September 8, 2011

Citizenship Denied: The Latest in the Cherokee Freedmen Saga

This story was researched and developed last week and will be in the September 21 issue of This Week From Indian Country Today.

The late Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller wrote in her autobiography the following words: “The truth is that the practice of slavery will forever cast a shadow on the great Cherokee Nation.”

The repercussions of slavery are still being felt within the Cherokee Nation, as a five-year legal battle between the Cherokee Nation and the descendants of freed Cherokee slaves ended on August 22, with the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court ruling against freedmen who had sought to have their status as citizens of the Cherokee Nation validated.

The ruling upheld a 2007 Cherokee Nation Constitutional amendment that requires the nation’s citizens to have at least one Indian ancestor on the Dawes Rolls, the primary document used to determine Cherokee Nation eligibility. That amendment was passed after the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the freedmen could qualify for tribal citizenship.

This latest ruling immediately revoked the citizenship of approximately 2,800 non-Indians, whose enrollment had been reinstated by a Cherokee Nation District Court four years ago. This ends the membership of Cherokee Nation members who are descendants of freedmen or of intermarried whites who had been granted Cherokee Nation citizenship.

The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court’s vote was 4-1. In the majority decision written by Chief Justice Darrell Matlock, the court said it does not have authority over the will of the people.

LO RES FEA Photo Cherokee Freedmen chad smith AP110711039740 270x181 Citizenship Denied: The Latest in the Cherokee Freedmen Saga

Principal Chief Smith has alienated the freedmen.

One of the main legal arguments of the freedmen was based on a treaty between the Cherokee Nation and the U.S. government in 1866, after the end of the Civil War. Article 9 of that treaty states that the Cherokee Nation abolished slavery by 1863 and that “all freedmen who have been liberated by voluntary act of their former owners or by law, as well as all free colored persons who were in the country at the commencement of the rebellion, and are now residents therein, or who may return within six months, and their descendants, shall have all the rights of Native Cherokees.”

According to the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court ruling, “The Cherokee Freedmen were never afforded citizenship in the Cherokee Nation by the Treaty of 1866. A fair reading of the Treaty of 1866 indicates that it was an expression by the parties that the freedmen would be treated as equals to the citizens of the Cherokee…. The freedmen at that time gained citizenship status in the Cherokee Nation by the Cherokee people’s sovereign expression in the 1866 Constitutional Amendment to the 1839 Cherokee Nation Constitution.

“It stands to reason that if the Cherokee people had the right to define the Cherokee Nation citizenship in the above mentioned 1866 Constitutional Amendment they would have the sovereign right to change the definition of Cherokee Nation citizenship in their sovereign expression in the March 3, 2007 Constitutional Amendment.”

The Court’s ruling sparked outrage from some and brought relief for others. “I think it’s a huge injustice,” said Marilyn Vann, Cherokee Freedmen and president of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes Association. “Number one, the freedmen people have citizenship based on the 1866 treaty. Our ancestors helped build up the tribe. [Citizenship] was something promised by the U.S. government and the tribal government, just as every nation that has enslaved or [colonized] people has brought those minorities into their society. Ancient Rome; the U.S. with the blacks in the Deep South; Romania, which enslaved Gypsies—they’ve all done it. That’s only the right and proper thing to do.”

Taylor Keen, who was a Cherokee Nation council member at the time of the 2007 vote, openly supported and still supports the efforts of the freedmen. In a 2007 interview with Indian Country Today, he talked about how his father, the late Ralph Keen—who was the first Chief Justice for the Cherokee Nation when its tribal government was reorganized under a new constitution in the 1970s—told him that it was paramount that the freedmen be a recognized part of the Cherokee Nation. Taylor Keen says he is now concerned that what he calls “a Jim Crow law” could jeopardize federal funding and recognition for the Cherokee Nation.

The Cherokee Nation argues that it is one of the most diverse tribes in the nation because of the Dawes Roll Indian ancestor requirement. Diane Hammons, the Cherokee Nation Attorney General, points out that there are multiple racial groups who now have Cherokee ancestry. “The Cherokee Nation is among the most diverse of Indian tribes with thousands of citizens who share African, Latino, Asian, Caucasian and other ancestry,” says Hammons. “African Americans with an Indian ancestor on the Dawes Rolls have been, and will continue to be, citizens of the Cherokee Nation.” At the same time, she cited the importance of the tribe to determine who exactly can be members. “There is nothing more integral to a tribe’s right of self-governance than its ability to define its own membership.

