Alaska Tribes Sue for Equal State Law Enforcement Services
Congress Passes Historical Indian Water Rights Settlement Bill
Court Rules in Favor of Tribal Court Jurisdiction
New Board Members
Case Updates
Attorney Profile - Executive Director, John Echohawk
NARF Resources and Publications


Alaska Tribes Sue for Equal State Law Enforcement Services

The Native American Rights Fund, on behalf of ten Native villages and seven Native individuals, filed a civil lawsuit on October 25, 1999, in the Superior Court for the State of Alaska, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the State of Alaska for failure to provide minimally adequate police protection to off-road Native villages and for discriminating against them in the provision of State law enforcement services.

In Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie, the State argued that Native Villages were not "Indian country" and therefore lacked taxing authority to raise revenue for tribal governmental services, like police protection. The State claimed that tribal taxing authority was not necessary because the State was providing all essential governmental services. The indisputable facts in this new case demonstrate the falsity of the State's extravagant misrepresentations in the Venetie case. Nonetheless, based in part on these misrepresentations, Alaska succeeded in convincing the United States Supreme Court in 1998 to deny Native Villages' the critical means of providing local police protection through tribal jurisdiction. Now the time has come for Alaska to pay the price for its dubious Venetie victory. And that price will not be cheap. When decision time comes in this new case, it will be the price of providing equal law enforcement services, in every respect, to 165 Alaska Native Villages, whose Native residents the State has treated like second-class citizens for more than 40 years.

The complaint alleges that the actions of the State in unlawfully prohibiting Native villages from keeping the peace in their traditional ways, which rendered them defenseless to lawbreakers, while failing to provide them even minimally-adequate police protection under the State law enforcement system, violated the Villages' rights to Due Process of law and basic law enforcement protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I of the Alaska Constitution. The complaint also alleges that the State's discriminatory treatment of Native villages in the provision of police protection is based on race and therefore violates the Villages' rights to Equal Protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I of the Alaska Constitution.

The complaint also alleges that the State's use of State and federal funds and services in State law enforcement programs which discriminate against Alaska Natives in the provision of police protection violates their rights under Alaska statutes and Title VI of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Native Villages Traditionally Provided for Their Own Protection

he complaint sets forth in sad detail the history of discrimination against Native Villages in the provision of law enforcement by both the Territorial and State governments.

For 40 years the State of Alaska has unlawfully barred Native village governments from keeping the peace in their traditional ways, while failing to provide them minimally adequate police protection through the State law enforcement system. There are 225 Alaska Native Villages that are federally recognized tribes. Prior to Statehood, these villages had effective indigenous mechanisms for resolving disputes and keeping the peace which they had employed for thousands of years. Offenders were often required to make restitution or perform community service. The most serious offenders were on occasion banished or even executed. Historically, these functions were carried out pursuant to custom and tradition by Chiefs, Headmen, Elders, clans, families, and others. Early in this century this system gradually gave way to elected Village Councils who took over the law enforcement and peacekeeping roles.

In 1959, when Alaska entered the Union, virtually every Village Council was actively engaged in law enforcement and dispute resolution. During the next few years, however, the State effectively immobilized these efforts, and by the early 1980s only a handful of Councils remained active in the criminal justice arena. The fact that most Native Village Councils are no longer engaged in law enforcement is directly attributable to the State.

The Territorial Government Allocated its Law Enforcement Resources in a Consciously Race-based Manner

The territorial government had allocated its law enforcement resources almost exclusively to the regional and urban centers where the federal commissioners, marshals, and other territorial officials were located centers which were predominantly white or had high concentrations of white residents. Despite their obligation to prosecute serious felonies in the villages under the Major Crimes Act, federal marshals largely stuck to their posts, rarely venturing out to the villages without an arrest warrant; and virtually every serious felony in the villages, except murder and rape, was reduced to "disorderly conduct," if prosecuted at all. Recognizing this void in law enforcement, federal officials permitted, indeed encouraged, Native villages to continue their traditional methods of maintaining order and keeping the peace, except in the case of serious felony cases, which territorial officials promised to handle. Territorial officials also promised to back up the Councils' law enforcement efforts with prosecutions of recalcitrant lesser offenders, a promise they rarely kept. However, in that largely pre-alcohol era, an occasional territorial prosecution, plus the threat of such, was generally sufficient to maintain the Councils' credibility as an effective law enforcement instrumentality.

