1999 Summary Annual Report For The Period
October 1, 1998 - September 30, 1999

The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) was founded in 1970 to address the need for legal assistance on the major issues facing Indian country. 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. As NARF enters a new century, it can be acknowledged that many of the gains achieved in Indian country over the past thirty years are directly attributable to the efforts and commitment of the present and past clients and members of NARF's Board and staff. However, no matter how many gains have been achieved, NARF is still addressing the same basic issues that caused NARF to be founded originally. 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 challenge to tribal sovereignty arises from state and local governments, Congress, or the courts. The continuing lack of understanding, and in some cases lack of respect, for the sovereign attributes of Indian nations has made it necessary for NARF to continue fighting.

Significant Legal Developments in 1999

  • In an important tribal court jurisdiction case, a federal appeals court ruled in Nevada v. Hicks that the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone tribal court has jurisdiction over a case filed by a tribal member against state wildlife officers for civil rights violations. The officers had confiscated possessions of the tribal member on Indian land in criminal investigations on two occasions that resulted in no charges and had returned the possessions in damaged condition.

  • In Baker v. John, the Alaska Supreme Court for the first time recognized the existence of tribes in Alaska with inherent powers of self- government over tribal members and upheld tribal court jurisdiction in a child custody case.

  • The San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe and the Navajo Nation approved the settlement of a land claim providing over 6,000 acres of land for the San Juan Southern Paiute. The settlement is now being considered by Congress. NARF has represented the Tribe in litigation over a disputed area in northern Arizona also claimed by the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe.

  • The first Indian water rights settlement passed by the Republican- controlled Congress during the Clinton administration was achieved by the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy's Reservation in Montana represented by NARF. The $50 million settlement quantifies the Tribe's water rights, establishes a water administration system and provides federal funding for the development of water projects to serve the present and future needs of the Tribe.

  • Subsistence fishing rights for Alaska Natives in rural Alaska were finally secured when a Congressional moratorium expired and was not extended which had been blocking implementation of the Katie John v. United States decision won by NARF in 1995. The federal government took over management of the subsistence fisheries from the state in all navigable waters in which the United States has reserved water rights under a 1980 federal law recognizing subsistence fishing rights.

  • In Bear Lodge Multiple Use Association v. Babbitt, a federal appeals court dismissed a challenge to a federal management plan by mountain climbers who were asked to voluntarily refrain from climbing Devil's Tower in Wyoming, a National Monument and a sacred site for many tribes, during Native American ceremonies every June.

  • On behalf of a group of twenty-seven Alaska Natives who speak Native languages, NARF was successful in obtaining a preliminary injunction against the State of Alaska from implementing the Alaska Official English Initiative passed by Alaska voters in 1998. Alakayak v. State asserts that Alaska's English-only law is unconstitutional because it violates constitutional rights to free speech, equal protection and due process.

  • An evaluation of the Education Code and Department of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota cited major improvements in high school graduation and school drop-out rates for Indian children and attributed those improvements to the Code. NARF drafted the Code adopted by the Tribe in 1991 which asserts tribal authority through the Department over all reservation schools concurrently with the state and federal governments.

  • In Cobell v. Babbitt, a class action on behalf of 500,000 individual Indian money account holders whose funds are held in trust by the federal government, a federal district court found that the United States had breached its trust duties to the account holders and will oversee the federal government's efforts to fix the broken trust accounting and management systems. Earlier in the year, the court held three federal officials in contempt of court for failure to produce trust documents required by court order.



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) tribal court jurisdiction

  • National Congress of American Indians and National American Indian Court Judges Association (national) development of laws that would give Indian Tribes timely and adequate notice of cases in state courts that question tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction

  • Alaska Inter-Tribal Council (AK) tribal sovereignty and authority in a child custody case

  • Several individual Indians (OK) taxing jurisdiction by the state of Oklahoma

  • United Houma Nation (LA); Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians (MT); Miami Nation of Indians (IN); Shinnecock Tribe (NY); Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (MA); Pamunkey Tribe (VA) federal recognition


The systematic development of Indian law and educating the public are essential for the continued protection of Indian rights.

  • The National Indian Law Library (NILL) This is the only law library that specializes in legal practice materials which are essential for practitioners of Indian law. This includes tribal self-governance materials as constitutions, codes and ordinances; legal pleadings from major Native American law cases; law review articles; handbooks; conference materials, and other information. NILL recently launched its library catalog on its improved Internet website. This searchable catalog provides free access to current descriptions of over 12,000 holdings in the library collection. The library handles close to one thousand information requests per year and serves a wide variety of public patrons including attorneys, tribal governments, tribal organizations, researchers, students, prisoners, the media, and the general public.