“Now the nation will be going about the business of implementing the court ruling,” Hammons says. “It may take a little while to figure out how to properly, and fairly, implement the ruling. In the next few days we’ll know more and will notify the people affected.”

The removal of the freedmen could have an impact on the election on September 24 for principal chief; the race is between three-term incumbent Chad “Corntassel” Smith and Bill John Baker, who has served on the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council for 12 years.

The two have run against each other several times, and each election was decided by a razor-thin margin, so taking the freedmen out of the voting pool has the potential to cause a major shift in the September 24 election. About 44 percent of the 2,800 freedmen are registered to vote and, according to Vann, support for Smith is a long shot. “I will say this: Mr. Smith has certainly not done anything to endear himself to the freedmen people,” she said. “I don’t see anything where the Chief of the Cherokee Nation has done anything—I mean Mr. Smith—has done anything except exploit the freedmen issue for his own purposes.”

Smith wrote and spoke publicly in support of the 2007 constitutional amendment to remove freedmen from Cherokee Nation citizenship rolls if they had no documentable Indian blood. “Cherokees are Indians,” he wrote in a March 9, 2007 Indian Country Today editorial. “They are the indigenous and aboriginal people of this land and there is a commonality of history, language, heritage and culture. It finally came to a point that non-Indians were claiming to be Cherokee when, in fact, they are not. So the vote was an affirmation of identity as Indian for those voting.”

Smith provided written answers to questions from Indian Country Today Media Network (ICTMN) about whether or not this latest decision by the Supreme Court would impact this election. “The process has worked its way through the courts and we have to respect what our Supreme Court has decided,” he wrote. “The citizenship issue is important to our people, but I don’t think the decision will have an impact on the upcoming elections.” The rest of the response from Smith focused on his accomplishments in office.

Baker also declined to be interviewed for this story; instead, he sent a statement that was similar to Smith’s in regard to the ruling, adding that he would abide by any future Supreme Court decisions. “I have said from the beginning that this is in the hands of the court,” Baker’s statement said, “and I will abide by that through this ruling and the others that are bound to follow.”

Which leaves the freedmen out in the cold. Taylor Keen’s brother, Ralph Keen II, was the attorney for the freedmen in this case. In a statement to ICTMN he said that he was “disappointed and saddened” by the Supreme Court’s ruling. “Now, because the Cherokee Nation justice system has failed them, Cherokee Freedmen will have no option but to resort to the federal courts or the halls of Congress for the vindication of their rights.”

“It’s a blemish on Cherokee history,” Taylor Keen says about the Nation’s treatment of the freedmen, “and it’s going to be a tough one to unwind.”

To read about HUD denying Cherokee Nation funding in the latest Freedmen issue, see ICTMN’s story here.

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September 9, 2011

Native American Tribe Defends Fighting Sioux Logo

Filed under: Education,Politics,Sports — Tags: , , , , , , — ICTMN Staff @ 8:00 pm

The controversy between the NCAA, the University of North Dakota (UND) and two Sioux tribes in the state continues—even after most thought the retirement of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo was decided.

Now, the Spirit Lake Tribe has filed an injunction in tribal court to keep the nickname.

Not only has the tribe filed an injunction for the school to keep the logo, it has asked that licensing and merchandising rights be turned over to the Spirit Lake Tribe.

Frank Blackcloud, Spirit Lake’s spokesperson, told KXMB CBS 12 that the use of Fighting Sioux has always been respectful and makes him feel proud.

“We gave UND permission years ago this was a gift and that’s what the NCAA doesn’t understand, nobody has the right to take that gift away expect a Sioux tribe and the only reason we would take it away is if they were doing dishonor to the Sioux name and the aren’t doing that,” he told the TV station. “They are holding it respectfully and with honor and in it’s tradition—and are doing everything proper.”

But Spirit Lake is only one of two Native American nations the NCAA required approval from so the school could keep using the mascot and name. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the other federally recognized Sioux tribe in North Dakota, also has to approve of the name. But that approval hasn’t happened, the Standing Rock Tribal Council actually passed a resolution voting against use of the Fighting Sioux name.