Unlike the territorial government, during the first 12 years of Statehood, before the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act extinguished most Indian Country in Alaska in 1971, the State illegally prohibited the villages from enforcing their own criminal laws, and for the last 40 years the State has illegally prohibited the villages from enforcing their own civil laws even against their own members. The State has insisted there were no tribes in Alaska and even if there were, they lacked any inherent governmental powers. State officials took the position that Statehood had, somehow, extinguished the villages' criminal law enforcement authority altogether, even over misdemeanors and alcohol-related offenses, and advised the villages that in the future the Councils' peacekeeping efforts, even their authority to prohibit alcohol or impose civil sanctions on their own members, would be extra-legal, and compliance with the Councils' decisions would be strictly voluntary. State officials even threatened the Councils with criminal prosecution should they attempt to enforce their village laws.

The State Effectively Stripped the Villages of Their Indigenous Mechanisms for Keeping the Peace

Upon Statehood in 1959, pursuant to Public Law 280, the State acquired jurisdiction and assumed the obligation to enforce its criminal laws in "Indian Country," which included Native villages. This jurisdictional authority was not limited to felonies. It included all crimes. Contrary to this obligation and the law enforcement obligations imposed by its own constitution, for its first 20 years, the State rarely prosecuted crimes serious or petty in off-road, Native villages other than regional centers where the Troopers were stationed. With Statehood, the Troopers took over the marshals' role and most were stationed in the same regional centers with high concentrations of non-natives where the marshals had been located. The Troopers also adopted the Marshals' policy of providing local police protection to the regional centers where they were stationed, but virtually no police services to outlying Native villages, except in the case of serious felonies, when they were only available after a crime had been committed. Thus, the State inherited and perpetuated the race-based dual system of law enforcement initially adopted by the territorial government, as well as its policy that predominantly white communities and communities with high concentrations of white residents need and deserve adequate police protection, whereas Native villages do not.

The State's Discriminatory Treatment of Native Villages has Rendered Them Defenseless to Law Breakers

Today, there is a great disparity between the police protection afforded urban areas, communities on the interconnected road system and off-road regional centers, and the police protection afforded off-road outlying predominantly Native communities. Today, all urban areas of the state and all rural regional centers receive full police protection from municipal police departments staffed by adequately trained Alaska Police Standard Council (APSC) "certified" police officers. The State provides full police protection through APSC "certified" Troopers to all other communities in the state that lack adequately trained "certified" officers except for 165 off-road predominantly Native communities.

The full police protection provided by the Troopers to on-road communities which lack "certified" police officers, includes patrolling the communities and handling all criminal offenses which arise, both misdemeanors and felonies. "Certified" police are officers, including the Troopers, who have met the qualification requirements and successfully completed the APSC stringent law enforcement training program for "Police Officers." The Troopers do not provide the 165 off-road outlying communities that lack adequately trained "certified" police with the same protection they provide on-road communities. In fact, with few exceptions, the Troopers do not provide these off-road outlying communities any local police protection. The Troopers neither patrol, nor, with rare exceptions, do they handle misdemeanor offenses in such communities. Rather, for these communities, the Troopers are only available to respond to felonies, and usually only able to promptly respond in the case of serious felonies when they are called in from regional centers after a crime has been committed.

Limited personnel, and the lack of airport lights, along with inclement weather, frequently preclude the Troopers from responding in a timely manner to crimes in off-road outlying communities, even in the case of serious felonies. On the road system, for example, Troopers generally respond to life threatening situations within 45 minutes. Off-the-road system, however, Trooper response generally takes hours and many times, depending on the weather, even days.

There is a huge disparity between the training Troopers receive and the training that local village law enforcement officers receive. Troopers receive 1130 hours of law enforcement training compared to 200 hours for Village Public Safety Officers (VPSOs). Pursuant to state law, Village Police Officers ( VPOs) are supposed to receive 48 hours of training. However, they never even receive this minimal instruction. Since this 48-hour training requirement was adopted in 1981, not a single VPO has ever completed this training program because the legislature has failed to provide the funding. In summary, APSC-certified Troopers receive almost 6 times the training VPSOs are supposed to receive, and over 21 times the training VPOs are supposed to receive, but do not. Because neither VPSOs nor VPOs have met APSC qualification and training requirements, they are not "certified" police officers.

