Fiscal Year 2002 Summary Annual Report
for the period October 1, 2001 - September 30, 2002

Significant Legal Developments in 2002

  • In Cobell v. Norton, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Neal McCaleb were held in contempt of court in the class action lawsuit on behalf of over 300,000 individual Indian trust account beneficiaries filed in 1996 by NARF and private co-counsel. Two federal courts have held that the federal government as trustee is in breach of trust for mismanagement of the trust accounts and have ordered trust reform and an accounting. Norton and McCaleb were found to have committed fraud on the court for misrepresentations about their efforts to reform the trust and perform the accounting.

  • In Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas v. United States, the Court of Federal Claims approved $270 million as the amount of damages due the Tribe for loss of use of over 2.85 million acres of aboriginal land which was illegally occupied by non-Indians without federal approval after Texas became a state in 1845.

  • A $47 million settlement became final when a Montana water court decree approved the water rights of the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy's Reservation Indian Reserved Water Rights Settlement and Water Supply Enhancement Act of 1999, quantifying the Tribe's on-reservation water rights. The suit awarded $25 million for on-reservation water development projects, $3 million for a water administration system, $3 million for economic development, 10,000 acre-feet of storage water from a federal reservoir, $15 million toward a drinking water importation project, and $1 million to study future tribal water needs.

  • In United States v. Adair NARF won a favorable decision on behalf of the Klamath Tribes of Oregon. A federal couit reaffirmed the Tribes' water rights and decided all disputed issues in favor of the Tribes who hold reserved water rights in the Kiamath River basin to support their treaty hunting, fishing and gathering rights as well as to satisfy the agricultural purposes of the Klamath Reservation.

  • In United States v. White Mountain Apache Tribe and United States v. Navajo Nation, NARF coordinated amicus briefs in these two important Indian law cases currently before the Supreme Court involving the federal government's liability for money damages for breach of trust. These cases were part of the Supreme Court Project that NARF operates with the National Congress of American Indians as part of the Tribal Sovereignty Protection Initiative which got underway in 2002. The Project formally coordinates advocacy by tribes and their attorneys in all cases before the Supreme Court or potentially heading to the Supreme Court in an effort to improve the success rate of the tribes.

  • The U.S. Senate was stopped from approving oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska by NARF and a coalition of environmental groups, including the Gwich'in Steering. 7,000 Gwich'in people live on or near the migratory route of the Porcupine caribou herd and rely on the caribou for food, clothing, tools and a source of respect and spiritual guidance. The calving grounds of the caribou lie inside ANWR and will be disturbed by any oil drilling.

  • In Pele Defense Fund v. Campbell, NARF and co-counsel Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation regained Native Hawaiians' access rights to rainforest lands traditionally exercised by Native Hawaiians before those lands were exchanged in 1983 by the State of Hawaii for other lands in order to accommodate a geothermal developer. Although the land exchange was upheld in 1992, traditional Native Hawaiian access rights to these lands under the Hawaii State Constitution were upheld in a ruling in 2002.

  • The Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota was assisted by NARF in drafting a Water Quality Management Code that was approved by their Tribal Council. This allows the Tribe to gain control over the environmental integrity of an important aspect to water within the Tribe's jurisdiction and brings the Tribe into compliance with the requirements of federal environmental laws.

Ongoing Casework

The Preservation of Tribal Existence

NARF continues its work to empower tribes so that they can continue to live according to their Native traditions, to enforce their treaty rights, to insure their independence on reservations, and to protect their sovereignty. Specifically, NARF's legal representation centers on sovereignty and jurisdiction issues, federal recognition and restoration of tribal status, and economic development.

