From the Director's Desk

The new millennium is here with a new president and new governmental leadership across our great nation. Accompanying this change is the added responsibility of educating (and re-educating) our state, local, regional, and national representatives about the issues affecting Native American people and our communities. The more aware our representatives are to the issues affecting Native communities, the more effective NARF can be for our constituents.

It is imperative that we keep the Individual Indian Money (IIM) Trust Fund case at the top of Gale Norton's agenda. Since her confirmation as the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton has been getting up to speed on the scope of the Indian trust lawsuit and the important role she plays in this lawsuit. In February 2001, Secretary Norton attended the National Congress of American Indians' national conference in Washington, D.C. in which she appeared responsive to tribal concerns. In her remarks, Norton said she was committed to the fulfillment of the government's "obligation to the trust beneficiaries."

On February 23 in a precedent-setting opinion, a federal appeals court affirmed that the federal government has a legally enforceable duty to properly manage and account for Indian trust assets. This represents a major court victory for the more than 500,000 individual Indians involved in this case. I believe this is one of the strongest judicial affirmations of the United States' trust responsibility to American Indians. This battle has been won, but our task is ongoing. We are proceeding into the accounting phase of the case that involves a second trial to determine the accuracy of the trust fund account balances. Our Washington, D.C.-based NARF attorneys and co-counsel have requested the second trial commence by the end of this year.

Other important cases are being conducted by NARF attorneys in tribal, state, and federal courts. Our attorneys and their legal assistants are busy at work to see that technical matters are in order and that our cases are appropriately prepared for oral argument. At this time, I would like to thank the wonderful NARF employees for their hard work and diligence. It has been a difficult and challenging road. This year the challenges we face are substantially greater than those of the past. Yet, our patient, competent and highly skilled employees continue to put forth their best efforts to keep NARF at the forefront of Indian law issues.

I would also like to thank our supporters of NARF. Your involvement with NARF is very important to us. It is our continued goal to remain a vital source of hope and inspiration for the Native American community throughout the next millennium. Your assistance is critical to making this happen.

John E. Echohawk (Pawnee), Executive Director

Klamath Water Case Gets Slippery

The Native American Rights Fund represents the Klamath Tribes in a series of cases that are at the heart of a pitched battle to protect the treaty and water rights in Southern Oregon. Walter Echo-hawk is the lead counsel for NARF on the cases. In addition, Don Wharton, Yvonne Knight, Kim Gottschalk, and Kate Weatherly provide representation on these related proceedings, with Carl Ullman as local counsel.

Since the 1970s, NARF has represented the Tribes in the areas of tribal restoration and protection of treaty, hunting, fishing, gathering and water rights. In addition, NARF represents the Tribes in their Economic Self-Sufficiency Plan (ESSP).

The ESSP case is a land recovery matter being handled under the direction of NARF staff attorney, Don Wharton. In 2000, the tribe delivered a completed proposed ESSP to the Office of the Secretary of the Interior. The ESSP was mandated by Congress in the Klamath Tribes' Restoration Act of 1986. The purpose of the ESSP is to define the foundation for the ability of the Tribes to regain economic autonomy primarily through return of federally held lands taken from the Klamath Indian Reservation in the 1960s and 1970s. The plan would incorporate the freedom to exercise subsistence and treaty rights with the ability to provide the tribal members with employment, education, housing, and health. The Tribes also seek to re-establish the cultural, spiritual and social fabric of their people through this plan. Currently the Tribe is in consultation with their local, state and national representatives concerning the details of the ESSP for final approval.

Related to the water rights struggle, the Bureau of Reclamation must develop and implement an annual water allocation plan to protect the endangered fish species in Southern Oregon, meet tribal trust obligations and provide water at the same time to a large irrigation project. Each year the plan involves a battle to ensure that the Bureau of Reclam-ation preserves the survival of two endangered species that are part of the Tribes' treaty-protected fishery. Klamath Lake serves as a natural reservoir for a 200,000-acre irrigation project established in the early 1900s. Over the last 80-90 years, the project has met the agricultural needs of local non-Indian farmers. Unfortunately, after years of constant diversions, which lower the lake water level, the two treaty-protected fish species have become endangered.

This year, for the first time in history, the Bureau of Reclamation will provide very little water to agriculture in order to meet its legal obligations to protect the endangered species and fiduciary obligations to the Klamath Tribes. Residents in Southern Oregon are now facing a drought affecting nearly 1,000 families. If local farmers are allowed to deplete water from the Klamath Lake under existing drought conditions, the reduction in water levels could cause the extinction of the fishery that has been listed as endangered since 1988, including wild coho salmon. The farmers have filed suit challenging the Bureau's water management plan.

Walter Echo-hawk notes that, "There is extreme pressure on the new Department of Interior officials to breach the trust responsibility to the Tribes and duck compliance with the Endangered Species Act." The Klamath homeland encompasses two national forests, wetlands, and a wildlife refuge. The water rights of the Klamath Tribes involve a sufficient level of water to supply habitat for treaty-protected fishing, hunting and gathering subsistence activities. The fishery is enormously important to the Klamath Tribe for its cultural, ceremonial and subsistence uses. The Tribes are trying to recapture all that was lost culturally when their tribal recognition status and lands were stripped from them by Congress' 1954 Klamath Termination Act.

