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December 2017                                                                          Volume 3, Number 12
Escondido, CA -  October 26, 2017: This year marks CILS' 50th year of legal services in California Indian Country. Since its founding, CILS has taken on major issues impacting tribal sovereignty such as restoring lands to trust, quantifying tribes' reserved water rights, obtaining equitable federal funding for California tribes, litigating discrimination and civil rights and fortifying tribal governments. During the last five decades CILS has also tackled tribal termination, Native prisoners' religious rights, and renegotiating tribal gaming compacts. 

CILS grew out of the California Rural Legal Assistance program that focused on rural communities amidst the political and social movements of the 1960s. Recognizing the uniquely complex legal issues facing Native American communities in California, attorney George Duke and a young Hoopa activist named David Risling began our story with the incorporation of CILS in 1967.

Mark Romero, Chair of the CILS Board of Trustees sums up the life of the organization and its mission. "CILS never gives up...always defending and enforcing Indian rights from forces that would cause harm. We are celebrating fifty years of serving California Indian communities with legal services that involve issues unique to Native Americans. I could not be prouder of these accomplishments and look forward to celebrating all the legal victories for Indian people that will come in the next fifty years."

Pictured:Dorothy Alther, Executive Director, CILS; Sheila Quinlan, CILS Board of Trustees and Attorney in private practice; Joe Ayala, CILS Board of Trustees and Attorney, State of California Office of Legislative Counsel
Pictured: Diana Terrazas, Community Outreach Manager, Autry Museum; Tracy Stanhoff, President, American Indian Chamber of Commerce of CA; Nicole Scott, Director of Marketing and Development, CILS; Matthew Kennedy, Principal Landscape Architect;Joe Ayala, CILS Board of Trustees and Attorney, State of California Office of Legislative Counsel

Wiyot and Bear River Tribes Call for "True Partnership" To Protect the Civil Rights of Loleta Students
Loleta, CA - December 12, 2017: Tribal leaders welcomed the news that Loleta Union Elementary School District has  entered into a Voluntary Resolution Agreement with The U.S. Department of Education. The Loleta  School Board is scheduled to discuss the agreement at its December 13th board meeting, which  was held at the Loleta Elementary School.
Leaders from the Wiyot Tribe and the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria are now  requesting that the district meaningfully include tribal leaders and community members as the  district works to fulfill the terms of the agreement. "We appreciate that the district's current  leadership has agreed to address longstanding concerns of our community," said Ted  Hernandez, Tribal Chair of the Wiyot Tribe. "Entering into this agreement is an
acknowledgement that the district can and must do better for our students."

Learn more

Tribal Economic Development Training in Bishop and Redwood Valley 

CILS and the Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians (Tribe) hosted two one-day trainings in Bishop and Coyote Valley for tribes with little or no economic development on their lands. The training focused on how to form a tribal economic development entity that can not only evaluate economic proposals presented to the tribe but help initiate economic projects that are compatible with the tribe's needs and resources. CILS provided various legal structures for establishing a tribal economic development entity, the pros and cons, and how to protect tribal sovereign immunity. Representatives from the Tribe spoke to their experience on how their economic development corporation has evolved over the years, how they got started, what worked and did not work and practical advice on their successes and failures.   

Update on AB 233: the Feather Bill
Sacramento, CA - October 17, 2017: Much to everyone's disappointment the Governor vetoed AB 233 on October 16, 2017. The reason stated was that students right to freedom of speech are already protected under existing law and the amendment would unnecessarily remove the local school's discretion over controlling what students wear at graduation.

AB233 would have protected the right to wear religious, ceremonial, or cultural adornments at graduation ceremonies.