The huge disparity between "certified" and "non-certified" police officers is not limited to training. It also encompasses their staffing, equipment, arms, working conditions, salaries, and benefits. For example, including their benefits, Troopers in off-road rural areas easily make more than twice as much as VPSOs and several times more than VPOs. Unlike the Troopers and other APSC-certified police, neither VPOs nor VPSOs are eligible to participate in the State employees' retirement and health plans. VPOs and VPSOs are generally on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and are required to work many hours of overtime. Unlike the Troopers, however, VPSOs and VPOs are not paid for being on call, and receive little or no overtime pay. Most VPSOs and VPOs are solo officers, with no back-up, and even villages with more than one officer are greatly understaffed. "Burnout" is a routine occupational hazard. The annual turnover rate for VPSOs is over 40 percent, and for VPOs, much higher. Such rates preclude effective training programs, even if such programs were available, which they are not. All VPOs and VPSOs are unarmed, and most are ill-equipped. Many have to use their home for office space as well as a holding facility for detainees, and must walk or run to the scene of a crime because they lack essential transportation such as snow-machines, four-wheelers and boats, as well as essential equipment such as rape kits, bulletproof jackets and breathalyzers.

Sixty-four of the 165 off-road communities that lack "certified" police officers are served exclusively by VPSOs or by both VPSOs and VPOs. Another 28 rely exclusively on VPOs for local police protection. The remaining 73 off-road communities have no local police, whatsoever. Given the high turnover rates of village law enforcement officers, plus the fact that most local police are solo officers (which means their villages are without any police protection when they are away), the actual number of Native villages lacking local police protection at any given time is much higher.

The total lack of local police has a very serious impact on a community's ability to maintain law and order and keep the peace. The lack of local police means there is no police "presence" to deter crime in the first instance. In fact, the total absence of local police operates as an open invitation to the illegal importation of alcohol and drugs, which are the primary factors in most crimes in the villages. Without local police, there is no one locally available to make arrests, and no one to hold offenders in custody pending their court appearance. Indeed, with the exception of serious felonies handled by the Troopers, there will probably be no court appearance, because without local police, a complaint will not likely be filed.

The lack of local police leaves the villages with no one to stop domestic violence as it is occurring, no one to make mandatory arrests as required by the Domestic Violence Act, no one, except the Troopers (who are generally not available without substantial delay), to serve domestic violence restraining orders, and no one to enforce them if they are served.

The lack of local police means that victims of child abuse are not timely taken into protective custody since there is no local police officer to accompany the social worker who seeks to remove a child from the home of a dangerous child abuser. The absence of local police also means that intoxicated gunmen have and will terrorize entire villages for hours and, depending on the weather, even days, until the Troopers are finally able to respond.

Even villages with local police lack the most basic and critical protection against armed, intoxicated lawbreakers. Because they have not received firearms training, VPSOs are prohibited by the Troopers from carrying firearms, and are specifically instructed not to confront an armed offender, but rather to call the Troopers and wait for their arrival. On many occasions courageous VPSOs have violated these instructions, risking their lives to disarm violent offenders and protect the lives of others. However, on many other occasions, VPSOs have followed the Troopers' instructions, leaving the offender's wife, children, or others in harm's way for hours or days. Although not under the supervision of the Troopers, VPOs are likewise unarmed and must confront the same armed and intoxicated offenders and face the same dilemma of risking their lives for the sake of others or waiting for the Troopers.

The State Unlawfully Limits the Law Enforcement Authority of Village Police Officers

The disparate police protection which the State affords off-road, outlying communities is also the result of limitations on the law enforcement authority local village law enforcement officers may exercise. Because VPSOs have not received adequate training, they are prohibited by the Troopers from exercising the most basic authority exercised by all other police officers in the state, i.e., the authority to arrest, file criminal complaints, and investigate felonies, without the prior approval of the Troopers. Such prohibitions inevitably result in delays frequently lengthy delays which often mean the loss of testimony and evidence, and frequently the lack of prosecution. Although VPOs are not under Trooper supervision, and consequently not covered by such prohibitions, their almost total lack of law enforcement training severely limits the authority they are able or willing to exercise, including the making of arrests, filing of complaints, and investigation of crimes, all with the same effect lack of adequate local police protection in the outlying villages.

The disparate impact of the State's allocation of law enforcement resources falls overwhelmingly on Native villages. Over 87 percent of the population of Alaska who receive fully trained, APSC "certified" local police protection are non-Native, whereas over 80 percent of the population who lack such protection are Native.