The present situation is bleak for the endangered fish of this region. If protective action is not taken, these species will be lost forever. Along with the loss of species is the loss of tribal culture that affects future generations. The Tribes' water objectives, which are being advanced by NARF in these related cases, are to restore the water quality, quantity and habitat from the headwaters of the Klamath River all the way to the California border as an integral part of maintaining the environmental integrity of their precious aboriginal homelands and wildlife.

What's Happening?

In the Year 2001, there has been much activity by NARF attorneys concerning the many active legal cases in process. Listed below are brief descriptions of a few cases. For more information on other latest case developments, please visit our website at

Individual Indian Money Accounts

On February 23, a federal appeals court affirmed that the federal government has a legally enforceable duty to manage the Indian trust asset accounts belonging to approximately 500,000 current and past account holders across the United States. NARF Washington, D.C. staff attorneys Keith Harper and Lorna Babby are proceeding into the accounting phase of the case with our co-counsel. This involves a second trial to determine the accuracy of the trust fund account balances. They have requested this trial commence by the end of the year.

Freedom of Information Act

On March 5, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Indian tribes cannot claim that correspondence shared with the federal government is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) under a provision that protects intra-agency and inter-agency documents from disclosure. The documents at issue were documents shared between tribes and their trustee about tribal trust resources. Although the Court recognized the necessity of confidential federal-tribal communications to the trust relationship and recognized that the trust relationship would be damaged absent such confidential communications, the Court refused to apply the exemption to protect the documents. Tracy Labin is the Boulder NARF attorney working on this case. Tracy stated that until corrective legislation is passed, all tribes should be mindful that documents shared with the United States government may be subject to disclosure under FOIA. The next step is to look for a legislative fix. Tracy encourages tribes and individuals to contact their Congressional delegation and periodically check the NARF website for further updates on legislation to correct the problem.

Nevada v. Hicks

On March 21, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of Nevada v. Hicks. NARF represents the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe of Nevada in this case challenging tribal court jurisdiction. A tribal member sued state game wardens in tribal court in their individual capacities for alleged violations of federal civil rights and tribal tort laws. The game wardens were on Indian trust land on the tribe's reservation to investigate the tribal member for an alleged off-reservation crime. Melody McCoy, the NARF Boulder staff attorney who works on this case, sat at Counsel Table for the oral argument. She heard the many questions of both sides by the Justices. The Court's decision is expected by the end of June.

World Conference Against Racism

NARF attorneys Kim Gottschalk and Keith Harper have been actively participating in the World Conference Against Racism planning meetings held at national and international locations. They have traveled to Switzerland, Chile, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Oakland, CA., and Philadelphia, PA. All the preliminary planning meetings lead to the World Conference to be held in South Africa in September 2001.

Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

On April 2-6, 2001, Kim Gottschalk and Keith Harper both attended a draft session on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, D.C. The United States maintained its new position that indigenous peoples should have a right to internal self-determination recognized in the document.

Salmon Update

Unfortunately, this very important issue remains unresolved, despite the best efforts of supporters of Indian treaty rights and endangered species across the country. The Clinton Administration's decision on salmon restoration, finally issued in December 2000, disappointed the Pacific Northwest's Indian tribes and salmon-restoration advocates alike. Instead of recommending decisive federal action to remove the four giant federal dams on the lower Snake River that block salmon migration to and from Idaho, the Administration largely dismissed the overwhelming body of scientific evidence and recommended an array of less controversial conservation measures. The Administration said high performance standards, if rigidly enforced, would be followed by further study to determine the adequacy of the standards it recommended. Then, if recovery didn't occur within the next six to ten years, dam removal would presumably become the preferred alternative. The Administration stopped short, however, of concluding that dam removal is the preferred option unless these other measures can be shown to be effective.

President Bush, during his campaign, strongly opposed decommissioning dams to save salmon. Moreover, the Bush Administration's apparent stance favoring the development of additional energy sources, even at the expense of environmental concerns, coupled with the West Coast energy shortage, do not bode well for endangered salmon in the Pacific Northwest in the near term. And although the near term may be all endangered species have left, it appears that decades-long gridlock resulting from the standoff between developers and environmentalists will continue for the foreseeable future.

On the Case

Walter Echo-hawk (Pawnee) has been a staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund since 1973. Walter is currently working on the Klamath Basin Water Rights case in Oregon. His legal experience includes cases involving Native American religious freedom, prisoner rights, water rights, treaty rights, and reburial rights. Walter was born on the reservation near Pawnee, Oklahoma. He earned a political science degree from Oklahoma State University and a law degree from the University of New Mexico. He is admitted to practice law before the United States Supreme Court, the Colorado Supreme Court, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits, and a host of federal District Courts.

