DATE:               August 12, 2016

The San Manuel Band of Missions Indians located near Highland, California has awarded the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) a three-year grant of $600,000 for the Tribal Supreme Court Project.  This grant will allow NARF to dedicate a full-time attorney and support staff to the Project.  This grant will also provide resources to NARF to monitor cases, in state and federal appellate courts, that may impact tribal sovereignty (“Indian law cases”) and have the potential to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as those cases the Supreme Court has accepted for review, and will help provide support to the attorneys representing the Indian interests in Indian law cases the Supreme Court has accepted for review to coordinate the filing of a limited number of strategic amicus briefs.  The San Manuel Band of Missions Indians has supported the Tribal Supreme Court Project since 2005.

The Tribal Supreme Court Project is a joint project staffed by the Native American Rights Fund and the National Congress of American Indians. The Tribal Supreme Court Project is based on the principle that a coordinated and structured approach to Supreme Court advocacy is necessary to protect tribal sovereignty — the ability of Indian tribes to function as sovereign governments — to make their own laws and be ruled by them.  Early on, the Tribal Supreme Court Project recognized the U.S. Supreme Court as a highly specialized institution, with a unique set of procedures that include complete discretion on whether it will hear a case or not, with a much keener focus on policy considerations than other federal courts.  The Tribal Supreme Court Project established a large network of attorneys who specialize in practice before the Supreme Court along with attorneys and law professors who specialize in federal Indian law.  The Tribal Supreme Court Project operates under the theory that if Indian tribes take a strong, consistent, coordinated approach before the Supreme Court, they will be able to reverse, or at least reduce, the on-going erosion of tribal sovereignty by Justices who appear to lack an understanding of the foundational principles underlying federal Indian law and who are unfamiliar with the practical challenges facing tribal governments.

About NARF:  The Native American Rights Fund is the oldest and largest nonprofit national Indian rights organization in the country.  Since its inception in 1970, NARF has represented over 275 Tribes in 31 states in such areas as tribal jurisdiction and recognition, land claims, hunting and fishing rights, the protection of Indian religious freedom, and many others. NARF has been successful in representing Indian tribes and individuals in cases that have encompassed every area and issue in the field of Indian law. The accomplishments and growth of NARF over the years confirmed the great need for Indian legal representation on a national basis. This legal advocacy on behalf of Native Americans continues to play a vital role in the survival of tribes and their way of life.

Any questions can be directed to NARF Executive Director John Echohawk at (303) 447-8760 or Staff Attorney Richard Guest at (202) 785-4166.