In summary, for 40 years the State and its officials have implemented a dual law enforcement system which discriminates against Native Villages on clearly racial lines. Consequently, the State and its officials knew or reasonably should have known they were violating the Constitutional and Statutory rights of Alaska Natives.

This law suit seeks to end these decades of discrimination. Among other things, the plaintiff Villages request the Court to preliminarily and permanently enjoin the State from discriminating against Native Villages in the provision of police protection and to eliminate the effects of past discrimination. The Villages also ask the Court to enjoin the State from using the over eight million dollars in federal funds which the State receives annually in the State's law enforcement programs until the State ceases its discriminatory conduct.

Case Updates

Judge Orders Court Oversight of Indian Trust Fund Management Reform and Government Appeals

In an historic and long-awaited decision, Federal District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled on December 21, 1999, that the federal government has breached its fiduciary duties to 500,000 individual Indian fund beneficiaries, and cannot be trusted to carry out trust fund mismanagement reform without continued oversight by the Court. Calling decades of Indian trust fund mismanagement by the United States "fiscal and governmental irresponsibility in its purest form," Judge Lamberth vowed to retain jurisdiction over the case for at least five years to ensure that the government's promises to reform are kept. The judge held that federal government officials failed to fix the system even after Congress passed legislative reforms five years ago. "The court knows of no other program in American government in which federal officials are allowed to write checks some of which are known to be written in erroneous amounts from unreconciled accounts some of which are known to have incorrect balances," stated Judge Lamberth. The judge has estimated that up to $2.5 billion has been mismanaged by the government. Other estimates are as high as $10 billion.

The decision came in the first phase of a class-action lawsuit filed over three years ago by the Native American Rights Fund and private attorneys to hold the federal government accountable for the on-going mismanagement of the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust fund accounts. By law, the accounts are held in trust by the government and are comprised primarily of money that is earned by Indians through leases of their land for oil, gas, timber, ranching and farming.

Lamberth had ordered the Indians and the federal government to try to reach an out-of-court settlement in the case. After months of meetings, NARF and co-counsel reported to the judge that the negotiation process had completely broken down and had no hope of success.

NARF and co-counsel had requested that the court place the trust program into receivership or appoint a special master to take over the management of the trust fund. However, Judge Lamberth chose to give the Department of the Interior and the Treasury Department "one last opportunity to carry through on their promises." Lamberth will require the Department of the Interior to submit quarterly progress reports for the next five years.

"I don't like to refer to this in terms of who won or lost. This is the best we could hope for and the judge took appropriate action to not let the government off the hook. We are happy that Lamberth will oversee the trust reform. We lost a lot of confidence in the government since the case was filed it's better that he will oversee the government," said NARF attorney Lorna Babby.

"We are very happy with the decision," said John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund. "It sets the groundwork for finally achieving justice for those individuals who have suffered the worst kind of mismanagement at the hands of the federal government."

Earlier this year, the same judge held Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin in contempt for violating his orders, and appointed a Special Master to monitor discovery in the case. Judge Lambreth stressed that he will not hesitate to appoint a second Special Master or to exercise his contempt powers again should the government fail to live up to their own representations regarding reform efforts or fail to abide by the Court's orders. Earlier in December, the Special Master reported that Treasury Department officials had inadvertently shredded 162 boxes of documents that could have related to the case, then waited three months to tell the court. Further contempt ruling against the government may be forthcoming.

In a joint statement from the Justice, Treasury and Interior Departments, government officials lauded the court's decision welcoming the opportunity to prove that they can fix the system. However, on January 3, 2000, in a somewhat contradictory move, the Justice Department filed a notice of appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Justice Department argued that Judge Lamberth overstepped his authority under the 1994 Administrative Procedures Act and that they should be allowed to finish reforms directed by federal law before any intervention by the court. "What they're arguing, essentially, is they should be able to do an accounting any way they want, to interpret the statute the way they see fit, and then take any actions they think they need to," said NARF attorney Keith Harper in response to the Justice Department's appeal. "We don't believe so, and Judge Lamberth doesn't believe so."

Congress Passes Historical Indian Water Rights Settlement Bill

On November 18, 1999, in the first Indian water rights settlement that had the support of the Clinton Administration, a state, and a tribe, Congress passed an historic water settlement bill which quantifies the Chippewa Cree Tribe's (Montana) on-reservation water rights, establishes a water administration system designed to have minimal adverse impacts on downstream non-tribal water users, and calls for federal funding for the development of water projects to serve the present and future needs of the Tribe. The Act ratifies the Chippewa Cree/Montana Compact and is a textbook example of how tribal, state and federal governments can work together to resolve differences in a way that meets the concerns of all parties.