  • Miami Nation of Indians v. Norton
  • United Houma Nation (LA)
  • Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians (MT)
  • Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (MA)
  • Shinnecock Indian Nation (NY)
  • Pamunkey Tribe (VA)

The Protection of Tribal Natural Resources

The land base and natural resources of Indian nations continue to be critical factors in the preservation of tribal existence. There are approximately 55 million acres of Indian-controlled land in the continental U.S. (only 2.3% of their former territory). About 45 million acres are tribally owned and 10 million acres are individually owned. The federal government has in many instances failed to fulfill its trust duty to protect Indian tribes and their property rights. NARF concentrates much of its legal representation on cases that will ensure a sufficient natural resource base for tribes so that they can regain a degree of economic self-sufficiency.

  • Alabama-Coushatta Tribe (TX) - compensation for the loss of use of millions of acres of fertile forest that they once occupied in southeast Texas.

  • Keewattinosagaing or Northern Lakes Pottawatomi Nation of Canada, a band of Pottawatomies descended from the historic Pottawatomi Nation - compensation for outstanding treaty land entitlements.

  • Consolidated cases of Masayesva v. Zah v. James and Navajo Tribe v. U.S. v. San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe, cases involving the Navajo and Hopi Tribes in a dispute over an area of land in northern Arizona.

  • Lower Brole Sioux Tribe against the State of South Dakota's challenge to the United States' decision to place approximately 91 acres of land into trust for the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe under Section 465 of the Indian Reorganization Act.

  • Native Village of Tuluksak (AK).

  • Tule River Tribe (CA) securing water rights along the South Fork of the Tule River.

  • Nez Perce Tribe (ID) - water rights claim to the Snake River Basin.

Hunting and Fishing Rights:

  • Native Vilage of Eyak v. Daley - aboriginal hunting and fishing rights on behalf ofAlaska Native tribes to the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in the Gulf of Alaska.

  • Kenaitze Indian Tribe - proposal to reverse non-rural determination decision.

  • Native Village of Kluti Kaah - litigation against the federal government and the State of Alaska to federalize the fishery in and surrounding the Chitina area.

  • Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government, tbe Ninilchik Tribal Government, and individuals.

The Promotion of Human Rights

NARF provided assistance in several matters involving religions freedom, cultural rights, education, child welfare and international law. On behalf of its clients, NARF seeks to enforce and strengthen laws which are designed to protect the human rights of Native Americans. Since Native American religious freedom affects basic cultural survival of Indian tribes, NARF believes that American law and social policy must provide adequate legal protection.

Religious Freedom:

  • Wyoming Sawmills v. United States and Medicine Wheel Coalition brief to uphold the U.S. Forest Service's Management Plan for the Sacred Medicine Wheel under the Historic Preservation Plan.

  • NARF represents the Native American Church of North America (NACNA) in O Centro Espirita Beneficiente União Do Vegetal (UDV- USA) v. Ashcroft - possession and use of peyote for religious purposes.

  • NARF represents the NACNA in negotiations with the Department of Defense regarding the process to promulgate regulations governing the religious use of peyote in the military.

  • NARF was a leading proponent of the Native American Graves Protectian and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

Cultural Rights:

  • NARF filed a suit on behalf of 27 Native individuals and organizations against the State of Alaska from the operation and enforcement of Alaska's Official English language initiative.

  • NARF is conducting an extensive analysis of federal and international intellectual property laws and policies and their current impact on Native American intellectual property and cultural issues.

  • Rosebud Sioux Tribe (SD) regulating the harvest and use of sage, its Sun Dances and various arts and crafts as well as implementing and refining its Education Code.


  • Fort Peck Tribes - working toward full implementation of the Tribal Education Code through cooperative agreements with the five public school districts within reservation boundaries, and through the establishment of a tribal student tracking system.

  • Jicarilla Apache Tribe (NM) - development of an education code for reservation education.

The Accountability of Governments

NARF works to hold all levels of government accountable for the proper enforcement of the many laws and regulations which govern the lives of Indian people.

  • Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa (ND), Chippewa-Cree af the Rocky Boys Reservation (MT), Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa (MT) against the Bureau of Indian Affairs for mis management of the $50 million tribal trust fund, the Pembina Judgment Fund.

