1998 Summary Annual Report For The Period
October 1, 1997 - September 30, 1998

"........domestic treatment of indigenous peoples tells the world far more about the character of that nation than its announced policies and principles in the international arena."

Walter Echo-Hawk,
NARF Attorney

Along with generous supporters, the attorneys, support staff and Board of Directors at the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) form a modern-day warrior society. For these dedicated people, the Indian wars never ended; they merely changed venue. Law books have replaced the chiseled arrow and the historical battlegrounds of the last century have been transported to courtrooms near and far from their Boulder, Colorado base to highest court in the land. But the will to fight and the reasons remain unchanged. The survival and strengthened sovereignty of the nation's 557 federally recognized tribes of 1.8 million Native Americans are due, in no small measure, to the battles waged and won by NARF. That proud mission continued throughout 1998.


  • The Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma received $1.1 million in settlement of their claim against the federal government for illegally extending the terms of three tribal oil and gas leases at below market rates without tribal consent and in breach of the federal trust responsibility to manage Indian trust lands prudently.

  • NARF assisted the Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota with the adoption of a Tribal Environmental Review Code that provides a tribal review process for any project that may impact the reservation environment. In recognition of this work, the Environmental Protection Agency presented NARF with an Outstanding Environmental Achievement Award.

  • NARF was successful on behalf of the National Congress of American Indians and in conjunction with the National Indian Education Association in having President Clinton sign the first comprehensive Executive Order on Indian Education in history. In an effort to improve Indian education, it requires the Administration to develop a comprehensive Indian education policy in consultation with tribal leaders and Indian educators within two years.

  • In a class action lawsuit filed by NARF on behalf of some 500,000 past and current Individual Indian Money account holders seeking redress for government mismanagement of trust accounts, the federal court in Washington, D.C. denied the federal government's motions to dismiss and set a date for trial. The lawsuit seeks an accounting of funds due account holders, repayment of funds lost due to mismanagement, and creation of an adequate trust accounting and management system.

  • In Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma v. Manufacturing Technologies , the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Indian tribes retain their sovereign immunity from suit without their consent even in off-reservation transactions where they do not waive that immunity. NARF filed an amicus curiae brief in the case supporting the Kiowa Tribe on behalf of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe of Connecticut and the National Congress of American Indians.

  • The United States District Court in Wyoming ruled that the National Park Service does not violate the Constitution by asking mountain climbers to voluntarily refrain from climbing Devils Tower during the month of June to avoid intruding on Native American religious ceremonies occurring at that time. NARF filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the National Congress in the case emphasizing how the Park Service is already accommodating other religious groups within national parks.

On-Going Casework


Under the priority of the preservation of tribal existence, NARF's activity emphasizes enabling Tribes to continue to live according to their Native traditions; to enforce their treaty rights; to insure their independence on reservations; and to protect their sovereignty.

  • Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribes (NV); Native Village of Venetie (AK) - tribal jurisdiction

  • Miami Nation (IN); Houma Tribe (LA); Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (MA); Little Shell Tribe (MT); Shineecock Tribe (NY); Pamunkey Tribe (VA) - federal recognition

  • National Congress of American Indians and National American Indian Court Judges Association (national)- tribal sovereignty and tribal jurisdiction


The land base and natural resources of Indian nations continue to be critical factors in the preservation of Indian sovereignty. There are approximately 56 million acres of Indian-controlled land in the continental United States, which constitutes only 2.3 percent of their former territory. 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.

  • Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe (WI); San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe (AZ) - land claims

  • Klamath Tribe (OR) - developing an Economic Self-Sufficiency Plan; tribal water rights claim; land claim

  • Oglala Sioux Tribe (SD) - developing a safe drinking water code

  • Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy's Reservation (MT); Nez Perce Tribe (ID); Tule River Tribe (CA) - water rights

  • Mentasta and Dot Lake (AK); Kenaitze Indian Tribe (AK); Native Village of Elim (AK) - subsistence fishing rights

  • Kluti Kaah Native Village of Copper Center (AK) - co-management of local fisheries and hunting grounds

  • Native Village of Eyak (AK)- claiming aboriginal title to the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska

  • Keewattinosagaing or Northern Lakes Pottawatomi Nation (Canada) – seeking compensation for outstanding treaty land entitlements


In 1998, NARF seeks to enforce and strengthen laws which are designed for the unique need and problems of Native Americans in this area by providing assistance in several matters involving religious freedom and education.

  • Native American Church of North America - prisoner religious freedom rights

  • National Congress of American Indians, the National Indian Education Association and the National Indian Youth Council - petitioned to cancel the pro-football Washington "Redskins" trademark

  • Tuolumne Me-Wuk Band (CA) - tribal regulation of cultural and intellectual property

  • Assiniboine-Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation (MT); Northern Cheyenne Tribe (MT); Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation (ND) - developing and implementing tribal education codes


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.

  • 500,000 past and current Individual Indian Money (IIM) account holders - seeking redress for government mismanagement of trust accounts

  • Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa (ND); Chippewa-Cree of the Rocky Boys Reservation (MT); Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa (MT) - federal mismanagement of ttribal trust funds


The systematic development of Indian law is essential for the continued protection of Indian rights. This process involves distributing Indian law materials to and educating and communicating with groups and individuals working on behalf of Indian people and the general public.

  • National Indian Law Library (NILL) - This is 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 1950's, as well as a repository of over 400 tribal constitutions and codes.

  • Indian Law Support Center (ILSC) - Due to federal budget-cuts NARF's ILSC now functions at a greatly reduced level on NARF general support funds.


Based on our audited financial statements for fiscal year ending September 30, 1998, the Native American Rights Fund reports total revenues of $6,955,332 against total expenditures of $6,819,026. Thanks to the continued generosity of our donors and other supporters, the Native American Rights Fund managed to weather a modest deficit position this fiscal year. Due to presentation requirements of our audited financial statements in terms 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 $390,199. Fortunately, NARF's fiscal well-being was safeguarded by a healthy reserve fund. Total management and fundraising costs constituted 22.3 of total revenues in Fiscal year 1998.

1998 Income


Contributions $2,608,407 37.5%
Foundation Grants $2,120,804 30.5%
Federal Grants $1,487,468 21.4%
Legal Fees $805,838 11.6%
Other $94,925 1.4%
Investment Income ($162,110) (2.4%)
TOTALS $6,955,332 100%

1998 Expenditures

Litigation and Client Services $4,903,391
National Indian Law Library $198,961
Total Program Services $1,487,468
Mangement and General Expenses $818,705
Fund Raising $897,969
Total Support Services $1,716,674
TOTALS $6,819,026