Native American Rights Fund’s 40th Anniversary

In 1970 a pilot project was started to provide legal services to Native Americans throughout the nation.

That project blossomed into the Native American Rights Fund (NARF).

NARF works to protect civil and religious rights for all Native Americans.

NARF is celebrating it’s 40th anniversary this weekend.


Soon to follow was the “National Indian Law Library” (NILL) the first public law library dedicated to federal and tribal Indian law.

Indian law is complicated and complex. Meteor Blades put it best when he said that the only thing more complicated than water law was Indian law.

Working within the boundaries of tribal law and federal laws is a complicated maze that takes vast amounts of time and litigation for NARF and its staff.

NARF is a non-profit that relies on grants and donations.

Throughout its history, NARF has impacted tens of thousands of Indian people in its work for more than 250 tribes. Some examples of the results include

   * Protecting and establishing the inherent sovereignty of tribes

   * Obtaining official tribal recognition for numerous Indian tribes

   * Helping tribes continue their ancient traditions, by protecting their rights to hunt, fish and use the water on their lands

   * Helping to uphold Native American religious freedom

   * Assuring the return of remains and burial goods from museums and historical societies for proper and dignified re-burial

   * Protecting voting rights of Native Americans

A recent victory was Kaltag v. State of Alaska garnering more validity to the Indian Child and Welfare Act.

Another current endeavor of NARF is the Supreme Court Trial Project.

What is the Tribal Supreme Court Project?

During its 2000 Term, the United States Supreme Court issued two devastating Indian law opinions: Atkinson Trading Co. v. Shirley (Tribes lack authority to tax non-Indian businesses within their reservations) and Nevada v. Hicks (Tribal Courts lack jurisdiction to hear cases brought by tribal members against non-Indians for harm done on trust lands within their reservations). These opinions were devastating in that they struck crippling blows to tribal sovereignty and tribal jurisdiction — the most fundamental elements of continued tribal existence. These losses were indicative of the Court’s steady departure from the longstanding, established principles of Indian law and were among a string of losses suffered by Indian tribes over the past two decades.

In response, in September 2001, Tribal Leaders met in Washington, D.C., and established the Tribal Supreme Court Project (Project) as part of the Tribal Sovereignty Protection Initiative. The purpose of the Project is to strengthen tribal advocacy before the U.S. Supreme Court by developing new litigation strategies and coordinating tribal legal resources, and to ultimately improve the win-loss record of Indian tribes. The Project is staffed by attorneys with the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and consists of a Working Group of over 200 attorneys and academics from around the nation who specialize in Indian law and other areas of law that impact Indian cases, including property law, trust law and Supreme Court practice. In addition, an Advisory Board of Tribal Leaders assists the Project by providing the necessary political and tribal perspective to the legal and academic expertise.

Please help the Native American Rights Fund celebrate their 40th anniversary and continue their vital work in the coming years.

Numerous and convenient options are available.

Donate directly, become a member.

NARF also offers numerous simple gift options.

And for various occasions there is a great way to help NARF–ecards.

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