Don Wharton joined the Native American Rights Fund in 1988 to direct its Economic Development Law Project. After directing the project for six years, Don assumed responsibility for other cases at NARF in the area of tribal jurisdiction. Before joining our staff, he served as the founding Director of Oregon Legal Services Native American Program; Assistant Attorney General for the Navajo Nation Department of Justice; Staff Attorney for the Office of the Solicitor, U.S. Department of the Interior; Special Counsel to the American Indian Policy Review Commission, U.S. Senate; and General Counsel to the Klamath Tribes of Oregon.

The Eagle Feather

The staff and the Board of Directors of the Native American Rights Fund would like to honor and thank Chief Gilbert Blue of the Catawba Indian Nation for his six years of outstanding service as a Board member for the Native American Rights Fund. Chief Blue joined NARF in 1994 and served recently as Board Chair. He was a distinct credit to the organization who contributed in many ways to NARF's success during his tenure. His friends and colleagues at NARF appreciated his energy, expertise and intuition. Chief Blue completed his assignment with impeccable standards.

We wish Chief Blue continued success as a businessman and community leader. His 28 years of dedicated service to the Catawba Nation in Rock Hill, South Carolina, is a strong example of the importance and benefits of tribal sovereignty for Indian people. We would like to thank his wife, Libby Sharpe Blue, and his family for sharing Chief Blue with us these many years. He left us with much promise and hope for the future of our organization.

New Changes in Development Staff Positions

There have been a number of changes in the development staff personnel that remains under the sound direction and guidance of Mary Lu Prosser, the Director of Development.

Mireille Martinez was promoted as the new Development Projects Coordinator. She will oversee all support projects in the development division. In addition, she will be in charge of workplace giving, completing state registrations, and maintaining the oversight of membership activities. Mireille has been with NARF for three years, and she has done an excellent job in the development department.

Kellie Jewett, who is a member of the Cheyenne River Lakota Tribe, will assist Mireille. Kellie comes to us from Morris, Minnesota, where she completed her B.A. in Speech Communication at the University of Minnesota. In her new role as the development administrative assistant, Kellie will help coordinate membership services and help department staff in fundraising and public relations efforts.

Montoya Whiteman is the new Development and Public Relations Administrator. A member of the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, Montoya comes to NARF from the American Indian College Fund. She also spent one year as a membership associate for the Denver Art Museum. Formerly, she has worked as a cardiac technician and a genetic coordinator. Montoya is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Advisory Member for the Native American Garden Project at the Denver Botanic Gardens, Alumni of the American Indian Ambassador Program, and a Sequoyah Fellow of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.

Montoya is in charge of communications, public relations, managing the website, prospect identification, initiation of grant proposals, and the development and implementation of a corporate and foundation fundraising program.

Both Sonya Gavin and Marla Keckler resigned their staff positions at NARF. Sonya now lives with her family in Los Angeles, California. Marla Keckler has accepted a position with her husband's consulting business. We want to thank Sonya and Marla for their years of superb dedication to our organization.

lakota word meaning "camp crier"
Don Ragona, Director of Planned Gifts

NARF Is Made the Recipient of a One Million Dollar Gift

"The ancient Egyptians built elaborate fortresses and tunnels and even posted guards at tombs to stop grave robbers. In today's America we call that estate planning."

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer (R. TX)

In December of 2000, papers were signed that will make the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) the recipient of a one million dollar gift. The gift will be in the form of a charitable remainder unitrust and a bequest.

What makes this gift so unique is the way that it was obtained. In June of 2000, I was contacted by a donor's attorney who was working on his client's estate plan. He said that his client was considering creating a trust and that he would like to discuss this topic with me. I asked him how he had come to call NARF. He said that when he first went to his client's home he had seen a NARF bumper sticker on his client's refrigerator. He asked his client about the sticker who was only too happy to tell him about our work. Later when his lawyer was looking through a copy of Trusts & Estates Magazine (a periodical for attorneys, trustees, financial advisors and bankers), he saw our advertisement promoting estate planning. Immediately, he knew that NARF was the organization he would like to partner with to make his client's wish a reality.

After several months of review, a final document was drafted that would not only benefit NARF, but through careful estate planning would leave his heirs far more money than they would have received had he not made such a charitable gift. On a final note, when asked to produce identification (as is required) before signing the trust agreement, our donor produced a NARF membership card to identify himself!

Your lifetime accumulation of assets may be subject to federal estate taxes at death. However, through careful estate planning it is possible to pass all property, or a significant portion, free of federal estate taxes. For more information regarding your estate planning needs, please feel free to contact our office at 303-447-8760.


The website is a valuable tool when disseminating information about the important work we do on behalf of Indian tribes, individuals, and organizations. Visit our website at If you have not signed up for the E-Action Network, please do so today. E-Action registrants get the latest press releases e-mailed to them along with notification of other important events happening at NARF. Listed below are some comments from individuals who have visited our site.

"Happy to have found you." - Patrick in Arizona

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"Great web site." - Keolahou in Michigan

"I enjoyed visiting this web page. It is all very interesting." - Adrianna in New Mexico