Founded in 1970, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) is the oldest and largest nonprofit legal organization asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations, and individuals nationwide. Early in our existence, the Board of Directors determined that legal resources should be concentrated in these five areas:
Preserve tribal existence
The future existence of the remaining Indian tribes in this country depends ultimately upon secure and permanent land bases, and the rights of self-determination necessary to preserve traditional customs and ways of life.
Protect tribal natural resources
The natural resources found on Indian lands vary greatly. NARF concentrates its efforts in asserting tribal resource rights and protecting them from loss and exploitation by non-Indians. Major resource protection includes land rights; water rights; hunting, fishing and gathering rights; environmental protection; timber rights; and prudent development of mineral resources.
Promote Native American human rights
The Native American Rights Fund is concerned with securing basic human rights for Native Americans in such areas as education, health, housing and religious freedom rights. Read more about this priority>>
Hold governments accountable to Native Americans
NARF focuses much of its efforts on guaranteeing that the federal and state governments are accountable for the proper recognition and enforcement of the many laws and regulations which govern the lives of Indian people.
Develop Indian law and educate the public about Indian rights, laws, and issues
This involves not only the establishment of favorable court precedents in major areas of Indian law, but also the compilation and distribution of Indian law resources to everyone working on behalf of Indian rights. “
The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) is a non-profit organization that uses existing laws and treaties to ensure that U.S. state governments and the U.S. federal government live up to their legal obligations. NARF also "provides legal representation and technical assistance to Indian tribes, organizations and individuals nationwide."
The Native American Rights Fund was co-founded in 1970 by David Getches and John Echohawk (Pawnee). Echohawk currently serves as executive director. NARF is governed by a volunteer board of directors composed of thirteen Native Americans from different tribes throughout the country with a variety of expertise in Indian matters. A staff of fifteen attorneys handles about fifty major cases at any given time, with most of the cases taking several years to resolve. Cases are accepted on the basis of their breadth and potential importance in setting precedents and establishing important principles of Indian law.
In September 2001 tribal leaders met in Washington, D.C., and established the Tribal Supreme Court Project in an effort to "strengthen tribal advocacy before the U.S. Supreme Court by developing new litigation strategies and coordinating tribal legal resources." The ultimate goal is to improve the win-loss record of Indian tribes in Supreme Court cases. The Project is staffed by attorneys from NARF and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and consists of a Working Group of over 200 attorneys and academics from around the nation who specialize in Indian law and other areas of law that impact Indian cases, including property law, trust law and Supreme Court practice. In addition, an Advisory Board of Tribal Leaders assists the Project by providing the necessary political and tribal perspective to the legal and academic expertise.
Tribal Supreme Court Project
The Tribal Supreme Court Project does the following:
In conjunction with the National Indian Law Library (NILL), monitors Indian law cases in the state and federal appellate courts that have the potential to reach the Supreme Court (NILL Indian Law Bulletins)
Maintains an on-line depository of briefs and opinions in all Indian law cases filed with the U.S. Supreme Court and cases being monitored in the U.S. Court of Appeal and State Supreme Courts (Court Documents)
Prepares an Update Memorandum of Cases which provides an overview of Indian law cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, cases being monitored and the current work being performed by the Project
Offers assistance to tribal leaders and their attorneys to determine whether to file a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court in cases where they lost in the court below
Offers assistance to attorneys representing Indian tribes to prepare their Brief in Opposition at the Petition Stage in cases where they won in the court below
Coordinates an Amicus Brief writing network and helps to develop litigation strategies at both the Petition Stage and the Merits Stage to ensure that the briefs receive the maximum attention of the Justices
When appropriate, prepares and submits Amicus Briefs on behalf of Indian tribes and Tribal Organizations
Provides other brief writing assistance, including reviewing and editing of the principal briefs, and the performance of additional legal research
Coordinates and conducts Moot Court and Roundtable opportunities for attorneys who are presenting Oral Arguments before the Court
Conducts conference calls and fosters panel discussions among attorneys nationwide about pending Indian law cases and, when necessary, forms small working groups to formulate strategy on specific issues.
BOULDER, CO 80302-6217 | Tax-exempt since July 1971
Classification (NTEE) Minority Rights (Civil Rights, Social Action, Advocacy)
Nonprofit Tax Code Designation: 501(c)(3) Defined as: Organizations for any of the following purposes: religious, educational, charitable, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition (as long as it doesn’t provide athletic facilities or equipment), or the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.
Donations to this organization are tax deductible.
IEN is an alliance of grassroots Indigenous peoples whose mission it is to protect the sacredness of Mother Earth from contamination and exploitation by strengthening, maintaining and respecting Indigenous teachings and natural laws.