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FBI Director pledges continued support for Indian Country crime victims

December 11, 2014 – At the 14th National Indian Nations Conference, which convened today on the reservation of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in California, FBI Director James Comey pledged the Bureau’s “unshakeable” commitment to tribal nations.

The Bureau has unique and important responsibilities in Indian Country, Comey told more than 1,000 conference attendees. Investigating crimes and assisting victims there, he said, “will be a priority of the FBI under my stewardship.”

The Indian Nations conference, sponsored by the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime and coordinated by the Tribal Law and Policy Institute, brings together Native Americans and a range of community and government agencies and service providers to share knowledge and develop programs to help those impacted by violence on tribal lands.

Comey noted that his interest in the FBI’s Indian Country work is driven by his responsibilities as Director, but also by something more—his family. Last summer, his two youngest daughters went on a mission trip to a reservation and came home, he said, “with their eyes wide open about the challenges on the reservation. They said, ‘Dad, you’ve got to do something, you’ve got to do more.’”

The FBI has investigative responsibility for 212 Indian reservations nationwide, and about 115 special agents work in our Indian Country program. Additionally, 41 victim specialists from our Office for Victim Assistance serve Native American crime victims. The Director acknowledged that those numbers should be higher.

To begin to address staffing and resource needs, Comey said, he has asked the Indian Country Crimes Unit and Office for Victim Assistance at FBI Headquarters to submit proposals detailing the need for increased staff, specialized training, and additional equipment. “I can’t do everything,” he explained, “but I know that I can do better.”

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Anishinabe Legal Services is seeking a full-time staff attorney

Anishinabe Legal Services is seeking a full-time staff attorney to provide civil legal assistance and court representation to program clients before area Tribal Courts, State Courts and Administrative Forums.

BACKGROUND: Anishinabe Legal Services (ALS) is a Legal Services Corporation (LSC) funded 501(c)(3) organization providing free legal assistance and court representation to low-income individuals living on or near the Leech Lake, White Earth, and Red Lake Indian Reservations in northern Minnesota. Legal services are provided through grants and contracts with federal, state, and tribal governments, along with generous funding support from various foundations.

RESPONSIBILITIES: ALS is looking for a well-qualified and highly motivated licensed attorney to provide civil legal assistance and court representation to program clients before area Tribal Courts, State Courts, and Administrative Forums. This attorney will be housed out of our main administrative office on the Leech Lake Reservation in Cass Lake, Minnesota. Primary duties will include representation of parents in child protection matters before the Leech Lake Tribal Court, housing, and family law, but job duties are likely to include handling a wide variety of civil matters before various forums.

This attorney is expected to be licensed to practice in the State of Minnesota by anticipated start date of position; this attorney is also expected to be licensed or willing to immediately become licensed before the Leech Lake, White Earth, and Red Lake Tribal Courts.

This open staff attorney position at ALS’ Leech Lake Reservation office is currently funded for a 1-year employment term; while ALS will continue to solicit funding to keep the position ongoing indefinitely, there is no guarantee that the position will continue after the 1-year funding cycle is complete.

QUALIFICATIONS: Qualified applicants must possess exceptionally strong oral and written communication skills, negotiation skills, litigation skills, and have exceptional organizational skills with ability to handle a large caseload of client matters throughout a wide geographic service area. Applicants must also be able and willing to work efficiently and effectively as part of a team.

Attorneys with 5+ years of civil practice are strongly preferred, as are applicants with familiarity and experience with practicing before Tribal Courts. Prior experience working within Indian Country is also preferred. Native American attorneys are highly encouraged to apply. EEO, M/F/H.

All applicants are expected to be able to begin work immediately after the hiring decision has been made, likely by the end of November 2014. All applicants are expected to have a valid driver’s license, insurance, and automobile.

COMPENSATION: D.O.E. Benefits include individual and family health and dental insurance, paid time off, and life insurance.

TO APPLY: Please send a cover letter, resume, and three (3) references to ALS Co-Executive Director Cody Nelson, at: Anishinabe Legal Services, PO Box 157, Cass Lake, MN 56633 or email application materials to cnelson@alslegal.org. Applications preferred by November 1, 2014 but will be accepted until the position is filled.

