Significant Legal Developments
- 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
- 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.
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
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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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).
- 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
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
- 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
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
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.
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 www.narf.org.
Tax Status: NARF is a nonprofit, charitable organization incorporated
in 1971 under the laws of the District of Columbia.