance provisions of the Voting Rights Act and the voting guarantees of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. 

The Alaska Native plaintiffs filed the lawsuit three and a half years after the State of Alaska settled a similar lawsuit filed by Native voters from the Bethel region in Nick, et al. v. Bethel, et al.  The evidence at trial established that state election officials made a policy decision to only provide limited, if any, language assistance to Native voters in the three regions immediately adjacent to the Bethel area.  Under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, state election officials are required to translate ballots and other election materials and information into Gwich’in and Yup’ik.  Officials also must provide trained bilingual staff to register voters and to help voters at the polls through complete, accurate, and uniform translations.

Judge Gleason found that the State fails to provide limited-English proficient Alaska Native voters with voting information substantially equivalent to what voters receive in English, in violation of Section 203.  The State places much of the burden for translations on “outreach workers” from Native villages in the three regions.  Judge Gleason determined that those workers are asked by the State to provide only limited translations, with no instructions to translate the Official Election Pamphlet the State sends out before each election.  Judge Gleason noted that the State compounds these violations through its limited efforts to inform voters that language assistance is available.

Furthermore, Judge Gleason found that the State fails to translate voting information into dialects of Yup’ik spoken in the Dillingham and Wade Hampton regions.  Instead, the State only offers a single translation into the Central Yup’ik dialect that is not widely spoken and has “limited value” in villages outside the Bethel region.  The State has been informed about the dialectical differences many times over the years, but has taken no action.  Judge Gleason concluded that the State’s failure to account for other dialects of Yup’ik denies voters outside the Bethel area information they need to cast an informed ballot.

Judge Gleason alluded to the State’s longstanding violations of Section 203.  She observed that the State previously settled the Nick litigation involving similar claims in the Bethel area.  She further noted that the State has had a “rocky road” with the United States Department of Justice since first becoming covered by Section 203 in 1975.  Except for 2008, when the State translated only two out of four ballot questions, Judge Gleason found that no Gwich’in translations have been provided in the Yukon-Koyukuk region beyond what individual translators might communicate.  No Gwich’in audio translations are provided on touch-screen voting units.

Allan Hayton, representative of the Arctic Village Council said “Juk drin Diiginjik K'yaa geereekhyaa geenjit gaayii gwiriltsaii. Shoo tr'aadlit ts'a' hai' tr'oonyaa. Today we have won a victory for speaking our language. We are happy and thankful.”

Togiak Traditional Council said “Quyana cakneq, caliilerpekun kaiyurluta, wankuta yuggtun naaqituulini. Cucuukicetaat nutaan assinruciiqut! Thank you very much for your work helping us, those of us who speak Yupik.  Voting now, will be a lot better!”

Natalie Landreth, counsel for the Plaintiffs, said that “this case boils down to one issue.  English speakers receive a 100-page Official Election Pamphlet before every election and Yup’ik speaking voters have been receiving three things: the date of the election, the time of the election, and a notice that langauge assistance will be available at the poll.  That’s it.  That is a very clear violation of the law, and it has to change, now.” 

James Tucker, co-counsel for the Plaintiffs, stated, “This is a tremendous victory for Alaska Native voters.  Nearly forty years after Alaska was first required to provide election information in Native languages, that promise remains unrealized.  The Court’s decision marks an important step towards ensuring that all voters in Alaska have an equal opportunity to exercise their fundamental right to vote.”

Richard de Bodo, co-counsel for the Plaintiffs, added, “For many years, Alaska Natives with limited English proficiency have been forced to participate in the electoral process with far less information about what they were voting for than their English-speaking counterparts. The Court has changed that today, and has recognized that the right to vote requires meaningful and equal access to information.”

Seven regions of Alaska, including the Dillingham, Wade Hampton, and Yukon-Koyukuk regions, are required to provide translations for Alaska Natives under Section 203, the language assistance provision of the Voting Rights Act.  Section 203 applies to states and localities that meet certain threshhold requirements for the numbers of citizens with limited English proficiency.  Two additional regions of Alaska have to provide language assistance in non-Native languages.

Defendants in the suit included Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell, Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai, and Regional Elections Supervisors Becka Baker and Michelle Speegle. 

Attorneys for the Alaska Native voters and tribal councils are Ms. Landreth, Erin Dougherty, Matthew Newman, and Keslie Kandt of NARF, and Mr. Tucker and Sylvia Semper of Wilson Elser, and Richard de Bodo, Jeff Arrington, Kristen Hilton, and Karen Ho of Bingham McCutchen.