 

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Duluth campus adds nation’s first online tribal administration program

Sarah Connor

(September 18, 2014) Three years after the University of Minnesota-Duluth established the nation’s first  Master of Tribal Administration and Governance program, the school will begin offering an online bachelor’s program for the same curriculum.

The program, approved by the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents last week, will aim to teach students federal Native American laws and the most effective tribal management and governance practices when it becomes available next fall.

The online program is a result of tribe members across the state asking for an off-campus alternative to the in-person classes.

Though the program is an online initiative, students can take the courses in person at UMD, but that will require them to enroll in a four-year program, said Tadd Johnson, director of the Master of Tribal Administration and Governance program.

Everyone enrolled in the program will also have to earn a certificate at UMD’s Labovitz School of Business and Economics to complete their degree, he said.

Johnson came up with the idea upon realizing that those interested in the studies across the country could enroll in courses if they were able to do so remotely.

“There were a lot of folks that had taken a few years of college but were now working on the reservation and wanted to continue working on the reservation,” Johnson said. “But they were too far from Duluth or any other college town to [take courses].”

There are several reservations that call Minnesota home, and many of them are in the northern part of the state near Duluth. Johnson said UMD worked closely with members of those tribes to develop the program to ensure it meets the needs of the state’s native population.

Johnson said since the announcement of the online program last week, the department has received many phone calls and emails from people interested in enrolling in it.

And the graduate program has grown since its creation in 2011, said program associate Tami Lawlor, adding that it has received “extremely positive” feedback. Since its first semester on campus, the program’s enrollment has increased from a dozen students to about 30 this fall, she said.

Johnson, a member of the Bois Forte Band of the Chippewa tribe, said tribes in Minnesota and across the country needed this kind of program so they could continue to become more organized and better equipped to run and manage reservations.

“The only training you could really get for running an Indian reservation was [through] the school of hard knocks and just by being [on the reservation],” he said.

Johnson said he envisions the new program to create a new discipline in tribal management, and he hopes that the best practices for managing a reservation will emerge as the program develops.

“People who work for Indian tribes are serving a population,” he said, “and we’re hoping that this will enable them to better serve the tribal populations on and off the reservation.”

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Grantmaking in Indian Country: Trends from the Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative

LONGMONT, Colo., Sept. 16, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has released a new report titled “Grantmaking in Indian Country: Trends from the Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative” that, among other findings, reveals a large gap between dollars needed for essential Indian Country food projects and the actual funding available for those projects.

That “unmet need” conclusion is based on First Nations’ analysis of the number and amount of grant requests it has received from tribes and reservation-based Native organizations for food-system projects over the past four years. In the report, First Nations notes it was only able to fund 7.18% ($1.73 million) of the $24.1 million requested in a total of 614 grant applications received between 2011 and 2014, leaving an unmet need of more than $22.3 million.

Through its Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI), First Nations has become the largest funder in Indian Country of tribal agriculture and food system projects that are specifically geared toward establishing or reclaiming control of Native food systems. First Nations has enjoyed strong support for these efforts from organizations such as the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, AARP Foundation, Walmart Foundation, The Christensen Fund, CHS Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Community Development Initiative, Office of Advocacy and Outreach, and Community Food Projects.

“The significant number of requests received highlights the fact that food-system issues in Native communities have become an important area of focus as tribes and community organizations look to spur community and economic development and reclaim control of diet, health and local economies,” said the report’s author, Raymond Foxworth, who is First Nations’ senior program officer and deputy director of development, and who also manages NAFSI. “Along with this escalation of importance comes a widening gap in the funding available to meet these needs. Here at First Nations, we’ll be looking for ways to significantly improve the pool of funding that is available to assist these burgeoning Native food and agriculture projects.”

The report also highlights additional trends in American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian food-systems efforts, also based on the grant applications received by First Nations. Among them are:

Most grant requests come from the Southwest, Northern Plains and Midwest regions of the U.S.
Nonprofit or community organizations are the largest applicants, followed by tribes themselves and tribal colleges.

The top areas of interest are health and nutrition education, traditional food systems, development of community food systems, and creating new opportunities in food systems and agriculture.

The complete report is available for free in the Knowledge Center of First Nations’ website. Go to this link to access a copy: http://firstnations.org/knowledge-center/foods-health. You may have to set up a free user account to download the report.