"This bill and the Compact signal a turning point in the Chippewa Cree's history for these documents set the foundation for the realization of the Tribe's vision of the Rocky Boy's Reservation as a self-sustaining homeland for the Chippewa Cree people," says Bruce Sunchild, Chairman of the Tribe's Water Rights Negotiating Team. "The Tribe has been working toward this end since well before 1916 when the United States set aside the Rocky Boy's Reservation for the Chippewa Cree people."

Specific terms of the bill include a more efficient and effective utilization of Spring snowpack runoff through enlarged or new storage facilities on the Reservation, earmarking $25 million in funding through the Bureau of Reclamation for specified on-reservation water development projects, and funding for the administration of the Compact ($3 million) and for economic development ($3 million). In addition, the bill authorizes the initial steps of a more extensive process of obtaining a long-term drinking water supply for the Chippewa Cree Tribe - a process that is vital to the survival of the Tribe.

The Rocky Boy's Water Rights Settlement bill and the Chippewa Cree/Montana Compact are the culmination of more than ten years of technical studies and over five years of negotiations involving the Chippewa Cree Tribe, the Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission, and the Federal Negotiating Team for the Rocky Boy's Reservation. The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) represents the Chippewa Cree Tribe.

Yvonne Knight (Ponca-Creek), NARF lead counsel says, "This is quite an accomplishment in an area of Montana where there is such a scarce water supply. This settlement demonstrates how tribal and non-tribal water users working together in good faith and with respect for each other's needs can resolve long-standing issues." This is the first water rights settlement to be passed in seven years by Congress.

The Rocky Boy's Reservation is located in an arid region of Montana with an average annual precipitation of only twelve inches - a climate suitable for growing hay. The bill was introduced in the Senate as S. 438 on February 22, 1999, by Senator Conrad Burns (MT) and Senator Max Baucus (MT), and passed by the House of Representatives on October 18, 1999. The bill was signed into law by the President on December 9, 1999, and became Public Law No. 106-163.

Court Rules in Favor of Tribal Court Jurisdiction

In the case of Nevada v. Hicks, two officers of the Nevada Division of Wildlife, on two separate occasions, searched the residence and confiscated possessions of a member of the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe. The tribal member resides on his Indian allotted land within the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Indian Reservation in Nevada. It was determined that the tribal member committed no crime so his possessions were returned, but in a damaged condition. As a result, the tribal member sued the officers in Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribal Court for the violation of his civil rights. The officers contested the jurisdiction of the Tribal Court in both the Tribal Court of Appeals, which affirmed the Tribal Court's jurisdiction, and the Federal District Court for Nevada. NARF represented the Tribe in the Federal District Court which ruled in 1996 that the Tribal Court did have jurisdiction to hear the case. The State appealed this ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

On November 9, 1999, a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in a majority decision the district court's holding that the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe of Nevada Tribal Court had jurisdiction, and affirmed its holding that the issue of qualified immunity was not exhausted before the tribal court and therefore was not properly before the district court or the Court of Appeals. The State of Nevada and state officials had appealed the decision of the district court denying them summary judgment and granting summary judgment to the tribal member and the tribal court. The district court held that the tribal court had jurisdiction to hear the suit brought by Hicks against state officials for tribal common law torts and federal and tribal civil rights violations occurring on Indian-owned land. It also held that tribal court action against the state officials in their individual capacities was not barred by sovereign immunity. It declined to review on the merits the officials' claims of qualified immunity from suit because they had not been exhausted before the tribal court. The State of Nevada has filed a petition for a rehearing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit en banc.

New Board Members

Nora Helton, Chairperson of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, Needles, California, was elected to the Native American Rights Fund Board of Directors, replacing Judy Knight-Frank who resigned from the Board. Nora began working for the Fort Mojave Tribe in 1975 and in 1981 was elected as the youngest tribal member to serve on the Tribal Council. She has served as Chairperson almost continuously since 1984. Among other things, Nora has served as President of the Arizona Inter-Tribal Council (the Tribe has land in California, Arizona and Nevada); Bureau of Indian Affairs Reorganization Task Force member; Co-Chair of the White House Conference on Indian Education; Ten Tribes Partnership on water rights representative; Council of Energy Resource Tribes member; and Executive Board member of the Colorado River Native Nations Alliance formed to save Ward Valley.

