Ms. Alther will be honored with an Outstanding Achievement in California Indian Law Award from the California Indian Law Association (CILA). For the first time ever, the California Indian Law Association will be honoring a legal professional who has made significant contributions to California Indian law.
Dorothy Alther has been an attorney with California Indian Legal Services (CILS) since 1989 and has practiced Indian law since 1985. Ms. Alther was in the Bishop CILS Office until she relocated to the Escondido Office in 2003. Her current work focuses on tribal issues including environmental law, housing law, tribal ordinance development, and land acquisition. She serves as legal counsel for several Tribes and tribal entities and has worked on tribal court and law enforcement development and a variety of other tribal matters. Ms. Alther has been a trainer on Public Law 280, the Indian Child Welfare Act, housing law, civil and criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country, tribal law enforcement and the Tribal Law and Order Act. Dorothy is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and graduated from University of South Dakota and earned her J.D. from Northeastern University. Ms. Alther served as Managing Attorney at DNA’s People’s Legal Services in Crownpoint, New Mexico prior to coming to CILS and has acted as Tribal Attorney for the Suquamish Tribe in Washington. Ms. Alther is also the recipient of the national 2010 Pierce Hickerson Award which is granted to distinguished Indian legal services attorneys.
“I am deeply honored for this recognition from my colleagues. I have had the privilege to work with so many outstanding California Indian lawyers and to be selected as one of them means so much to me. I will continue to strive to do the best I can for California tribes and native people in order to live up to this prestige award,” said Dorothy Alther, Executive Director of CILS.
Some of Dorothy’s most notable legal work has been at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. On behalf of the Los Coyotes Band of Cupeno and Cahuilla Indians, CILS challenged the Bureau of Indian Affairs lack of funding for tribal law enforcement under the Indian Self-Determination and Educational Assistance Act. Currently, on behalf of the Kumeyaay Cultural Repatriation Committee, CILS is protecting, under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the Kumeyaay tribes’ right to repatriation of Native America human remains estimated to be 9000 years old.
Today the Office on Violence Against Women announced funding for collaboration between SHNWC and CILS to support comprehensive legal services through direct representation and advocacy for Native American victims in order to enhance victim safety and autonomy. The $500,000, 3 years grant will be used to provide holistic, culturally appropriate advocacy and legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking by addressing noticeable service gaps.
“This program will provide victims with a safety plan, crisis intervention assistance, a danger assessment, and restraining order assistance to meet their emergency and immediate needs,” said Dorothy Alther, Executive Director of CILS. “Most victims have access to legal services that are limited to obtaining a temporary restraining order. As appropriately named, these orders are “temporary.” Victims need much more than a temporary order of protection. The goal of our program is to provide the victim with permanent protection and long term legal relief in areas of divorce, child custody, visitation, division of community property if appropriate, division of debt, and child and spousal support.“
“We are thrilled to extend our services to include culturally appropriate legal services and providing the holistic legal services victims need to combat violence,” said Germaine Omish-Lucero, Executive Director of Strong Hearted Native Women's Coalition. “We provide many other culturally sensitive services to victims, including emergency shelter placement, crisis intervention, advocacy, court accompaniment, support groups, healing circles, teen groups, and community prevention and education.”
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in the White et.al. v. University of California et.al. Kumeyaay Cultural Repatriation Committee (KCRC) upholding the lower court’s dismissal of plaintiffs’ case. At the center of the litigation are two Native American human remains, estimated to be 9,000 years old, discovered in 1976 on the campus of the University of California San Diego (UCSD.) KCRC was formed by the Kumeyaay Tribes of San Diego California in 1997 to protect tribal cultural resources and to ensure proper repatriation of tribal remains. Pursuant to the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), California Indian Legal Services represented KCRC in its efforts for repatriation of the remains from the UCSD, to no avail. Through a lengthy and often bitter battle with the UC’ internal NAGRPA review committees, the committees determined that the remains could not be “culturally affiliated” to the Kumeyaay, a determination that is necessary before repatriation is required under NAGPRA.
In 2010 the National Park Service, the federal agency charged with implementing the NAGPRA, issued long awaited regulations directing federal agencies and certain institutions in possession of Native American remains that were “culturally unaffiliated” to repatriate them to the tribe from whose aboriginal lands the remains were found. It was undisputed that the area where the two Native American remains were discovered are part of the Kumeyaay’s aboriginal lands. Under the new regulations, UCSD agreed that the remains should be repatriated to KCRC and proceeded with the final administrative actions necessary to complete the transfer. On the eve of the expiration of the public notice announcing the repatriation to KCRC, three UC professors: Timothy White from UC Berkeley, Margaret Schoeinger from UCSD and Robert Bettinger, from UC Davis, successfully filed a restraining order to stop the transfer. The UC Board of Regents and CILS, on behalf of KCRC, successfully moved to dismiss the case on grounds of tribal sovereign immunity and that KCRC was an indispensable party.
On appeal the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s dismissal of the plaintiffs’ case affirming: (1) NAGPRA does not provide a congressional waiver of sovereign immunity; (2) KCRC was an “arm of the tribe(s)”; (3) KCRC had not waived its tribal immunity by incorporating under state law or by filing a federal law suit against the UC Board of Regents prior to the plaintiffs’ action; and (4) that KCRC was an indispensable party to the action who could not be joined. The Court’s decision is a great victory for the Kumeyaay Tribes and hopefully an end to the battle for repatriation of the human remains long held by the Tribes to be their native ancestors.
On September 18, 2013 the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) held a tribal leaders consultation session. Seven tribes, CILS and two representatives of tribal members' interests provided comments. The FTB Tribal Consultation Session Report is now posted on the FTB website.