About First Nations Development Institute
For 34 years, using a three-pronged strategy of educating grassroots practitioners, advocating for systemic change, and capitalizing Indian communities, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native American communities. First Nations serves Native American communities throughout the United States. For more information, visit www.firstnations.org.

Program Contact:
Raymond Foxworth, First Nations Deputy Director of Development & Senior Program Officer
rfoxworth@firstnations.org
(303) 774-7836 x207

Media Contact:
Randy Blauvelt, First Nations Senior Communications Officer
rblauvelt@firstnations.org
(303) 774-7836 x213

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Federal Spending in Indian Country: Interior Appropriations

From the Friends Committee on National Legislation 

The bill that appropriates money for the Department of the Interior is very important to Indian Country. Although Native American programs show up in 11 of the 12 appropriations bills that Congress is supposed to approve each year, this particular appropriations bill funds several core agencies: the Bureau of Indian Education, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Indian Health Service, as well as tribal programs administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service and others.

Action so far: The House Appropriations Committee approved its appropriations bill (H.R. 5171) for these and other Interior Department programs; the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment is circulating a draft, but has not made any decisions yet. It is not likely that this appropriations bill will pass, because Congress has little time left in its calendar before the end of the fiscal year (September 30). However, it is likely that the recommendations in H.R. 5171 and in the Senate Subcommittee’s draft will be strongly considered if Congress decides to put together an “omnibus appropriations” bill at the end of this calendar year.

Representative Ken Calvert, the chair of the House appropriations subcommittee that considered this bill, noted that total funding for these three significant agencies was increased by 5 percent – an unexpected positive in these days of austerity for all departments except the Department of Defense. The House Subcommittee acknowledged in its report (House Report 113-551) that “The federal government has a legal and moral obligation to provide quality services to American Indians and Alaska Natives,” and cites the committee’s bi-partisan efforts “to protect, and where possible, to strengthen” the budgets for these programs. The Subcommittee also noted that Native American programs are very decentralized – more than 85 percent of the federal dollars provided for Indian affairs are spent locally, and more than 62 percent of go directly to tribal governments and organizations.

What’s in the bill?

Support for tribal governments: In the House Interior and Environment appropriations bill, about a half billion dollars would be allocated in FY 2015 to support tribal governments, self-governance compacts, oversight, funds for new and “small and needy” tribes, road maintenance, and the Indian self-determination fund. Tribes are challenged to manage a wide range of federal programs; the investment in tribal governance structures indirectly supports the effectiveness of all other federal investments in Indian country. The Senate draft bill recommends a $10.6 million increase over the FY 2014 appropriations level for these programs. The House bill provides a $12.6 million increase, allowing an additional $2 million for road repair, with particular attention to roads travelled by school buses.

Education: The Bureau of Indian Education oversees 183 schools, ranging from pre-school through secondary schools; more than two-thirds are operated directly by tribal governments or tribal organizations. Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Sally Jewell, testified last spring that more than a third of these schools are badly in need of repair. In May, Senator Tester of Montana, chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, pointed out in an oversight hearing that the school construction budget for Indian country was a tiny fraction of the amount allocated for construction to the schools operated by the Department of Defense. For an equivalent number of schools, the Department of Defense is allocated $315 million compared to $2 million for the Bureau of Indian Education. In June Secretary Jewell released a “Blueprint for Reform,” realigning the federal role in Indian education.

Against that backdrop of increased concern, the House appropriations bill includes an additional $31.9 million for the Bureau of Indian Education, and an increase of $57 million in the construction budget line, directing the increase to school repair and reconstruction. The Senate draft bill recommends a $4.6 million increase for the Bureau of Indian Education, and only a $248,000 increase for school construction. The House sub-committee’s report expressed strong support for pre-school education, native language immersion, and tribal flexibility in the operation of the schools. The Senate report encouraged interagency coordination among the many programs that affect the well-being of Native children.

