Support Tribal Identification Cards! Please Send Letters to Governor Brown Asking For His Signature on SB 997

California currently does not allow notaries public to accept tribal identification cards as a form of valid, personal identification for documents needing  notarization.  California Indian Legal Services in sponsorship with Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) supports Senate Bill 997 which is currently waiting  consideration by Governor Brown.  The Bill would add tribal identification cards to the list of acceptable forms of identification for notarial uses.  California is a vast state where tribal members, especially elders, may lack state-issued identification for a variety of reasons.  Many such individuals rely upon their tribal identification which cannot be used to authenticate their identity on document requiring notarization. SB 997 corrects this problem and brings California in line with other states which already accept tribal identification cards for notarial uses.  Please consider adding your support by letting Governor Brown know that you support SB 997.  Please see the link to a sample letter for your use.  For a complete history of SB 997 please visit:

Thank you for your support!  If you have any questions, please contact Jedd Parr at or Sonia Montero at

TRIBAL ALERT: Funding for California Tribal Courts

California Indian Legal Services and the California Tribal Court Judges’ Association strongly urge you to contact your California Senators and Congressional Representative and encourage them to enact permanent funding for California Tribal Courts.

Tribal Courts situated in Public Law 280 (PL 280) states, such as California, have historically been denied tribal court and law enforcement funding by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). This lack of funding is based, in part, on the misconception that tribal judicial and law enforcement needs are being met by state courts and local law enforcement.  California tribes know this is inaccurate, and that there are real and substantial unmet legal needs on their Reservations and Rancherias.

Through a recent $10 million dollar appropriation, sponsored by Senator Murkowski from Alaska, for the first time, the BIA has been directed to comprehensively assess the needs of PL 280 tribal courts.  It is imperative to procure permanent and sustainable funding for tribal court operations in California and other PL 280 states.

Now is the time to educate your elected officials that California tribes should not be the second tier, and deprived the same benefits and funding shared by tribes in non-PL 280 states.  This is more than an equitable funding issue- it is also a public safety matter that is long overdue for congressional action.

Attached is a sample tribal letter, and you can use the following link to the  House of Representatives directory to locate your Congressperson’s name and address.

Should you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Dorothy Alther at or (760)746-8941. Thank you.

Good News: You can be a Native Foster Parent in Los Angeles County and make a Really Big Difference.

Get started by attending a Community Informational Meeting on Saturday, August 27 from 11AM to 1PM.


Event to Recruit Native Foster Homes in L.A.

Staff Attorney Position Available – Eureka Office

Looking for a Eureka Staff Attorney to work collaboratively with other staff to provide exceptional legal services in all areas of Federal Indian law.

Program Description:

California Indian Legal Services is a statewide, tribally controlled, non-profit corporation that provides legal services to Indian tribes, Indian organizations and low-income individual Indians on issues involving Federal Indian Law.  CILS provides a variety of legal services including brief counsel and advice and extended representation on core legal issues affecting Native Americans and Indian tribes.  CILS is involved in litigation, policy analysis and advocacy and also provides transactional services to tribes involving economic development and tribal infrastructure.

CILS has four offices throughout California.  Our Sacramento office provides legal services in 7 counties that include 18 of the 110 federally recognized tribes in California.  Additional information about CILS may be found on our website, at

Job Description:

Supervised by the Directing Attorney, the Staff Attorney will work collaboratively with other staff to provide exceptional legal services in all areas of Federal Indian law.  Our fast-paced office provides legal services on issues of jurisdiction, tax, estate planning, trust assets, environmental law, natural resource development, tribal governance, employment and the Indian Child Welfare Act.  The Staff Attorney will assume a varied case load that may include: brief counsel and services to low-income Indian individuals; state and federal court litigation; contract negotiation; advising tribal clients; developing and implementing constitutions, codes, and policies for tribal clients; making presentations; and ICWA related dependency cases.


  • California bar membership in good standing.
  • Demonstrated knowledge of Federal Indian law with at least 1-2 years of experience practicing law.
  • Excellent communication, writing and organizational skills.
  • Strong work ethic and able to work nights and weekends when many tribal councils meet.
  • Ability to travel and a valid driver’s license.
  • A commitment to providing high-quality legal services for Indian people.
  • Ability to work independently, as part of a team and to take initiative.

The following qualifications are desirable but not absolutely required:

  • Familiarity or experience working with Indian individuals, tribes or Indian communities.
  • Prior legal services experience.

Eureka Staff Attorney Job Announcement

Supreme Court Upholds Enrollment Rule for Indian Children

By Mark Radoff & Mark Vezzola

San Francisco, July 14, 2016

The California Supreme Court recently invalidated a rule of court compelling counties to enroll tribal children in pre-ICWA dependency cases but affirmed Social Service’s obligation to assist in enrollment after an Indian child finding has been made. The case, which is cited as In re Abbigail A., Ct.App. 3 C074264 originated in Sacramento County.

Rule of Court 5.482(c) required counties to apply “active efforts” to enroll children before being deemed an Indian child and compelled the agency to “secure enrollment” after a tribe responds that a child may be eligible, but before eligibility or enrollment has occurred. Sacramento County objected that the rule essentially put the cart before the horse and applied the Act (and its active efforts standard) in advance of an ICWA finding. The state high court agreed and held that Rule of Court 5.482(c) exceeded state and federal statutory language.

By contrast, Rule of Court 5.484(c)(2) defines the actions that constitute “active efforts” and includes requiring the county agency to assist in enrolling Indian children who are eligible for membership. Social Services, by stepping into the parents’ shoes, already assume a number of legal responsibilities for dependent children such as enrolling them in school, health care, and special education. Facilitating tribal membership is also one of those duties. This is significant because the agency usually possesses documents that tribes need to enroll a minor, such as birth certificates and social security cards.

The facts in Abigail A. were complicated by the fact that the minor’s father was not enrolled in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Both the  lower court’s record and the Tribe stated that the minors could not be enrolled until the father’s membership was completed. Sacramento County argued that this created a new class of ICWA children, ones who may be eligible but whose parents had not perfected tribal membership.

The rule was designed to capture the in-between period after a tribe notifies the court of eligibility, but before the paperwork can be completed. Rule of Court 5.482(c) authorized the lower court to treat those cases as if they were Indian children and mandated that the agency expedites securing enrollment.

In striking down Rule 5.482(c) the Court did not preclude application of the ICWA once a child has been deemed eligible and a finding has been made that a child is defined as an Indian child for purposes of the ICWA. In other words, if a child is found to be  an Indian child the Act applies, but  during the period before that finding is made, the rule (which was invalidated) cannot require a substantive application of the ICWA. Nothing in the decision appears to excuse the agency’s ongoing obligation of notice and inquiry, and the ruling does not exempt Social Services from its duty to assist in enrolling Indian children after the ICWA finding has been made.

Learn more about the Abigail A. case and ICWA cases in general here: