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.

FTB Tribal Leaders Consultation Report Now Available

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.

In Memoriam of a CILS Colleague

Charlene “Char” Betsillie

March 10, 1945 – August 7, 2014

“During the most difficult times in Indian Country or just the office, Char was always so reassuring that we are fighting the good fight and that we will prevail to make a significant difference for all Native people despite the obstacles in our way. She had a way of calming you even if you were ready to cry or punch the wall,” remembers a co-worker.

CILS is saddened to share that former CILS Administrator, Charlene Roubidoux Betsillie, passed away on August 7, 2014. Charlene began her nearly thirty-year tenure with CILS in April of 1972 and retired in 2004. Her cheerful personality and dedication to family and the Indian community will always be a source of inspiration for all who knew Char. During her tenure at CILS, Char assisted our former Oakland Office attorneys in providing services to the Indian community at a time when no other law firms practiced Indian law. She also provided support to the then long-time Executive Director and all CILS staff on administrative and personnel matters. She was a sweet person, always pleasant and positive to be around. CILS staff remembers her love of giving back to the Native community and her dedication to her daughter and grandchildren. She would drive hundreds of miles to participate in her Tribe’s activities; ceremonial and political. Char’s contributions to the Native community are too many to list, but here are a few:

  • Served on the editorial committee for the book Urban Voices:
    The Bay Area American Indian Community;
  • Served at the Corporate Secretary to CILS Board of Trustees for 18 years;
  • Served as the Oakland & Central Office (Principal office) Manager for 15 years;
  • Operated as CILS’ one-person payroll and human resources departments during the 1970’s and 1980’s;
  • Volunteered at the Friendship House Association of American Indian, Inc. in San Francisco;
  • Competed in tribal beauty pageants during her youth.

While Char resided in the Bay Area for many years, she was proud of her Tribal heritage and had moved home to be with her family near the Yurok Reservation in recent years. Char holds a special place at CILS and in the hearts of many. She was an incredible woman and will be missed dearly.

Tmohkelee’ ‘ne-chekws. – Our heart is broken.

CILS Board Members and Staff Attend YRTC Groundbreaking Ceremony

CILS Board Chair Rachel Joseph and Vice-Chair Mark Romero (Chairman of the Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians), participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Youth Regional Treatment Center (YRTC) in Hemet, California, on July 31, 2014. Mark Vezzola, Directing Attorney of CILS’ Escondido office, also attended the event. The ceremony marked the culmination of decades of work and lobbying on the part of local tribal leaders and Native organizations to address the health needs of Native youth.

Tribes and the federal government operate 10 YRTCs across the country. Each center receives funding from the Indian Health Service to address mental health and substance abuse issues facing American Indian and Alaska Native youth in that area. By using culture-based programs and educational activities, YRTCs aims to help young people overcome challenges so they can become community leaders and role models for future generations. Services include clinical evaluations, counseling, group, individual and family psychotherapy, life skills training, medication management and monitoring, relapse prevention, and post treatment follow up.

Groundbreaking Chairman Romero

Chairman Mark Romero, Mesa








Grande Band of Mission Indians & CILS Board Vice-Chairman

Despite a growing need, there were no YRTCs in the California Area of the Indian Health Service until now. Funding and property have been secured however to build two YRTCs in the state, one in Hemet and another in Yolo County in northern California.

Groundbreaking IHS Rendering

Rendering of future YRTC