Ho'oipo Pa, Native Hawaiian, was elected to the Native American Rights Fund Board of Directors replacing Kaleo Patterson who completed three terms on the Board. Ho'oipo is currently the Executive Director or the Native Hawaiian Advisory Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the interests of Native Hawaiians including the right to engage in traditional and customary practices relating to water and other natural resources. Ho'oipo is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Hawai'i William S. Richardson School of Law directing and teaching courses in Native Hawaiian rights. She is a member of Paepae Hanohano (Consensus Building on Sovereignty and Self-Determination); Delegate, 'Aha hawai'i I O'iwi (Native Hawaiian Convention of the Kanaka Maoli to propose a Native Hawaiian government); Board Member of the Legal Aid Society of Hawai'i; State Department of Health Environmental Management Advisory Group; American Bar Association; and Secretary for the Board of Trustees of the Academy of the Pacific. Ho'oipo has received numerous awards and has had many of her works published. She received her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Hawai'i in 1986.

Kenneth P. Johns, Athabascan, was elected to the Native American Rights Fund Board of Directors, replacing Will Mayo who retired early from the Board. Kenneth is currently the President and CEO of the Copper River Native Association, a non-profit tribal consortium that provides services to the Native Villages in the Ahtna Region of Alaska. His knowledge of Alaska Native cultures and customs, and his leadership abilities have made him well known throughout Alaska. Kenneth is also currently a member of the Ahtna, Inc. Board of Directors; Board Chairman of Alaska Village Initiatives; member of Barricades of Alaska; member of the Alaska Federation of Natives; member of the Indian Education Board; National Bank of Alaska Advisory Board; and the American Telephone & Telegraph Advisory Board. Kenneth also served as Council Member of Kluti Kaah Native Village of Copper Center, Board member of the State of Alaska Board of Game as well as many other positions that he has held.

Sue M. Shaffer, Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe, has been elected to the Native American Rights Fund Board of Directors, replacing Kathryn Harrison who completed three terms on the Board. Sue is the Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians, Canyonville, Oregon, for the past 13 years and has been a member of the Board since reorganization in 1974. She is also the Vice-Chairperson of the Oregon Commission on Indian Services; a delegate to the National Congress of American Indians; delegate to Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians; delegate to the National Indian Women's Leadership Conference; delegate to Indian Women's Leadership, White House Conference; and is a member of numerous boards and committees throughout the State. Sue worked diligently and was instrumental in achieving the Tribe's federal recognition and land claims bills in Congress. Sue is known and respected nationally for her advocacy of tribal rights and has received many national, state and local awards.

NARF Executive Director Profile

John E. Echohawk, a Pawnee, is the Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund. He was the first graduate of the University of New Mexico's special program to train Indian lawyers, and was a founding member of the American Indian Law Students Association while in law school. John has been with NARF since its inception in 1970, and has served continuously as Executive Director since 1977. He has been recognized as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal since 1988 and has received numerous service awards and other recognition for his leadership in the Indian law field. He was a member of the Clinton transition team at the Department of the Interior in 1992 and was appointed by President Clinton in 1995 to the Western Water Policy Review Advisory Commission. He serves on the Boards of the American Indian Resources Institute, Association on American Indian Affairs, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental and Energy Study Institute, and the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. B.A., University of New Mexico (1967); J.D., University of New Mexico (1970); Reginald Heber Smith Fellow (1970-72); Native American Rights Fund (August 1970 to present); admitted to practice law in Colorado.

NARF Resources and Publications

The National Indian Law Library Launches Library Catalog on the Internet!

The National Indian Law Library (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.

For the past twenty seven years, NILL has been collecting a wealth of materials relating to federal Indian law and tribal law which include such 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. Now the general public can access bibliographic descriptions of these materials from the electronic catalog on the NILL website. Once relevant documents are located, patrons can review materials at the Boulder, Colorado library, request copies for a nominal fee, or borrow materials through interlibrary loan.

To reach the catalog and other Native American law resources on the NILL website, point your Internet browser to the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) website at and click on the National Indian Law Library link.

The National Indian Law Library serves a wide variety of public patrons including: attorneys, tribal governments, tribal organizations, researchers, students, prisoners, the media, and the general public. NILL is a project of the Native American Rights Fund and is supported by private contributions. For more information about the library, visit the National Indian Law Library website or contact David Selden, the Law Librarian at: (303) 447-8760, Local patrons can visit the library at 1522 Broadway, Boulder, Colorado.