  • Alaska InterTribal Council v. Alaska appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court regarding state's failure of state to provide minimally adequate police protection to off-road Native villages and for discriminating against them in the provision of State law enforcement services.

The Development of Indian Law

The systematic development of Indian law is essential for the continued protection of Indian rights. This process involves distributing Indian law materials to and communicating with those groups and individuals working on behalf of Indian people.
  • National Indian Law Library (NILL) The only law library nationwide that specializes in collecting and distributing legal practice materials which are essential for practitioners of Indian law. NILL houses an unparalleled collection of pleadings that have been filed in important Indian law cases dating back to the 1950s as well as a repository of over 400 tribal constitutions and codes.

  • Indian Law Support Center (ILSC) Due to the loss of Legal Services Corporation in 1995, ILSC has been unable to carry on at traditional levels its programs of working with Indian legal services lawyers nationwide through advice, research, recent Indian legal information, litigation and training. However, ILSC continued to send out regular correspondence to Indian Legal Services programs, handling requests for assistance, and working with Indian Law Support Directors to secure a more stable funding base from the Congress. It also sponsors an annual training conference on Tribal Courts.

Message from the Executive Director

First and foremost, thank you for assisting us in our work on behalf of Native Americans and their rights. Justice for Native Americans is possible through the Native American Rights Fund if we have the financial resources to pursue it, and our success would not have been possible without the financial support provided by our many contributors and supporters across the country and around the world.

This report summarizes some of the many important victories and developments that we have accomplished during fiscal year 2002, the 32nd year that the Native American Rights Fund provided legal advice and assistance to Native Americans across the country on legal issues of national significance.

The critical Indian issues of survival of the tribes and Native American people are not new, but are the same issues of survival that have merely evolved over the centuries. Since the inception of this Nation, there has been a systematic attack on tribal rights that continues to this day. For every victory, a new to tribal sovereignty arises from state and local governments, Congress, or the courts.

NARF is committed to safeguarding the legal rights of Indian people and preserving the status of tribes as sovereign, self-governing bodies. The priorities that guide NARF in this mission are preservation of tribal existence; protection of tribal natural resources; promotion of Native American human rights; accountability of governments to Native Americans; and development of Indian law and educating the public about Indian rights, laws, and issues.

Together, our voices raise above our adversaries in courtrooms across the United States to enable tribes to exist and to live according to their Native traditions and culture. Together, we fight for America's First People who do not have the resources to fight for themselves. Together, we stand up for the constitutional and moral obligations that Native Americans deserve as citizens of the United States.

On behalf of all Native Americans whose lives are affected - often dramatically - by the outcome of the cases we represent, I am deeply grateful for your ongoing support.

John E. Echohawk, Executive Director

2002 Treasurer's Report

Based on our audited financial statements for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2002, NARF reports total unrestricted revenues of $5,937,132 against total expenditures of $7,158,575. Due to presentation requirements of the audited financial statement in tenms of recognizing the timing of certain revenues, they do not reflect the fact that, based on NARF's internal reporting, operating expenses and other cash outlays actually exceeded revenue by $525,467, allowing for a decrease to NARF's reserve fund. This decrease is largely attributed to losses on investments.

Expenditures decreased by $251,240 due, in large part, to a decrease in consultant costs for fiscal year 2002's case-related activity. Total management and fund raising costs constituted 37.16% of total revenues in fiscal year 2002.


Federal Grants
$ 759,118
Foundation Grants
Legal Fees
$ 64,031
$ 27,136
Investment Income

NOTE: This summary of financial information has been etatracted from NARF's audited financial statement on which the accounting firm of JDS Professional Group expressed an unqualified opinion. Complete audited financials are avaitabte upon request through our Boutder office or at

Tax Status: NARF is a nonprofit, charitable organization incorporated in 1971 under the laws of the District of Columbia.