Some students at UND also oppose the nickname, and on August 10 a group of them filed a suit asking the nickname be retired. The complaint claims that the nickname violates the students’ civil rights and that it “has had and continues to have a discriminatory and profoundly negative impact on plaintiffs.”

It seems the fate of the Fighting Sioux still hangs in the balance as the NCAA continues to threaten sanctions if the name isn’t retired.

Fighting Sioux Logo History 270x432 Native American Tribe Defends Fighting Sioux Logo

Fighting Sioux logo history from Orwicksioux.com.

It’s interesting to note that the logo was actually designed by Bennett Brien, a Native American artist who graduated from UND with a master of find arts degree.

Orwicksioux.com has an explanation of the design from the artist as well as a history of the Fighting Sioux logo.

“The feathers symbolize the outstanding rewards that students, faculty, staff and alumni will achieve for academic, athletic and lifelong excellence. The determined look in the eyes symbolizes fortitude and never giving up and the focus necessary for sustained academic, athletics and lifelong achievement,” the website quotes the artist. “The paint on the cheekbone symbolizes that life can be a battle and we have daily struggles. The color green symbolizes the development of young people and their growth at the University of North Dakota. The color yellow symbolizes the sun, which provides humanity light and warmth in order that life may continue. The color red symbolizes the lifeblood that has been poured out to make our state and peoples great.”

Indian Country Today Media Network will continue to follow this story as new developments come to light.

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September 19, 2011

Métis Honor Anniversary of Landmark Rights Decision

On September 19, 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Métis, as a distinct aboriginal group, had legal harvesting rights.

The landmark case capped a 20-year battle to get Métis rights recognized along with those of other aboriginals as laid out in section 35 of the 1982 Constitution Act, according to the Métis of Alberta and the Métis National Council (MNC).

The court’s unanimous decision affirmed that Section 35 of the act applies not only to First Nations and Inuit but also to Métis. Although Section 35 ostensibly included the Métis, who are descendants of colonial fur traders and Indians, the latter group found themselves struggling for the same level of recognition as their Inuit and First Nations counterparts.

For the next two decades, Section 35 “remained largely an unfulfilled promise to the Métis Nation, with governments in Canada taking the position that the Métis had no existing Aboriginal rights protected by s. 35; thereby, refusing to negotiate or deal with the Métis people and their rights,” the MNC says on its website. “In response to these steadfast federal and provincial government positions, beginning in the early 1990s, the Métis Nation began its ‘hunt for justice’ in the courts, in order to attempt to breathe life into the constitutional commitment made in 1982.”

R. v. Powley, as the case was known, was heard in March 2003. It involved a hunter and his moose haul. According to the MNC, Steve and Roddy Powley, a father and son, had been charged with hunting moose without a license after they killed a bull moose near Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, in 1993. They were also charged with unlawful possession of moose, in violation of Ontario’s Game and Fish Act. They went to court, which ruled in their favor in 1998, but the Crown kept at it, and kept losing. The Crown’s final loss came before the Supreme Court.

“The Powley decision marks a new day for the Métis Nation in Canada,” the MNC site says. “The Supreme Court’s decision is a respectful affirmation of what the Métis people have always believed and stood up for, as well as, an opportunity for Canada to begin fulfilling its substantive promise to the Métis.”

Here, some toe-tappin’ footage of the Métis Fall Festival square dancing competition in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority Under Fire

The Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA), which oversees the six First Nations casinos in the province of the same name, is embroiled in controversy that borders on scandal. Having thrown out the chief of its board and so far disregarded a court order to reinstate him, SIGA has ignited the ire of member nations of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians (FSIN), which oversees it. Several are now considering dropping out entirely.

Much of the fracas centers around questionable finances, including thousands of dollars in expense reimbursements for board members (half of whom are chiefs and already draw a salary), as well as reforms related to who serves on the board.

The board threw Goodtrack out in alleging that the attorney had conflicts of interest between his private caseload and SIGA. But his supporters tell the media that he was in fact pushed out for tightening board expenditures and trying to institute reforms.

“My board is comprised of—a large number of them are politicians—they are tribal chiefs, we have to separate politics from business,” Goodtrack told the radio station CKOM/Newstalk 650. “It’s something that is a common issue throughout Canada and that’s something we have to do.”

