CILS Receives $25,000 Donation from the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians

By Nicole Scott, Director of Marketing and Development

CILS’ Executive Director Heather Hostler, Legal Director Dorothy Alther, and Director of Marketing and Development Nicole Scott attended the awards ceremony at Rincon’s government building.

Pictured from left to right: Rincon’s Donations Committee Members Roslyn Spencer, Treasurer Ed Mazzetti, Donations Chairperson Stephanie Martinez, Donations Committee Member Joseph Constantino, CILS Director of Marketing and Development Nicole Scott, CILS Legal Director Dorothy Alther, CILS Executive Director Heather Hostler, Councilmember John Constantino, Chairman Bo Mazzetti, and Donations Committee Secretary Liz Rogers.



“We are elated to be selected to receive such a generous donation from the Rincon Tribal Leadership and Giving Committee and their meaningful partnership.,” said Heather Hostler, Executive Director. “Because of these funds and other tribal donations, CILS we can focus on the good work that CILS has been doing since 1967 and launch into a new vision to continue to benefit tribal communities. ”

Rincon Chairman Bo Mazzetti stated, “All of our tribes in California have come a long way since the founding of the California Indian Services in 1967. All along the way, we have been met with challenges to our Sovereign rights to control our own destiny! When these challenges faced us over the years, who could and who did we turn to for help? California Indian Legal Services! Let’s not forget what CILS has and is doing for us today. Let’s say thank you and continue to support their important work.”

“CILS appreciates the continual financial support that the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians provided us and also the acknowledgment by the Tribe of the important past and current legal work CILS has and does do throughout Indian Country,” said Dorothy Alther, Legal Director. “With the Tribe’s funding, we can reach more and provide greater services to low-income Native Americans and CA tribes. Thank you, Rincon Tribe.”

You can help too. Your support makes justice possible. Help our mission to protect and advance Indian rights, foster Indian self-determination, and facilitate tribal nation-building. Click here to donate.


Eureka Office Highlights

By Denise Bareilles, CILS Eureka office Directing Attorney

Here are a few examples of the good work from our Eureka office:

CILS gave training “Guardians Ad Litem (GAL) and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in Tribal Courts” on August 17th, 2021. The training discussed the various ways a Tribal Court may consider setting up a GAL or CASA program and potential resources available. Training topics included: the different types of guardian’s ad litem used in court proceedings; their roles and responsibilities; the benefits of using GALs and CASAs; considerations for establishing a program; incorporating GAL and CASA provisions in a Tribal Ordinance; and resources available to start a GAL or CASA program such as the local University to utilize social worker students, and the National, state, and/or local CASA programs. Tribal Courts throughout California attended, including a few Tribal Courts located outside of California.

CILS is rescheduling its training in conjunction with the Yurok Tribal Court, Hoopa Valley Tribal Court, and the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on “Pro Bono Representation for Domestic Violence Matters in Tribal Courts.” Be on the lookout for a Save The Date Announcement in the next few weeks.

The pandemic has kept CILS on its toes to shift platforms for its “Basic Estate Planning” Clinic scheduled on September 9th, 2021, at the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria. To protect our community and elders, we changed the clinic from in-person to one-on-one phone consult appointments. Please contact the Eureka office as soon as possible to schedule a one-on-one phone appointment set for September 9th, 2021. We will address general estate planning issues, durable powers of attorney, advance health care directives, designation of beneficiaries for tribal housing, and the American Indian Probate Reform Act.

Sales tax does not apply when a car dealership transfers ownership of a vehicle to a Native American purchaser in Indian country, provided the Native American lives in Indian country. CILS assisted an individual with explaining to the car salesperson that it was not required for the Native American purchaser to live on the specific reservation where ownership transfers. CILS contacted the dealership and forwarded legal authority confirming the client’s position to the car salesman. The individual is going forward with purchasing the automobile by delivery in Indian Country although she does not live on the reservation where the vehicle will be delivered.

CILS successfully advocated on behalf of a tribal social services department to enforce the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) placement preferences for a California Indian child in an out-of-state dependency court. Upon removal, the state child welfare agency initially placed an Indian child with a foster family that did not comply with ICWA placement preferences. CILS quickly advocated for the child to be moved to a tribal member placement that was the Tribe’s preferred placement. The child will maintain a familial relationship with a half-sibling. In preparation for filing a contested motion for change in placement, CILS advised the Tribe that the preferred placement should establish regular visitation with the child and assist in developing the child’s cultural connections with Tribe. A full evidentiary hearing occurred with the child welfare department, mother, father, and child’s current placement opposing Tribe’s motion to change the placement. Ultimately, CILS was successful, and the court granted the Tribe’s motion for change in placement. The child will now be connected and raised with his extended family, Tribe, and culture.

CILS successfully advocated on behalf of a tribal social services department for the county social services agency to utilize and bear the cost of using a Qualified Expert Witness (QEW) designated by the tribe. The county’s practice utilized one expert witness as the designated QEW on most of its ICWA cases. This county QEW was frequently unfamiliar with the particular tribe involved, the tribe’s position, or the tribe’s preferred and designated QEW. CILS successfully educated the county on QEW qualifications, and the county’s legal responsibility to provide and pay the reasonable costs of an appropriate expert witness. A contested hearing on the issue was avoided. The county contracted and paid for the tribe’s preferred and designated QEW, who was a true expert with firsthand knowledge of the tribe and its child-rearing practices.

