TRIBAL ALERT: Tribal Eligibility for Opioid Settlement Funds

CILS is partnering with Kevin Washburn, former Assistant Secretary of the BIA and now Dean of the University of Iowa College of Law, to ensure that all tribes are aware of the opioid settlement reached in several different cases throughout the country and their eligible to receive funds from the settlement even if the tribe was not a party in the litigation.

Currently, there are four tribal opioid settlements, and Dean Washburn and his team are using a single website (linked here) to share information about all four settlements. If you want to participate in the settlements, your tribe will need to complete, sign and send both the Distributors Participation Agreement and J&J/Janssen Participation Agreement forms to

Settlement funds must be used for “tribal programs, services and activities to address the opioid crisis in that tribe’s community.” However, this requirement has been given broad definition and includes a list of 100 or more authorized uses of the funds. For example, tribes can fund culturally appropriate and traditional healing programs and activities, wellness courts and other tribal-specific programs and services through its Indian health clinic that the tribe determines will promote healing, recovery and abatement in that tribe’s community.

There is no hard deadline set for submitting the forms but once the parties (the tribal plaintiffs) to the litigation have all signed on to the settlements the distribution process will begin. Make sure you tribe has submitted your participation forms so that you can be considered to share in the award.

If you would like more information about the facts of the potential settlements, more information about the Distributors Settlement is available here, and more information about the the J&J/Janssen Settlement is available here. There are also a Frequently Asked Questions available here, and broader information about each of the settlements can be found here.

If you have questions or need more information you can contact Dean Kevin Washburn and his team at 1-888-616-3880 and at or CILS’ Legal Director Dorothy Alther at

TRIBAL ALERT – Supreme Court to Determine the Constitutionality of the ICWA

This morning the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in Brackeen v. Haaland, the federal court case challenging the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).  The case comes to Court from a decision by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that found the ICWA was constitutional except for certain provisions of the Act such as the requirements for “active efforts” and a “qualified expert witness.” The Fifth Circuit also found that the Act’s placement preference for Indian children with “other Indian families’ was also unconstitutional.  These provisions are at the heart and core of the ICWA.

The case will be heard later this fall, which will allow tribes to mobilize their response in support of the constitutionality of the ICWA.  CILS and other tribal ICWA advocacy groups will be calling on all California Tribes and tribal organizations to support and sign on to an amicus brief (“friend of the court brief”) that will be submitted by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).

CILS will continue to update tribes on the briefing timeline and other developments.  If you have questions concerning the case or want to learn more please contact Dorothy Alther at or 760-746-8941.

Thank you and we look forward to your support.

TRIBAL ALERT – Tribes Disqualified from ARP Public Safety and Justice Funding

To All Tribal Leaders;

The BIA is proposing to set aside $772.5 million dollars of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) appropriation for “public safety and justice (PSJ)”.  This set aside will be distributed “based on the existing allocation of base (reoccurring annual) funding level for OJS-funded, tribally operated, programs.”  This means the funding will be allocated to tribes based on their annual 638 contract funding levels for PSJ services which includes tribal courts and law enforcement.

Unfortunately, the BIA does not execute 638 contracts for PSJ funding to tribes in Public Law 280 states (except for Self-Governance tribes).  Since California is a Public Law 280 state, tribes do not have 638 contracts for PSJ funding and thus there is no “base (reoccurring annual) funding level” in which to allocate the $772.5 million to California Tribes.

CILS strongly encourages Tribes in their written comments to the BIA that it develop a fair and equitable funding formula for the distribution of the $772.5 million set aside so that California Tribes, and all tribes in Public Law 280 states, receive PSJ funding.

Written comments are due tomorrow Wednesday March 31, 2021 and should be sent to

If you have any questions, would like further information, or need assistance, please contact Dorothy Alther at

Attached is a sample letter.

Draft Comment Letter


TRIBAL ALERT: Tribal Letters of Support for Federal Legislation to Extend Coronavirus Relief Funds Deadline

Hopefully, you have received the email sent out today from the Native American Financial Officers Association (NAFOA) urging you to send a letter of support for S. 4898. This new legislation will extend the period for all states, tribes, and territories to use the Coronavirus Relief Fund payments from December 30, 2020, to September 30, 2021. California Indian Legal Services strongly urges tribes to submit the letter of support for S. 4898 using the support letter template provided by NAFOA (download the letter here) or contact CILS for any assistance or questions you may have.

You can reach out to NAFOA’s Executive Director, Dante Desiderio, at or (202) 631-2003 or Mica Llerandi at Thank you.


Stay safe and healthy.

TRIBAL ALERT: Support the Governor Signing Important Native American Legislation

To All Tribal Leaders:

Governor Newsom has four (4) Native American bills on his desk that will:

  1. AB 275- Amends CA Native American Grace Protection and Repatriation Act;
  2. AB 2112- Create a statewide “Office of Suicide Prevention”;
  3. AB 2314- Increase Native American Voter Participation;
  4. AB 3099- Provide Public Law 280 training to state law enforcement and foster better coordination between tribal and state law enforcement.

The Governor needs to know NOW that there is tribal support for these important bills since the Governor may sign or devote the bills any day!

Assemblymember James Ramos’ (D-Dist. 40) (member of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians) website provides information on each bill, a sample letter of support can be downloaded, and the Governor’s email address. Please visit

Assemblymember Ramos and CILS thank you for your attention and support of these important new laws; if you have any questions, feel free to contact Assembly Member Ramos’ Chief of Staff Adriana Ruelas at 916-319-2040 or CILS’ Executive Director Dorothy Alther at

Stay safe and healthy.