He was ousted in July in a non-confidence vote similar to the one that was being planned for FSIN Chief Guy Lonechild when he resigned in early September. Like Lonechild, Goodtrack won his seat back in court.

Now even FSIN Acting Chief Morley Watson allows as how SIGA did not follow proper procedure in suspending Goodtrack, according to CBC News.

“Sometimes, if we haven’t maybe followed the rules to a T that has come back to perhaps to bite us,” Watson said, according to the network. “We have to put in place mechanisms where we can’t bypass our own legislation. And if perhaps some leaders have done that, then I think it’s up to the organization to safeguard, to ensure that doesn’t happen in the future.”

Meanwhile, allegations of possible overexpenditures continue to swirl around SIGA. In July, just after Goodtrack’s non-confidence vote, the Star Phoenix found that several board members had earned upwards of $70,000 in salaries, per diems, travel costs and other expenses, with board reimbursements totaling more than $600,000. That was many more times the amount paid out to the Saskatchewan Gaming Corp.’s board, which governs provincial casinos, the newspaper said.

The Star Phoenix published a three-part series on SIGA’s woes that ran September 14–16. Revelations from documents obtained by the paper include 18 percent of the funds slated for community development, or $3.2 million annually, are in fact spent on administration and board costs for six community development corporations.

It also reveals that FSIN Vice-Chief Edward (Dutch) Lerat, mid-lawsuit against SIGA for wrongful dismissal over his inability to explain the whereabouts of $300,000 back in 2000, is now apparently overseeing the federation’s SIGA file. After the newspaper’s report, he told Watson he would withdraw the lawsuit.

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September 22, 2011

Oneida Land Claims, Quiet Title Act among Supreme Court’s Fall Petitions

Matthew Fletcher’s Turtle Talk legal blog has posted a preview of the Indian law cases that will come before the U.S. Supreme Court for selection this term. “The ‘long conference’ is next Monday, and so the 2011 term is under way,” Fletcher wrote on his blog.

At the top of his list for the long conference is Oneida Indian Nation v. Oneida County (No. 10-1420) and United States v. New York (10-1404). The petition involves the Oneida Nation’s land claims and the Supreme Court’s Sherrill v Oneida ruling. The Nation’s original lawsuit was filed against New York State’s Madison and Oneida counties in 1974 and claimed 250,000 acres of ancestral lands and relief going back more than 200 years when the lands were conveyed in multiple transactions to the state of New York. The transactions were illegal under the 1790 Indian Trade and Intercourse Act, commonly referred to as the Nonintercourse Act, which prohibits Indian lands from being sold or otherwise transferred without the approval of Congress.

The case reached the 2nd Circuit last August, where a panel of judges issued a majority ruling that the nation has no “possessory right” to reclaim the 250,000 acres taken by the state of New York (and sold for profit) nor does it have a “non-possessory right” to claim restitution, estimated by the Oneidas to be at least $500 million. The nation asked for a rehearing of the case, but was denied in December. The petition for a writ of certiorari—a document asking the Supreme Court to review the decision of a lower court—was filed in mid-May. In addition to the Oneida Indian Nation and the United States, the plaintiffs include the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin and the Oneida of the Thames.

The petition for cert presents two questions to the high court:

  • Whether the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals contravened the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Oneida Indian Nation of New York v. County of Oneida, and City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York by ruling that “equitable considerations” rendered the nation’s claims for money damages void;
  • Whether the court of appeals impermissibly encroached on the legislative power of Congress by relying on “equitable considerations” to bar the nation’s claims as untimely even though they were brought within the statute of limitations fixed by Congress for the precise tribal-land claims at issue here.

“The fact that the federal government filed a petition is huge, but the Court has denied similar petitions,” Fletcher noted.

Also slated for the long conference is Navajo Nation v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) (No. 10-981) and Peabody Western Coal Co. v. EEOC (No. 10-986), along with EEOC v. Peabody Western Coal Co. (No. 10-1080), “a conditional cross-petition,” Fletcher wrote. This case is also long running and involves the Navajo tribal employment preference act. The EEOC sued Peabody in 2001, alleging that Peabody’s compliance with provisions of two coal leases with the Navajo Nation requiring Peabody to employ qualified Navajo workers violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. The leases were drafted, negotiated and approved under the personal supervision of the Secretary of the Interior, but Title VII doesn’t allow EEOC to sue the Department of the Interior or the Navajo Nation, reserving that authority to the Attorney General.