CILS is actively working with a tribal government agency to review and update tribal law for child support cases and drafting policies and procedures for processing child support cases through its tribal court. Program implementation should begin in the next few years which will allow for a tribal process for enforcing child support cases under tribal jurisdiction.

CCC Enrollment and Outreach Campaign


CCC Enrollment and Outreach Campaign

The California Community College Chancellor’s Office is reaching out to California’s American Indian Alaska Native (AIAN) community in the hopes of partnering/collaborating on raising the number of AIAN students enrolling and completing their degrees at community colleges across the state.

The Chancellor’s Office will conduct a two-week enrollment marketing and outreach campaign “blitz” beginning Aug. 23, 2021. We’re planning to celebrate the value California Community Colleges bring to each and every student and their communities. The campaign is designed to help collective fall enrollment efforts finish strong and highlight late-start opportunities. As part of this blitz, iHeart Radio is conducting the I CAN Win Cash for College sweepstakes which includes a $5,000 grand prize.

Your assistance is needed to make sure that we reach each and every prospective AIAN student. Whether they are just beginning their higher educational journey, are returning, or are looking to expand their career opportunities, we are here to help them achieve their goal! We will be reaching out throughout this campaign with outreach material both in print and digital and ask that you share the flyer (click button below to download flyer) with your community via in person and on social media. If you have any questions, please contact us at

CAN Flyer






California Wildfire Information

The following resources are available for tribal communities impacted by the wildfires.

Inter Tribal Long Term Recovery Foundation link



2020 Ca Wildfires Helping Handbook


CILS Announces Heather Hostler as Next Executive Director

On September 7, 2021, CILS will be welcoming a new Executive Director, Heather Hostler, working in our Sacramento Office. For my part, I will be remaining in our Escondido Office in my new role as CILS Legal Director. While organizational change can be hard and challenging, it can also bring new ideas, energy, and improvements to an organization. CILS has been my home for over 30 years, and I am confident that Heather, with my full support and that of staff, can enhance CILS and keep it the premier non-profit Indian law firm it has always been.

I am looking forward to my new role as Legal Director, which will allow me to devote all my attention to being an Indian law lawyer once again and working more closely with our great team of CILS attorneys and advocates. Doing Indian law and representing Native American individuals and tribes has been my passion for the 36 years of being an attorney. It was an honor and a privilege to be the Executive Director of CILS for the last eight years. Still, I am looking forward to my new position and contributing to the legal program that I love and the communities we serve.

Welcome, Heather, and this new chapter at CILS.

With appreciation,
Dorothy Alther
CILS Executive Director

California Indian Legal Services Announces Heather Hostler as Next Executive Director

SACRAMENTO, CA, August 30, 2021 – The Board of Trustees of California Indian Legal Services is honored to announce that it has selected the California Department of Social Services Office of Tribal Affairs Director Heather Hostler to be CILS’ next Executive Director. Heather will succeed current CILS Executive Director Dorothy Alther.

“It is my pleasure to announce that the CILS Board of Trustees has hired the new Executive Director, Heather Hostler. She will be the ED beginning September 7, 2021. Heather has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Native American Studies from Humboldt State University and over twenty years experience working with tribal governments,” said Mark Romero, Board Chair of California Indian Legal Services. “Let’s all welcome her and work with her towards a bright future for CILS.”

Heather has garnered an outstanding reputation as a passionate advocate and positive change maker for Native Americans in California in her current role as Director of the Office of Tribal Affairs in the California Department of Social Services. Before that, she was the Chief Deputy Tribal Advisor to the Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown. She served as the Native American Liaison at the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs and the Program Manager for Grants and Scholarships at the Humboldt Area Foundation. She also served as the Executive Administrator for the Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairman. She began her career at Native Cultures Fund and North Coast Cultural Trust and currently serves on the Tribal Court State Court Forum.

“I am excited to start my new chapter of leading CILS,” said Heather Hostler. “As someone who grew up on the Hoopa Valley tribal village of Tak’mil-ding, I have a deep appreciation for the interconnected struggles of Native American families and a personal connection to their struggle for racial, economic, and environmental justice. Today, Native Americans are on the frontline of democracy reform, and legal aids like CILS will continue to lead the charge for every major social issue for their communities. CILS will continue the fight for a fairer, more just society, every day, for as long as it takes—just like they have always done for over fifty years.”

“I am delighted that the board has selected Heather Hostler as CILS’s next Executive Director. The board could not be more thrilled for the continued growth and development of our organization under her leadership,” said CILS Vice-Chairman Joe Ayala. “Serving on the CILS board has been an opportunity for me to grow and give. I am grateful to all the dedicated partners, lawyers, and advocates that I have been fortunate to work with along the way. CILS’ fight for a just, free, and equitable society for all has never been more important, and Heather is the right leader for this important moment.”