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Sept 2020                                                                             Volume 6, Number 23
 
House Bill for Federal Recognition of the Mono Lake Kutzadikaa Tribe Introduced by Congressman Paul Cook 

photo: www.monolake.org
From the Mono Lake Kutzadikaa Tribal Council Lee Vining, CA - September 14, 2020: Congressman Paul Cook, who represents California's 8th District, is introducing a new bill to the House of Representatives, establishing Federal Recognition for the Mono Lake Kutzadikaa Tribe. 
 
The Mono Lake Kutzadikaa have existed since time immemorial in the Mono Basin of east-central California. Though first encountered in 1825 by early trappers in the area, they were not officially documented by the Federal Government until June 1852. The tribe has sought federal recognition for decades. 

Believing that recognition might lead to land for the Tribe, the Tribe submitted a letter of "Intent to Petition for Recognition" in 1976 to the Office of Federal Acknowledgement and began working on a petition for recognition, an effort that continues today.

The Mono Lake Tribe's recognition has been one of the longest-lasting cases at CILS. In response to the recognition bill, Dorothy Alther, CILS Executive Director and lead legal counsel for the Tribe said, "I cannot fully express my gratitude to Representative Cook for introducing the Mono Lake Tribe's recognition bill. I have had the privilege of working with the Tribe over a decade and find no tribe more worthy of federal recognition. While we are excited, we also acknowledge the legislative process can be long and arduous, but the Tribe and CILS are dedicated to seeing the process through. Thank you again, Representative Cook."
Participate in CILS - COVID-19 Impact Survey
COVID-19 Individual Impact Survey
California Indian Legal Services (CILS) is requesting your participation in assessing the impact of COVID-19 on individuals in California. We will be using your responses to this survey to develop programs and services to better assist individuals living in California.

This survey will take 3-4 minutes.

As a thank-you for your time and assistance in completing this survey, please provide you name and email address to be entered into the drawing for one of five (5) prizes - $50.00 gift card. The survey will end October 31, 2020 and winners will be contacted the first week in November.
COVID-19 Tribal Impact Survey
Thank you for participating in this survey. California Indian Legal Services (CILS) your assistance in assessing the impact of COVID-19 on tribal communities. We will be using your responses to this survey to develop programs and services to better assist tribal governments in responding to COVID-19 currently and in the future.

This survey will take 2-3 minutes.

Your time as a tribal leader is important and we thank you for taking the time to help CILS improve future services for tribal governments! The survey will end October 31, 2020. If you are able, we would greatly appreciate your participation in the individual survey as well.

 
 Tribal Elections 
2020 is a big election year. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many state and tribal governments are looking to voting by mail (VBM) as a safe way to conduct elections. However, Native voter advocates raise concerns that VBM disenfranchises Native voices.[1] Tribes who are reviewing their ordinances and grappling with ways of keeping their voters safe should consider the issues raised here.
Tribal Ordinances
Before making any changes to the election process, tribes should first review their election ordinances and governing documents. Tribes should determine whether a change requires a new ordinance or an amendment to the constitution. For example, if a tribe determines VBM is the best option to protect the health of voters, the tribe should verify that ordinances or the constitution support VBM for all voters, not just those residing out of tribal lands.
 CAUTION: WET FLOORS = TRIBAL TORT CLAIMS
What is a tort? A tort is something someone does or fails to do that harms the person or property of another. Negligence, for example, is a type of tort, as is conversion, making someone else's property your own. What do torts have to do with Indian tribes? Torts occur every day and everywhere, including on Indian reservations, including Indian casinos. Consider all the possible ways to get injured in a casino, a place full of large, metal machines with blinking lights and zippy sounds, area rugs and mats, cleaning equipment, and patrons maneuvering between a maze of slot machines, shops, and restaurants.

Imagine an Indian casino patron entering a restroom and slipping on the wet floor. Maybe someone forgot to leave out a caution sign. Perhaps there was a sign outside the door, but the patron missed it because he was glued to his smartphone. Maybe the patron ignored the sign because he just had to go. Chances are there will be at least two sides to the story of what happened. Thorough documentation and investigations are necessary to ferret out the truth. But how do you get there? Whatever happened, this is a tort claim the patron will likely pursue, especially if he sustained bodily injury.


Photo from the Marshall Project
Streamlined Path to Firefighting Employment for the Formerly Incarcerated  
Assembly member Eloise Gómez Reyes (D-47th) of San Bernardino introduced AB 2147 in February 2020 and Governor Newsom signed the bill in early September. The law takes effect January 1st, 2021.

AB 2147 represents a clear eyed and fair minded "ban-the-box" law intended to reduce unnecessary barriers to employment for individuals with conviction histories. "Ban-the-box" laws prohibit the required disclosure of conviction histories in job applications until prospective employers extend an initial offer of employment to a job applicant. "Ban-the-box" laws are built on solid, long term evidence that conviction histories are too often arbitrarily used to prevent post-conviction employment. Gainful post-conviction employment is one of the key factors that enables formerly incarcerated individuals to successfully re-join their communities.

2020 California Native American Day Celebration Goes Virtual
Escondido, CA - September 15, 2020: The California Tribal Chairpersons Association is honored to announce the 2020 California Native American Day Celebration - A Virtual Event, held from September 23 through California Native American Day on September 25, 2020.