This complicated case was dismissed twice by the District Court which held that the EEOC’s action couldn’t go forward without the Navajo Nation or Interior Secretary, neither of which the EEOC could sue. The Ninth Circuit Court reversed both judgments saying that the EEOC could sue the Navajo Nation under Rule 19 of the Federal Rules of Procedures as long as it didn’t look for “affirmative relief” from the Nation, and that either the Nation or Peabody could sue the Interior Secretary under the Administrative Procedures Act.

The question asked of the Supreme Court is:

  • “Whether the Secretary of the Interior is a ‘required party,’ within the meaning of Rule 19(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to an action by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against a private employer, where the challenged conduct was undertaken pursuant to a federally approved mining lease between the employer and an Indian Tribe, but no federal agency is a party to the lease.”

The case is rooted in the post-World War II era when, partly in recognition of Navajo soldiers and Code-Talkers, Congress provided for Navajo and Hopi employment preferences in the Navajo and Hopi Rehabilitation Act of 1950.

“Although labeled a petition to watch, the feds are opposing the main petitions, and this one will be denied,” Fletcher predicted.

Several petitions are slated for later conferences, including Salazar v. Patchak (No. 11-247) and Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians v. Patchak (No. 11-246). The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, known as the Gun Lake Tribe, and the federal government have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review a ruling issued by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals last January that said David Patchak, a former trustee in Wayland County, Michigan, has standing to bring a lawsuit against the Interior Department for taking into trust 147 acres near Grand Rapids where the tribe operates its casino. The ruling reversed a decision by the Washington federal district court that said Patchak did not have standing and was barred from filing the complaint by the Quiet Title Act (QTA), which says the federal government cannot be divested of title to Indian trust lands. The appeals court expanded the previous criteria for “standing”—the right to initiate a lawsuit—which basically requires someone to be injured or affected by an action by granting Patchak prudential standing. The appeals court ruling was a departure from rulings in similar cases from four other circuit courts.

The high court petitions evolved from a lower court case involving the Supreme Court’s ruling in Carcieri v. Salazar.

The questions presented to the Supreme Court by Gun Lake are:

  • “I. Whether the Quiet Title Act and its reservation of the United States’ sovereign immunity in suits involving ‘trust or restricted Indian lands’ apply to all suits concerning land in which the United States ‘claims an interest” … as the Seventh, Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits have held, or whether they apply only when the plaintiff claims title to the land, as the D.C. Circuit held.
  • II. Whether prudential standing to sue under federal law can be based on either (i) the plaintiff’s ability to ‘police’ an agency’s compliance with the law, as held by the D.C. Circuit but rejected by the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Circuits, or (ii) interests protected by a different federal statute than the one on which suit is based, as held by the D.C. Circuit but rejected by the Federal Circuit.”

“This one has already been slated a ‘petition to watch,’” Fletcher wrote. “The federal government’s effort to protect federal immunity under the Quiet Title Act is almost certain to be granted.”.

Other petitions the court will consider are:

  • Arctic Slope Native Assn. v. Sebelius (No. 11-33). “This petition involving contract support costs under the Indian Self-Determination Act has a strong chance, with a circuit split between the Federal Circuit (here) and the Tenth Circuit (here and perhaps here),” Fletcher wrote.
  • Gila River Indian Community v. Lyon (No. 11-80). “Like the EEOC case, a Rule 19 case. One of these days, the Supreme Court will hear a Rule 19 case where an Indian tribe is the missing indispensable party,” Fletcher said.
  • Seneca Telephone v. Miami Tribe (No. 11-183). “Any case with tribal sovereign immunity as the backdrop has a chance, but this one has no split and no real major issue.”
  • Reed v. Gutierrez (No. 10-1390). “Another immunity case, even less likely to be granted than Seneca Telephone, given that Kiowa completely controls this one without doubt.”
  • Corboy v. Louie (No. 11-336). Any petition involving the Native Hawaiians is bound to attract some Justices’ attention, but this one is being brought by tax protesters, not a favored party in the Supreme Court.

Evans v. Wapato Heritage (No. 11-215).