Health care services and facilities*: The House bill would appropriate a total of $4.6 billion for the Indian Health Service (IHS) – a $208 million increase over the current year. The Senate draft recommendation is only slightly lower. The proposed increases make up for some budget cuts made in the current year, and take into account inflation and needed adjustments in salaries for health care personnel. The increases also allow a margin to begin offering services to newly recognized tribes. Of the total, $462 million ($460 million in the Senate draft) is for construction, repair and maintenance of health care facilities. The remainder funds health care services, including external referrals and other services that the IHS purchases ($929 million in the House bill, $881 million in the Senate draft). Also included is a retroactive payment to cover previous contracts with tribes that have been managing health care services without adequate reimbursement ($617 million for Contract Support Costs in both bills).

Human services: Like state and local governments, tribes also administer social service programs. The biggest share of these funds supports welfare assistance, social services, Indian child welfare programs, and housing improvement. Both the House bill and the Senate draft would increase these funds by about $10 million, providing support for a new family initiative called “Tiwahe” to “strengthen tribal communities and protect children in Indian country.“

Public safety and justice: The Tribal Law and Order Act and the amendments to the Violence Against Women Act gave tribal justice authorities additional responsibilities. The Senate draft recommends an increase of $1.8 million to support tribal courts, police and fire protection. The House bill recommends a $2.8 million increase, with most of the additional funds supporting tribal police.

Though this bill may not be the vehicle by which tribal programs are funded in the next year, it is heartening to see the bi-partisan commitment in both the House and the Senate to listen to tribal leaders who have come to Washington to testify and to meet with congressional representatives, and to begin find a path forward out of some of the more difficult challenges – such as reimbursing for past contract support costs, rebuilding crumbling schools (and roads), and expanding health care services to better meet the needs of tribal members.

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*Although the Indian Health Service is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, its annual appropriations are handled through the Department of Interior appropriations bill.

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Senate OKs Sally Jewell as new Secretary of the Interior

WASHINGTON (From the LATimes) – The Senate approved REI Chief Executive Sally Jewell Wednesday as the new secretary of the Interior by a vote of 87 to 11.

Jewell, 58, had faced tough questioning by some Senate Republicans during her confirmation hearing in early March. But in comparison to some Obama Cabinet nominees, she sailed through the committee and full Senate votes.

A Washington outsider, Jewell began her career as a petroleum engineer before moving into banking and, finally, taking the helm of REI, the outdoor equipment retail chain based in Washington state.

Jewell’s long history in the private sector won over some Republicans, including Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander. But others questioned whether she would be open to expanded oil and gas drilling on federal lands, given her long service on the board of the National Parks Conservation Assn., an environmental group.

As the new Interior secretary, Jewell will have to balance the competing and sometimes opposing demands of protecting public lands and managing the resources they hold, whether open space for solar farms or rich deposits of minerals and fossil fuels.

Her predecessor, Ken Salazar, frustrated environmentalists and industry alike. Environmentalists pilloried the Interior Department for opening the Arctic Ocean to oil drilling by Shell. On the flip side, oil companies and their congressional allies criticized Salazar for enacting a temporary moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said of Jewell: “She made clear in her confirmation hearing that she intends to strike a balance between the dual roles of conserving and developing resources. That’s exactly the right approach to take on the diverse issues facing Interior, including safely developing natural gas, maximizing jobs and opportunities from recreation and improving management of federal forests.”

On Wednesday, the Obama administration proposed a $12-billion budget for the Interior Department that would funnel money to developing renewable energy and conventional sources alike. It also called for spending on climate change adaptation measures and research into hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

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America’s English-Style Legal System Evolved to Conceal Truth, Not Reveal It

The civil adversarial system that developed over centuries in England, and later spread to the U.S. and other colonies, might not work as well as a truth-seeking system.

By Evan Whitton, The Atlantic

June 14 2012 – Taxpayers pay for their countries’ legal systems, including the wages of law officers, judges, legal bureaucrats, regulators, police, and prosecutors. Citizens living under English-style common law legal systems (and in particular those of former colonies Australia and the United States) also increasingly sense there is something wrong with these systems. A poll taken for the Australian Reader’s Digest in 2011 found that judges and lawyers are less trusted there than bus drivers, vets, police, hairdressers, or chefs.

But what exactly is wrong? Whatever it is, it seems that lawyers, including judges and academics, cannot help much; law schools generally teach what the law is, not where it came from, or what ails it, or the cure. If vet schools did that, a lot of cats and dogs would be dead, and a lot more children would be sad.

