As Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association and Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund, we write you jointly to follow up in the action taken by the NIGA membership at our annual conference in San Diego, California earlier this year to the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), in the amount of $5,000 and to the July letter asking you to consider taking up NIGA's challenge and consider matching NIGA's $5,000 contribution to support the important work that NARF has been providing to Indian tribes, organizations and individuals who do not have the necessary resources to contract for legal advice and representation.
Many of you know about the accomplishments of the Native American Rights Fund on behalf of Indian Country or have benefitted directly from the Native American Rights Fund's efforts over the years. The unfortunate reality is the grants and contributions from non-Indian philanthropy that have sustained the Native American Rights Fund over the years are no longer sufficient to support all of the cases that NARF is involved with across Indian Country. The Native American Rights Fund is therefore becoming increasingly reliant on tribes like yours for contributions in order to maintain its advocacy on behalf of Native Americans in cases of national significance.
Beginning with the decision in Oliphani v. Suquamish Indian Tribe in 1978 and with increasing frequency since then, the Supreme Court has steadily chipped away at this fundamental principle, both by restricting tribal jurisdiction and by extending state jurisdiction. These anti-Indian decisions by the Supreme Court have made NARF's efforts to protect and strengthen tribal sovereignty more relevant than ever and have led to a Tribal Sovereignty Protection Initiative in partnership with the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the tribes nationwide to restore the traditional principles of inherent tribal sovereignty where those have been undermined and to safeguard the core of sovereignty that remains.
A key component of the Tribal Sovereignty Protection Initiative is the Tribal Supreme Court Project, an effort by tribal leaders to improve the tribal success rate in the Supreme Court through more careful coordination of tribal advocacy efforts in the Supreme Court. The Project has been involved in coordinating national tribal support for many Indian cases decided by the Supreme Court since its inception.
Another key component of the Tribal Sovereignty Protection Initiative is the Judicial Selection project. The Native American Rights Fund worked with several other Native organizations as part of the Judicial Selection Project to urge the nomination of Diane J. Humetewa, an enrolled member of the Hopi Tribe and a well-qualified Native attorney to serve as a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the district of Arizona. The Senate confirmed Ms. Humetewa on May 14, 2014 making her the only Native American to be serving as a judge in the federal judicial system and the only Native American woman to ever sit on a federal bench. In order to continue to educate the federal judiciary about Indian law and Indian Country, we must continue to advocate for qualified Native candidates such as Diane Humetewa to sit on the federal bench as well as other high profile positions in the judicial, political and education arenas. In addition to these national tribal sovereignty issues, NARF continues its assistance in a number of tribal recognition, water rights, hunting and fishing rights and land claims cases on behalf of individual tribes across the nation. The expertise of Native American Rights Fund attorneys in Native religious freedom and repatriation issues is also continually sought out. Altogether, NARF's 16 attorneys are involved in over 90 important cases throughout Indian Country.
We would like to personally thank those tribes who have supported NARF in the past and those tribes who continue to do so. We would also like to encourage all NIGA member tribes who are currently not supporting NARF to join with NIGA and consider matching NIGA's $5,000 contribution to support these invaluable legal efforts, which benefit those among us who cannot help themselves and therefore benefit all of us. We realize that at first blush the urgency we are projecting is that we are just trying to meet NARF's annual budgetary needs. While this is true, it is the only way NARF can continue to be the first line of defense against the constant attacks leveled against our rights and sovereignty. NARF needs your help to continue to protect our rights and sovereignty of and for our people, our nations and those generations still to come.
For those tribes that are already supporting NARF, thank you so much for your consistent and steadfast support of the Native American Rights Fund. If not for your support awe could not do what we do for our Native people and nations. If you can do more or are already giving at a greater amount, I encourage you to contribute to do so as the need is undoubtedly there. We truly appreciate it. NARF must raise almost $8 million every year to meet its annual budget if it is to maintain its current level of advocacy on behalf of our people. Only by standing firm together to protect our rights can we assure the continued success and growth of Indian Country. Thank you for your consideration.
Ernest L. Stevens, Jr. John E. Echohawk
Chairman Executive Director
National Indian Gaming Association Native American Rights Fund