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September 26, 2011

Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Weekly Roundup – September 19 – 25

Beginning this week Indian Country Today Media Network is introducing a weekly roundup from court cases that have been heard by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals over the previous week. This week two cases were heard that have an affect on Indian country.

Tribe to Administer Clinic Despite Hurdles

In a win for tribal self-determination, the Court of Appeals ruled September 19 that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Indian Health Service (IHS) must contract with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe to operate its own clinic.

The issue of tribal control over the clinic had been in litigation both before and after the tribe assumed management of the Southern Ute Health Center in Ignacio, Colorado on October 1, 2009, when the tribe and IHS agreed the tribe would begin management of the Health Center while issues were resolved that led to the court dispute.

A decade ago the tribe had proposed a transfer of clinic operation from IHS to the tribe under the Indian Self-Determination Act, but the IHS declined the proposal, which led to years-long litigation over the start date of a transfer of management and the amount of contract support costs (CSC) for administration.

In its decision, the federal appeals court upheld the District Court in its ruling that HHS was required to contract with the tribe and agreed the start date of the contract was October 1, 2009, as HHS determined, but it reversed the lower court on the issue of CSC, which had proved a sticking-point in the litigation.

The tribe had requested a determination that the contract start date was October 1, 2005 in order to recover expenses over the four-year period before it assumed management, but the appeals court determined it did not incur costs until October 1, 2009. The court agreed that the tribe is entitled to the full amount by law for CSC, but the issue of whether funds are appropriated remains open.

The Indian Self-Determination Act is to increase tribal participation and direction in federal services to Native communities.

Parental Rights Termination Stands

A Muskogee (Creek) man who objected to the termination of his parental rights lost his argument September 20 in federal appeals court, where a three-judge panel said the issue had been decided in earlier litigation.

The Court of Appeals determined that the state of Oklahoma’s rulings under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) were not invalid concerning Christopher Yancey’s rights to his 7-year-old son.

Yancey and Tiffany Leatherman, who is not a member of an Indian tribe, were teenagers when the baby was conceived and before the baby was born Leatherman placed him for adoption with an out-of-state couple, Timothy and Tammy Thomas, who have had custody of the boy since his birth.

Yancey and Leatherman disagreed about the termination of his parental rights to permit adoption and the tribe, intervening under ICWA, was upheld by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, but a state appeals court found there was convincing evidence that the child would suffer emotional trauma if he was removed from the Thomas’ custody.

Yancey’s further appeals failed and his parental rights were terminated May 8, 2010, when the Oklahoma trial court found that ICWA had been satisfied and “serious emotional or physical damage” to the child would likely result if he were placed in Yancey’s custody.

Under ICWA, a trial court cannot terminate a parent-child relationship in litigation that would determine a minor child eligible for adoption without mutual parental consent unless continued custody by an Indian parent is likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the child.

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September 27, 2011

Galanda Broadman Adds Ryan Dreveskracht to Growing Staff

Prolific legal scholar and former U.S. District Court Clerk Ryan Dreveskracht was recently hired as an associate by Galanda Broadman, the Seattle-based law firm dedicated to representing American Indian interests.

Dreveskracht who completed his clerkship with Judge Kathleen Kay in the Western District of Louisiana has plenty of knowledge to offer the majority Indian-owned firm. His accolades include:

  • L.L.M in Sustainable International Development from the University of Washington School of Law
  • J.D. from the University of Arizona College of Law – certificate in Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy
  • B.A. in Philosophy and Law, Society, and Justice from the University of Washington
  • A.A. from Lower Columbia College
  • Published works in energy development, taxation, jurisdiction and tribal-federal relations
  • Managing Editor of the National Lawyer’s Guild Review

With the knowledge that he brings to the firm, when asked what he may focus on Dreveskracht said, “A lot of the firm’s practice focuses on representing tribal governments in complex, critical litigation – ‘bet the tribe’ disputes if you will, where the stakes are infinite given some threat to the tribe’s sovereignty and very existence. Due to my experience behind the U.S. District Court bench as a judicial clerk, a lot of my efforts so far have focused on federal civil procedure – issues that ultimately make or break most cases brought by or against tribal parties. Other than that, I have particular expertise in issues of Indian economic development, renewable and solar energy, and taxation.”

