Bishop Paiute Tribes Sues Inyo County for Prosecuting Tribal Police Officer

On Friday March 6, 2015, on behalf of the Bishop Paiute Tribe, California Indian Legal Services filed a complaint in the California Eastern District Federal Court against Inyo County, its Sheriff and District Attorney.

The complaint seeks a declaration that defendants’ actions of arresting and criminally charging a Tribal Police Officer for carrying out his official duties interferes with the Tribe’s sovereign inherent authority to operate a police department and maintain peace and security on its Reservation. The Tribe also seeks to enjoin the defendants from taking such actions in the future.

Click here to view complaint on Turtle Talk

An excerpt:

This action is for declaratory and injunctive relief by the Bishop Paiute Tribe (“Tribe”), a federally recognized Indian Tribe, against Inyo County, the Inyo County’s Sheriff and District Attorney, for the arrest and prosecution of a Bishop tribal law enforcement officer for performing his duties on the Tribe’s Reservation. The Tribe seeks an order declaring that Defendants are interfering with the Tribe’s inherent sovereign authority to take action, defined by federal law, against non-Indians perpetrators on tribal lands. Federal law establishes that tribes have inherent authority over non-Indians on tribal lands to stop, restrain, detain, investigate violations of tribal, state and federal laws, and deliver or transport the non-Indian to the proper authorities. Duro v. Reina, 495 U.S. 676 (1990), Ortiz-Barraza v. United States, 512 F. 2d 1176 (9 th Cir. 1975). Defendants have arrested, and criminally charged, Daniel Johnson, a duly authorized Bishop tribal law enforcement officer, while he was executing federal prescribed police duties against a non-Indian, on the Tribe’s Federal Reservation.

Click here to view news article about complaint

In Memoriam

CILS wishes to express condolences to CILS Board member Hilary Renick whose father, Patrick Dorn Renick, entered into rest on February 23, 2015. Please visit the full obituary for details as to services and condolences for the family.

CILS’s Dorothy Alther to receive Outstanding Achievement in California Indian Law Award from California Indian Law Association

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.

Dorothy CILASome 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.

When Ms. Alther was asked about her success in practicing Indian law, she said, “I have some basic rules. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. Learn to listen and be respectful of your client’s culture, customs and traditions.”

Hon. Christine Williams, Chief Judge for the Shingle Springs Band Of Miwok Indians Tribal Court and 2013-2014 CILA President said, “On behalf of the Board of Directors of the California Indian Law Association, it is with deep admiration that we recognize Dorothy Alther for all of her great contributions to California Indian Law, with the inaugural ‘Outstanding Achievement in California Indian Law Award.’ We could not think of a more deserving candidate and we are honored she has accepted the award.”

The 14th Annual California Indian Law Gala will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct 16, 2014, followed by the 14th Annual California Indian Law Conference from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 17, 2014, at the Pechanga Resort & Casino, Temecula. Dorothy’s career long commitment to Indian law will be highlighted at an awards ceremony at the Gala and Dorothy will also be presenting on the Topic of “The Ethics of Representing Tribes” the following day at the Conference. For the full agenda and details visit the CILA website:

California Indian Legal Services is the largest non-profit Indian law firm in California with four offices statewide and has been in operation for 45 years. CILS represents California Tribes, tribal organizations, and low-income individuals on matters of Indian law.

Further information:

Nicole Scott

Director of Marketing and Development

California Indian Legal Services

T: (760) 746-8941

Download a .pdf copy of this Press Release.

Strong Hearted Native Women’s Coalition and California Indian Legal Services Receives $500,000 Grant

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.”

Strong Hearted Native Women’s Coalition, Inc. was founded in 2005 to heighten awareness against Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Youth Violence, and Stalking in North County of the San Diego County.

CILS is the largest non-profit Indian law firm in California with four offices statewide and has been in operation for 45 years. CILS represents California Tribes, tribal organizations, and low-income individuals on matters of Indian law.

The purpose of the collaboration is to provide legal solutions to women and their families, who have fled violence in the home.

Further information:

Germaine Omish-Lucero,

Executive Director

Strong Hearted Native Women’s Coalition, Inc.

T: (760) 644-4781

Dorothy Alther

Executive Director California Indian Legal Services

T: (760) 746-8941, Ext. 122

.pdf version of this News Release is available.

Victory for the Kumeyaay Tribes

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in the White v. University of California 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.