Respecting the health and safety of communities across the state, CTCA is turning the 53rd California Native American Day virtual. Focusing on 2020 as a year of battles to protect health, financial well-being, sovereignty of tribal nations, and culture, the all virtual event seeks to empower and uplift the voices of those who continue to fight each day for Native people, and promote understanding as to why Native communities fight not to defeat, but to include.

This year's theme is Healing Nations - Protecting Elders, Women, and Children which will carry through three days of virtual celebration in video snippets via the California Native American Day Facebook page.

Learn More
  Lessons Learned from California ICWA Cases this Year 
Ruslana Lurchenko/Shutterstock
Since the enactment of AB 3176 in 2019, California case law has begun to define when there is "reason to believe" a child is an Indian child (which comes with the duty of further inquiry of Indian status by the county agency), and "reason to know" (which comes with the requirement of providing formal notice to tribes). AB 3176 was a tribally sponsored bill which sought to incorporate 2016 federal ICWA regulations from the Bureau of Indians Affairs into California law. As recent California cases illustrate, understanding when further inquiry should occur and when formal notice to tribes is required should be of utmost concern to courts, county agencies, and tribes. Failure to provide appropriate inquiry and or notice may result in unnecessary delays and infringes on the rights of tribes to be involved in cases involving their children.
Virtual GATHER Screening on California Indian Day
Celebrate California Indian Day on September 25 with free exclusive screening of GATHER followed by panel discussion with message from Jason Momoa and performance by Raye Zaragoza. Brought to you by the California American Indian & Indigenous Film Festival.
Tribal, Cultural, & Religious Items at Graduation
Do you have the right to wear tribal regalia or other items of religious or cultural significance, like an eagle feather, at your graduation ceremony? Yes, you do. Under California law, you have the right to wear tribal regalia at your school graduation ceremony. You can advocate for yourself or your student by informing your school of your rights and asking your school principal to respect them. Use this letter template to send to your school provided by the American Civil Liberties Union of California.

Saving Our Stories
California I CAN needs your help. Tribal cultural heritage-conveyed by storytellers, elders, family members, researchers, community guests, and others-supports tribal identity, language, and the surrounding ecosystems. They are working with California tribal members and community to create and distribute the Saving Our Stories survey. It will describe the extent and nature of existing archives and identify what may be needed to support their perpetuation.
 
  CILS Program Highlights 

CILS' Executive Director did a virtual presentation for the Nevada State Bar on "Indian Law 101" on August 6. Also a virtual panel participant on the POWERS Act sponsored by the Nevada Federal District Court of Northern Nevada. Discussion was on prosecution and defense representation in domestic violence case in tribal courts.

CILS participated on a POWERS Act panel with the Yurok and Hoopa Tribal Courts, Humboldt County Superior Court, United States District Court for the Northern District of California, and Legal Services of Northern California to discuss domestic violence in Indian County through collaboration and cooperation on September 11th.

On August 13th, CILS gave a zoom presentation on the Supreme Court's recent decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma to the California Tribal Court-State Court Forum.

CILS participated on a panel for the virtual POWER Act: Promoting Pro Bono Legal Services to Empower Native American Survivors of Domestic Violence for the United States District Court for the Central District of California on September 17th.

Good News Stories
AB 3088 Protects Tenants From Eviction
On August 31, 2020 Governor Newsom signed a complex new law, AB 3088, to protect tenants from eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic (these new tenant protections are civil regulatory laws under PL 280 and do not apply on Indian reservations and allotments). The law was passed on an emergency basis and went into effect immediately. AB 3088 does a lot of things to protect tenants, but one of its most important protections is that it makes it impossible or much more difficult to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent if the reason for the nonpayment is related to COVID and the tenant submits a special declaration to her landlord stating so. Four days after AB 3088 became law, our Bishop office got a call from a tenant who had been laid off due to COVID and served an eviction notice that was invalid under the brand new law. CILS advised the tenant that the notice was not legal, and provided her with the specific declaration language she needed to protect herself against eviction - to her great relief! 

Confidential Domestic Violence Assistance
The Domestic Violence Unit at CILS developed a Power Point presentation for clients to alleviate their concerns that working with CILS could result in reports to Child Protective Services. They wish to educate clients that they prioritize confidentiality and do not work for or with county or tribal social workers to build cases against them.



State Court ICWA Cases
CILS is representing several tribes in state court ICWA cases. One case involves a step-parent adoption petition seeking to terminate the Native mother's parental rights. CILS is seeking to have the case dismissed on the grounds that the step-parent and husband have failed to provide Native mother active efforts. Another case involves a grandmother guardian who has passed away and CILS is seeking an aunt and uncle to be substituted in as new guardian without the filing of a new 300 petition.

Expanding Domestic Violence Unit
CILS partnered with Strong Hearted Native Women Coalition in submitting an application for a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) grant to hire an additional domestic violence attorney for our Escondido office and was awarded a three-year grant in the amount of $350,000.

ICWA Placement Preferences Success
CILS will finalize an adoption of a Tohono O'odham member who spent the first two years of her life in foster care San Bernardino County argued the two year old girl bonded with her non-Native foster parents but we won on the ICWA placement preferences and lack of good cause to deviate from them. In 2019 the young girl was placed with her aunt, also a Tribal member, in Utah where she remains today. The aunt is very excited about the adoption.

SUPPORT COMES IN MANY WAYS.
We encourage you to think about CILS while you are shopping on Amazon. Give us a big smile because you are making a difference for California Indians that need low cost or free legal services. With your donation through Amazon we can continue to provide legal services to California Indians.

California Indian Legal Services