  • Indian Law Support Center (ILSC) During 1999, ILSC was involved in coordinating efforts to enact the Indian Tribal Courts Technical and Legal Assistance Act of 1999. ILSC has also been coordinating efforts of the National Association of Indian Legal Services to develop a more formal and comprehensive set of policies of the Legal Services Corporation regarding Indian legal services programs.


In 1999, NARF provided assistance in several matters involving religious freedom, cultural rights, education, child welfare and international law. NARF, on behalf of its clients, seeks to enforce and strengthen laws that are designed to protect the human rights of Native Americans in this area.

  • Native American Church of North America (national) protecting religious freedom in the military and in prisons

  • National Congress of American Indians (national) prohibiting climbers from climbing a mountain sacred to several Indian tribes, Devil's Tower ( Mato Tipila ), during the month of June

  • Tuolumne Me-Wuk Band (CA) protecting tribal cultural and intellectual property rights

  • Cow Creek Band of Umpqua (OR) protecting cultural property rights

  • Twenty-seven Alaska Native individuals (AK) challenging an English-Only law that denies Alaska Natives their constitutional rights to free speech, equal protection, and due process

  • National Congress of American Indians, the National Indian Education Association and the National Indian Youth Council (national) seeking to cancel the pro-football Washington Redskins trademark

  • Rosebud Sioux Tribe (SD) implementing a Tribal Education Code

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

  • National Indian Education Association and National Congress of American Indians (national) monitoring the implementation of the Executive Order on Indian Education

  • National Congress of American Indians (national/international) participating in the development of the United Nations (UN) Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and a similar declaration by the Organization of American States (OAS)

  • National working to amend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) so that tribes are treated as sovereign nations in terms of obtaining public school student records of tribal members

  • National - monitoring Congressional legislation that would strengthen the Indian Child Welfare Act

  • National - monitoring tribal claims under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and providing guidance to several tribes seeking claims


NARF works to hold all levels of government accountable for the proper enforcement of the many laws and regulations that govern the lives of Indian people. NARF continues to be involved in several cases that focus primarily on the accountability of the federal and state governments to Indians.

  • 500,000 present and past individual Indian trust beneficiaries (national) class action lawsuit seeking redress for government mismanagement of trust accounts

  • Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa (ND); Chippewa-Cree of the Rocky Boy s Reservation (MT); Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa (MT) federal mismanagement of the Pembina Judgment Fund

  • Alaska Inter-Tribal Council (AK); Native Village of Venetie (AK) seeking adequate law enforcement protection in Alaska Native villages

  • Pele Defense Fund (HI) protecting traditional Native Hawaiian access rights to rainforest lands



The land base and natural resources of Indian nations continue to be critical factors in the preservation of tribal existence. Through control over tribal lands and resources, Indian tribes can regain a degree of economic self-sufficiency necessary for Indian self-determination. There are approximately 55 million acres of Indian-controlled land in the continental United States which constitutes only 2.3 percent of their former territory. Additionally, there are about 44 million acres in Alaska which are owned by Natives after the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. 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.

  • Alabama-Coushatta Tribe (TX) seeking compensation for the loss of land between 1845 and 1954

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

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

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

  • Native Village of Tuluksak (AK) seeking to put land owned by the village corporation into trust

  • 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) tribal water rights

  • Native Village of Mentasta (AK); Native Village of Elim (AK); Kenaitze Indian Tribe (AK); Native Village of Eyak (AK); Native Villages of Stebbins (AK); Native Village of St. Michael (AK ) subsistence hunting and fishing rights

  • National implementation of federal environmental law and policy that recognizes tribal governments as the primary regulators and enforcers of the federal environmental laws on Indian lands


Based on our audited financial statements for the fiscal year ending September 30, 1999, the Native American Rights Fund reports total unrestricted revenues of $6,719,284 against total expenditures of $6,547,900. Due to presentation requirements of the 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 $680,674, allowing for a modest increase to NARF s reserve fund. This increase can be largely attributed to the continued generosity of NARF s donors and other supporters, combined with a fortuitous gain in investments. Expenditures decreased by $271,126 due, in the most part, to a decline in consultant costs for FY99 s case-related activity. Total management and fund raising costs constituted 30.7% of total revenues in Fiscal Year 1999.

$ 3,126,321
Foundation Grants
Federal Grants
Legal Fees
Investment Income
$ 6,719,284

Note: This summary of financial information has been extracted from NARF's audited financial statements on which the accounting form of Dollinger, Smith & Company expressed an unqualified opinion. Complete auedited financials are available, upon request, through our Boulder office or at www.narf.org.