“Ryan just finished a U.S. District Court clerkship, so he has a perspective from the federal bench that is invaluable to our firm and our tribal government and business clients. He knows what goes on behind the scenes in federal court, and has an almost innate ability to navigate the procedural hoops necessary to get the results we need for our clients,” Gabe Galanda said. “Ryan also writes very well and has an uncanny ability when it comes to legal research – his ability to identify and interpret legal authority can be the difference between winning and losing.”

Dreveskracht started with the firm on August 15, but is familiar working with Gabe Galanda and Anthony Broadman from when he was a Summer Associate of theirs previously.

Dreveskracht, much like the firm of Galanda and Broadman, have been around Indian issues for years. As tribes continue to grow in multiple areas so do legal battles. According to Dreveskracht, the larger issue right now is this sense of invading the sovereignty of tribal governments.

“State governments are currently issuing bonds on money that they don’t have – money that is contingent on, for reasons too complex to get into here, invading the sovereignty of tribal governments,” he said. “In short, state governments are bankrupt and they are now more than ever looking to tribes to fill their coffers. So, tribes are now facing widespread state and local government attacks on their sovereignty, through civil regulatory and tax encroachment. And until state economies rebound, those attacks on Indian sovereignty are only going to become more frequent and more severe.”

Whether Indian country is up to the challenge or not isn’t an issue as Dreveskracht sees it. He feels tribes have a handle on its overall issues.

“Tough times do call for tough measures, and I think that Indian country is up to the challenge. Diversifying business; actively asserting sovereignty; reinvesting in local economies; protecting areas of cultural significance; investing in clean energy; generally reevaluating the playing field – this is what’s going on in Indian country today. In other words, unlike state governments who have no qualms invading the sovereignty of tribal nations, tribal governments are on their own, looking inward for solutions – and finding them. Personally, I am honored to be a part of it,” Dreveskracht said.

Another move for Galanda and Broadman came in the recent announcement of Broadman being elected as Chair of the WSBA Administrative Law Section at its meeting on September 15. The Administrative Law Section serves the interests of public and private sector attorneys working with state, local and tribal government agencies, as well as administrative law judges, hearing officers, review officers and other judicial personnel.

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September 29, 2011

Aquinnah Wampanaog Tribe Wins $567,236 DoJ Grant

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) has won a $567,236 competitive grant for its judiciary department from the federal Department of Justice. The funding will be used to support the development, implementation, enhancement and continuing operation of the Aquinnah Wampanoag’s court system.

“We are delighted that the Department of Justice (DoJ) has awarded us this grant,” said Wampanoag Chairwoman Andrews-Maltais. “It demonstrates their recognition of the work we have performed thus far, their respect for our sovereignty and our efforts to protect it, and their commitment to a true government-to-government relationship. Additionally, building upon the foundation of the newly passed Tribal Law and Order Act; we will continue to develop a strong relationship with the DoJ while continuing to develop and enhance our own Tribal Self Governance.

The Martha’s Vineyard-based Nation established its judicial system in the early 2000s, passing a number of ordinances dealing with various aspects of tribal law, and has received a number of federal grants along the way, Andrews-Maltais said. The Aquinnah Wampanoag court is designed to express and act upon the Nation’s values, enhance self-governance, strengthen the economic and cultural health of the tribe, and build tribal court capacity at the local and state levels.

The grant will go a long way in helping the Nation implement a more traditionally-based judicial system for tribal members and activities that take place on tribal lands, providing time-honored indigenous ways of resolving disputes in a manner other than punitive, Andrews-Maltais said.

“For instance, if there is an issue or dispute, we can utilize the wisdom of our traditional and cultural Leadership to offer a more traditional and/or community value based type of restitution. We can also draw from other established tribal judiciaries, with similar traditional aspects for their expertise as another option. We can determine in our own way, the level of severity we believe the issue at hand is, and we can address it as our tribal community sees fit,” Andrews-Maltais said.

The Justice Department announced the grant in a press release from Carmen M. Ortiz, the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, on September 14. “I am thrilled that the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head will receive federal funding to enhance its tribal justice system. Consistently, they have developed solid strategies that exude their genuine desire to strengthen and preserve the integrity of the Tribe. We are very pleased that they are being recognized for their efforts again this year,” Ortiz said.

