E-Mail Newsletter
March - 2021 Volume 6 Number 25
The Long and Winding Road to Federal Recognition
February 22, 2021: By Dorothy Alther, CILS Executive Director

The federal government defines a “tribe” as “a designated group with whom the federal government has established some kind of political relationship or recognition.” Federal recognition entitles tribes to federal benefits, services, provides governmental immunity from unconsented lawsuits, to establish and be governed by their own laws, and to come within federal statutes that protect tribal resources. How and why countless tribes in California are “unrecognized” is beyond the scope of this paper but is a topic for a later date.

There are two paths to federal recognition: filing a petition with the Office of Federal Acknowledgement (OFA) or seeking congressional recognition through legislation, both paths are time-consuming and expensive.

The OFA is housed within the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the petitioning process and recognition criteria is set forth under federal regulations found at 25 C.F.R. Part 83, recently amended in 2015. There are seven criteria that an unrecognized tribe must meet to have a successful petition:

Changes To CILS Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Legal Services During COVID
March 10, 2021: By Susan Dalati, CILS Escondido office Staff Attorney

The CILS Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault (“DV/SA”) Legal Advocacy Program is housed in CILS’ Escondido Office and is comprised of an attorney and legal advocate. Due to the pandemic, the DV/SA Program staff began providing virtual legal services in March 2020. To date, their services are still being provided virtually. The transition to virtual services has been challenging, but the DV/SA legal staff has met the challenges by assessing their clients’ needs and making changes to accommodate those needs.

One of the significant changes was that DV/SA community providers started to meet more frequently to communicate their current status regarding services and sharing their available resources.

Community Education
Escondido Office Highlight
California Tribal Police Chiefs Association Adopts Police Officer Standards
At its October 29, 2020 meeting, the California Tribal Police Chiefs Association (CTPCA) approved its “Minimum Law Enforcement Standards for California Tribal Police Officers.” The Standards were developed after months of discussion and consideration of current officer hiring standards for tribes and the required qualifications for California peace officers. The Standards are not binding on any tribe, and each tribe, as a sovereign government, is free to determine its own police officer qualifications. The Standards are meant as guidance, but do represent the hiring qualifications for most if not nearly all of the tribal police departments which are current members of the CTPCA. The CTPCA is dedicated to building strong professional tribal police departments in California to ensure the public’s protection and safety in our communities.

Play Your Part - Support Native American Rights
CILS presented via Zoom at a Fair Housing Conference on a panel called "Sources and Applications of Law Under Reservation and Urban Housing Programs."

 CILS is assisting a northern CA tribe with updating their Eviction Ordinance, and the related Leases and Housing policy manual.

 CILS is working on prepared wills for members wanting to complete them during the pandemic. In light of COVID, prepping the client and witnesses (and notary) beforehand is necessary, and setting up a phone conference call to walk them through the will execution process.

 CILS continues to work with tribes on CARES Act expenditures by providing Treasury Guidance on allowable use of their funding and will be preparing for the new Treasury guidance to implement the American Rescue Plan Act. 

 CILS continues to work with am eastern Sierra tribe on their broadband expansion and that was granted an FCC waiver for spectrum over newly acquired trust land by the tribe reserved as a conservation area.

Housing Development Proposed on Ceremonial Ground
The Bishop office has been working with the Mono Lake Tribe on challenging a proposed housing development in Lee Vining, CA. The Tribe is concerned with the destruction of traditional trails and areas where Cry Day ceremonies were held as late as 1988. The case involves AB 52 consultation and CEQA. The Final EIR has been approved, and we are currently awaiting the project's approval by the County Board of Supervisors.

Reunification for Family
The Escondido office worked with a Tribe to support the parents of two infants who had a history of drug problems and domestic violence that brought them under state dependency court jurisdiction. With the help of the Los Angeles Department of Child and Family Services and the Tribe, parents took full advantage of the services and resources offered to them, achieved sobriety, secured stable housing, and successfully reunified with their children. State dependency cases are meant to last up to twelve months but parents’ unstable housing situation and the pandemic extended the time under court jurisdiction. In fact, at one point the parties were prepared to close the case but the mother asked that it remain open a little while longer as she believed she benefited from DCFS and Tribal support. The Tribe believed this request showed remarkable maturity and self-awareness. All concerned were extremely pleased with the outcome.
U.S. v. Cooley Amicus Brief
The Supreme Court accepted cert. in the U.S. v. Cooley case out of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. At issue is the inherent authority of tribal law enforcement officers over non-Indians stopped on a ROW within the boundaries of the reservation who are suspected of committing a tribal, state, or federal crime. CILS, in partnership with the private law firm Jenner & Block LLP, filed an amicus brief on behalf of the California Tribal Chief of Police Association on January 15, 2021, and oral argument is scheduled for March 23, 2021.

Mono Lake Indian Community Recognition Bill
House of Representative Jay Obernolte (Rep. Dist. 8) is the successor to Rep. Cook, who had introduced the Tribe’s Recognition Bill. We are working with Obernotle’s new staff to get the bill reintroduced.
CILS is also trying to get a Democratic Representative to co-sponsor the bill. The Mono Lake Indian Community was featured on the LA Times’ front page last week, and we hope that the attention will motivate CA congressional representatives to support the bill.

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California Indian Legal Services