Staff Attorney Position Available - Bishop Office 
Job Description:
This is a full-time position devoted to increasing and enhancing the legal services we provide to individuals with Indian law and non-Indian law issues, including general poverty law. Staff attorney will work with individuals, families, organizations and tribal governments in all areas of Federal Indian law, including but not limited to, advising on issues involving jurisdiction, tax, estate planning, trust assets, environmental law, natural resource development, cultural resource protection, Indian education, tribal governance, employment, tribal justice systems, and the Indian Child Welfare Act. Responsibilities may range from the provision of brief counsel and services to low-income Indian individuals to representing individuals and tribes in state and federal court, negotiating contracts, advising tribal clients and developing and implementing constitutions, codes, and policies for tribal clients.

Administrative Assistant Position Available - Eureka Office 
Job Description:
Under the supervision of the Directing Attorney, the Administrative Assistant will be responsible for providing administrative and clerical support for the Eureka Office staff, as well as a broad range of program activities. Specific duties may vary considerably over time, but are likely to include:
Good News Stories
Victory for Native Homeless Woman Seeking Benefits
In 2015 a homeless Native woman applied for General Assistance in San Francisco County.  The worker did not bother to process her application and she was denied outright. Still, she insisted and was able to apply. She was denied again and appealed. The Native woman was a Canadian-born American Indian. Under Article III of the Jay Treaty, also known as the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation of 1794, as well as under the Immigration and Nationality Act she had the right to seek public benefits and employment in the United States. The county workers, however, were unaware of this law and denied her application despite the fact that the Native woman had all the required documentation under the Jay Treaty.  During her appeal she contacted CILS. CILS wrote the Administrative Law Judge explaining the law and its impact upon eligible American Indians. CILS was able to secure a partial victory when the Administrative Law Judge ruled that workers could not, out of hand, deny applicants who claimed Jay Treaty status. The Administrative Judge ordered the workers to help our client seek a 'record of entry' document from the immigration services; this was a document which stated that a Jay Treaty eligible Indian has decided to live in the United States.  However, the county workers still refused to help the Native woman stating that the Jay Treaty was not among the eligible aliens able to receive General Assistance. CILS again contacted the Administrative Judge and provided information about the problem to the San Francisco Deputy Director of Human Services and the San Francisco County Human Services Commission.  CILS explained that workers continued to ignore an Administrative Law Judge's decision and that workers still seemed uninformed about the Jay Treaty. The Commission took a particular interest in the Jay Treaty. In June 2017 the Native woman attempted to apply for General Assistance and again, was denied. CILS reached out to the San Francisco County players yet again with renewed vigor. In late Summer 2017, the San Francisco Department of Human Services revised its San Francisco County Adult Assistance Program (CAAP) manual. The Manual, for the first time, includes Jay Treaty eligible American Indians and has guidelines for workers processing applications from Jay Treaty eligible Indians. Our Native client was finally able to receive benefits after trying since 2015!
School Absences for Ceremonies
A native mom contacted our office because she was facing misdemeanor charges due to her children's school absences to attend tribal ceremonies. Although, we could not assist on the criminal charges she was facing, we prepared a legal memo to her Public Defender. We argued that her children's participation in a Navajo Naming Ceremony, a religious right of passage under Navajo religion and tradition, and involvement in healing rituals with a Navajo Medicine Man, should not be used to tally excessive absences. This memo outlined the importance of the children's participation in native religious exercises because it is an integral part of the child's education. The Court ruled that the mother had nine months to keep her kids in school and to report any breaks they take on a calendar that was provided to the schools. She was not punished (she was facing misdemeanor charges) for their absences.
ICWA at Work
Two years ago a Southern California tribe retained CILS to represent its interest in a child dependency case implicating the Indian Child Welfare Act. While the Court found the Act applied and active efforts were made to keep the Indian family together, the mother continued with addiction. Her parental rights were terminated. All the while the child remained in a non-Indian foster home. Maternal Grandmother wished to be considered for placement but her request was denied due to a criminal record. CILS argued for more visits between Grandma and grandson and pushed for her criminal history, which was over thirty years old, to be exempted. The strategy worked! The Tribe successfully assessed Grandma's home for placement and recommended a permanent plan of Tribal Customary Adoption. The Court agreed, and the little boy was placed with Grandma in time for the holidays.

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California Indian Legal Services