The award was made under the Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS) program that was launched in 2010 after extensive consultations with indigenous nations around the country. The CTAS combines the Justice Department’s existing tribal government-specific competitive grant solicitations into one packet, meaning federally-recognized tribes and tribal consortia only have to file one application for the various grant programs available.

Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli announced this funding during the DoJ’s 19th Annual Four Corners Indian Country Conference in Colorado, which he said underscores the Justice Department’s commitment to enhancing public safety in Indian country and the importance of a streamlined grant application process for federal funding.

“I am pleased today to announce the Justice Department’s continued investment in programs that offer innovative and comprehensive approaches to public safety and justice in Indian country,” Perrelli said. “Our government-to-government consultations have been critical to our understanding of how to better serve and support our tribal partners. By deepening our engagement with tribal governments, we have sought to help put an end to the unacceptable and sobering crime rates witnessed in Indian country.”

The Wampanoag’s grant will also help local governments with whom the Nation already partners. For example, the Nation has no police department of its own and contracts with the local law enforcement agency. “We can alleviate some of the workload from local and county court system,” Andrews-Maltais said. “We can enter into intergovernmental agreements to share our resources and where allowable assist financially as well. We can contract for specific services, equipment and facilities and we can collaborate where appropriate. Whenever our Tribe benefits, ultimately the local community becomes a secondary beneficiary as well, and that makes us very happy because we are also part of the local community as well as our own tribal community.”

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September 30, 2011

Wade Blackmon Joins Firm’s Growing New York Office

Filed under: News Alerts,Politics — Tags: , , , , — ICTMN Staff @ 1:30 pm

On September 22, Wade Blackmon was announced as the newest member of the Native American Team at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, further expanding the firm’s growing New York office.

Blackmon brings 18 years of experience with him to his new role as council. Over the years he has built an expertise with property leasing and licensing arrangements, development of standardized procurement contracts, trademark protection, enforcement of tribal court judgments on gaming debt and regulatory matters.

“Wade is an outstanding addition to the firm’s Native American Team and the New York office,” said Keith Harper, Chair of Kilpatrick Townsend’s Native American Team. “He will further strengthen the firm’s already successful practice in this area and will add depth to the range of services that the New York office provides. Clients across the firm will benefit from his expertise.”

Blackmon has served as legal counsel to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation’s Foxwoods Resort Casino sing 1998. He grew up on the Pala Reservation in California and earned his J.D. from New York University School of Law and his B.A. in Political Science from Stanford University.

For more on the firm click here.

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October 1, 2011

Fallout Persists from Spring Floods in Manitoba

Months after spring floods have receded, some Manitoba First Nations are still displaced, leading two of them to file suit and one to request barracks housing through the winter.

The Peguis and Ebb and Flow First Nations filed lawsuits in mid-September, claiming that dislocation and other effects from last spring’s record flooding have still not been addressed. In suits filed in federal court in Winnipeg, both First Nations allege that floodwaters were diverted into Lake Manitoba to keep cities like Port La Prairie dry, but at the expense of their agricultural land, residential areas and sacred sites. The two First Nations are suing Manitoba Hydro, the federal government, the province and the Crown utility.

“These First Nations…are sick and tired of the government of Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro … flooding hundreds of thousands of acres of land without any concern whatsoever to the needs and interests of Manitoba First Nations,” Jeffrey Rath, a lawyer from Alberta who represents the First Nations, told the Canadian Press.

Hundreds of people, many of them First Nations citizens, were forced from their homes by the April flooding. Although vacation-home owners and farmers can apply for compensation from the province, First Nations do not qualify because they are the responsibility of the federal government, Rath told the Canadian Press.

But as far back as February, Peguis officials had begun to sound warnings that they were bracing for devastating flooding, based on their previous experience with heavy rains. Earlier this year, Chief Glenn Hudson said in a statement that damage from previous floods had still not been repaired. Now, Rath said, many of the reserve homes have mold problems.

“These communities have just been devastated,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lake St. Martin First Nation has asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper if its members, trapped in Winnipeg hotels since flooding forced them off their reserve in May, can winter in the vacant homes of Kapyong Base.

“Our people aren’t asking you to give them the homes,” Chief Adrian Sinclair wrote to Harper in September. “Just let us live there at Kapyong together as a community until our new community can be rebuilt on a reserve on higher ground—maybe a year.”

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