Chronology is always the first element of deduction, so perhaps an evaluation of the development of the Anglo-American legal system is in order. The following account, drawn largely from the words of more than 300 lawyers and judges over the past few millenia, suggests that the system developed in what we might classify as six stages.

1. Trickle-down extortion. English common law began in 1166. At the time, every public office was for sale; buyers in turn extorted bribes from people who dealt with the office. It seems fair to assume that judges used lawyers as go-betweens for extortions. The entire form of the law, then, evolved from an elaborate dance of bribery and manipulation; hardly a solid foundation upon which to build a society.

2. The cartel. Members of any cartel collude to increase prices and profits. As Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals has said, judges and lawyers have always been a cartel. That may explain why judges have never been trained as judges; one day they are lawyers versed in sophistry — trick questions, false arguments, etc. — and, after either an election or political appointment, judges the next. Hence the uneasy feeling: will a ruling reflect justice, or will it be made for some other purpose? Political ideology? More business for lawyers? Power?

3. Truth rejected. Justice Russell Fox, who researched the law for 11 years after he retired from the Australian Federal Court, said that justice means fairness; fairness and morality require a search for the truth; truth means reality. Judges in England rejected a truth-seeking (inquisitorial) system in 1219. That partly explains why our system can at its worst be unfair, unjust, unreal, and immoral; truth often takes a back seat to process and form.

Continental European countries adopted an inquisitorial system after a church-state conference in November 1215, but of course their judges perverted justice in a different way; for more than five centuries, they believed torture to be a reliable method of finding the truth.

4. The civil adversary system. The system dates back to 1460, when judges began to let lawyers take control of pleadings. Comparing Napoleon’s reformed inquisitorial system with the adversary system would dismay our taxpayers. In France, trained judges are in charge of evidence and questioning witnesses. Paid on a fixed wage, they have little motive to prolong the process. Most hearings take a day or so.

In our system, lawyers control evidence and question witnesses. At $300-plus an hour, they have an incentive to spin the process out. The hearings process can take months or years. Untrained judges do the decent thing: they try to stay awake, often successfully. Yale law professor Fred Rodell said the system is “nothing but a high-class racket”.

5. The criminal adversary system. Lawyers did not defend criminals for more than five centuries: there was no money in it. It was not until the 18th century that they began to do criminal work, and naturally took over the process.

Unfortunately for lawyers, the common law still had few tools they could use to circumvent the truth. With conviction fairly certain, the accused might be reluctant to pay for legal services, choosing instead to keep their money for when they got out. Happily, the rights of the accused were suddenly discovered.

6. Concealing evidence. Over the last 200 years, judges have invented myriad truth-defeating devices, including a few that conceal important evidence. Here are a few:

  • The “right” of silence. The rule against self-incrimination is based on a lie by the first legal academic, a charlatan named William Blackstone. It’s estimated to get off about a quarter of guilty defendants.
  • Concealing context. Serial sex criminals are largely protected by a rule that conceals evidence of a pattern of criminal behavior.
  • Cross-examination. Lawyers are allowed to use sophistry to make honest witnesses look unreliable.
  • Juries. Juries let off about 25 percent of guilty defendants, according to some estimates, because jurors are confused by concepts such as “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In France, evidence is not concealed and lawyers are not allowed to use artful lies to pollute the truth. The innocent are rarely charged; 95 percent of guilty defendants are convicted. Public confidence in the system is high.

In the Anglo-American common law system, lawyers are encouraged to obfuscate the truth and use sophistry to besmirch the integrity of honest witnesses. In the U.S., it is estimated that upwards of four percent of the prison population is innocent (a staggering 80,000 people, more than double the prison population of Canada) — with some on death row — but more than half of guilty defendants get off.

Taxpayers clearly pay too much for too little justice. Changing to a truth-seeking system might be a remedy. This would require, at a minimum: outlawing the concealing of evidence; re-training academics to teach law students techniques of finding the truth instead of mugging up a million ways to defeat it; dismantling the professional cartel by training judges separately from lawyers; appointing six times as many judges, on the basis of rigorous examinations, and giving them back control of the process; compelling lawyers and judges to take an oath to tell the truth; having lay jurors and trial and appellate judges sit together to render their verdicts and levy penalties (if any) together.

Justice Russell Fox said the public knows that “justice marches with the truth.” It’s high time we tried to reunite the two.

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