U.S. Department of Education Announces Upcoming Cities on its First-Ever School Environment Listening Tour for Native American Students

By: Theodore J. Griswold | Partner | ted.griswold@procopio.com

The White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education (WHIAIANE) has announced it is having listening sessions on Native students’ educational environments throughout Indian Country in November. The listening sessions will give tribal governments, tribal citizens, educators, parents, community members and students the opportunity to speak with White House officials and Department of Education staff. This is an important aspect of consultation with tribal communities and Indian Country. These forums are also necessary to ensure Native students are educated in culturally-appropriate environments preparing them with the vocational and academic skills required for a healthy life upon high school graduation.

These cities and dates are:

Troy, New York – November 5

Seattle, Washington – November 7

Los Angeles, California – November 13

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma –November 18

East Lansing, Michigan – November 19

Tulsa, Oklahoma – November 21

The tour already completed two stops, one in Franklin, Wisconsin on October 10 and the other on October 26 in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.

The listening sessions focus on school environment issues — bullying, student discipline and offensive imagery and symbolism. The White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education is gathering feedback during the tour and will consider how it can inform future action to ensure Native American students receive a high quality education.

“We hope these sessions will serve as a meaningful resource to the Native community as my office and the Administration work to ensure that American Indian and Alaska Native students have equitable educational opportunities in healthy learning environments,” said William Mendoza, executive director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education. “Indian students have unique education challenges as they strive to preserve their native cultures and languages, while ensuring that they are college and career ready.”

In his June 13, 2014 visit to Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota, President Obama affirmed the Administration’s commitment to strengthen Native American communities through education and economic development. His initiative, “My Brother’s Keeper,” ensures that schools can provide the social, emotional, and behavioral supports for all youth—including boys and young men of color—that will enable all students to graduate from high school ready for college and careers.

The WHIAIANE and the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) are committed to supporting school districts, states, tribal governments and other organizations as they seek to better serve Native American students and ensure that all students have equal opportunities and resources in order to learn and succeed in school, careers and in life.

The media advisory is here.

More information about the listening tour and tribal consultations can be found at www.edtribalconsultations.org.

Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at ted.griswold@procopio.com and 619.515.3277.

California Legislature Enacts Tribal Court Civil Money Judgment Act

By: Theodore J. Griswold | Partner | ted.griswold@procopio.com

California has 109 federally recognized tribal governments and millions of tribal citizens living within the state, according to the Judicial Council of California. The Bureau of Indian Affairs lists more than 566 tribal governments nationwide in the 2014 Tribal Entities List and with changes in the federal acknowledgement process – this number could grow considerably in coming years.

Each of these Nations is a sovereign and operates as a foreign nation in many respects. If a party is seeking to enforce a judgment in a tribal court, they previously had to do so under the Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act. The act includes within the definition of “foreign-country judgment” a judgment by any Indian tribe recognized by the government of the United States.

There has been a significant overhaul to this bill in the Tribal Court Civil Money Judgment Act. The bill was signed into law on August 22, 2014 by California Governor Jerry Brown. It was then entered by Secretary of State as Chapter 243, Statutes of 2014.

This bill, until January 1, 2018, exempts tribal judgments from the Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act, and would instead enact the Tribal Court Civil Money Judgment Act. The new act provides for the enforceability of tribal court money judgments in California.

The act prescribes a procedure for applying for recognition and entry of a judgment based on a tribal court money judgment, the procedure and grounds for objecting to the entry of judgment and the bases upon which the court may refuse to enter the judgment or grant a stay of enforcement.

One of the best provisions acknowledging tribal sovereignty is that “[n]othing in this title shall be deemed or construed to expand or limit the jurisdiction of either the state or any Indian tribe.”

For more information:




Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at ted.griswold@procopio.com and 619.515.3277.

Advising the Advisor to the President: My Experience with Federal Governmental Advisory Committees

By: Stephanie Conduff | Law Clerk | stephanie.conduff@procopio.com
Theodore J. Griswold | Partner | ted.griswold@procopio.com

There are experiences in life that you have to be there to believe. So often in Indian Country, we recount the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Indian Health Service (IHS) failures without any appreciation of the people who create these organizational structures and buildings in Washington DC and all over the United States.

Two of the major players that you read about in Congressional Testimony, court filings and national media headlines are:

  • Kevin Washburn – Assistant Secretary, Indian Affairs for the US Department of the Interior
  • Yvette Roubideaux – Acting Director, Indian Health Service

This time last week, I worked side-by-side with the DOI Self-Governance Advisory Committee and the Indian Health Service (IHS) Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee to participate in the consultation process between tribal leaders and the federal government. They are empowered with the task of advising both Secretary Washburn and Dr. Roubideaux on a myriad of multifaceted policy topics including advanced appropriations, contract support costs, Ebola preparedness, third-party collections and grants for school boards. In turn, Secretary Washburn and Dr. Roubideaux advise the President.

These two aren’t figureheads. They are engaging and passionate leaders. Both confident, respectful and open to learning. They exemplify the spirit of consultation and what a government-to-government relationship should look like; in this room one could imagine observing the G8 Summit. This work group feels more like a peer group than a representational sampling of sovereigns. Perhaps it is because we are all related – by definition a tribe is a family of families. I realize that I am kinfolk to at least three people in the room before lunch. Governance changes when you have to answer to the taxpayers and to Great Aunt Pearl on Sunday. Both want answers.

I leave day two especially thankful policy work groups like this exist to ensure the mundane (think FY 2016 appropriations) are in line and the urgent (imagine Ebola isolation units at your local IHS facility) are anticipated. It is the work of these leaders in Indian Country that we are protected, represented and heard by the federal decision makers on the most important issues facing our families, neighbors and communities.

This was true consultation – one that can’t be codified by law. It can only be done out of genuine respect for self-governance and by a true statesman (or stateswoman). It’s refreshing to see the head of these agencies – sitting in a circle – with tribal leadership. They joke. They laugh. They are serious, focused and respectful. This wasn’t just a stop on a busy agenda of meetings but a place where a team of advisors met to hold each other accountable and generate solutions to Indian Country’s top problems.

Stephanie Conduff is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at ted.griswold@procopio.com and 619.515.3277.

Mixing and Looking to the Future

By: Theodore J. Griswold | Partner | ted.griswold@procopio.com

Procopio recently hosted the third informal mixer with the Native American Lawyers Association (NALA), San Diego and local Native American law students from the three local law schools – University of San Diego, California Western and Thomas Jefferson schools of law. The mixers are designed to familiarize the students with members of the local Native American Bar, provide an informal forum for them to make contacts and seek mentors, and to encourage the students to begin creating their networks early in their legal career. It also may help in the development of local NALSA chapters. For NALA members, it is a great way to meet some promising new legal minds and support the future Native American Bar.

After each such event, I walk away impressed with the intellect and hard work of the students, and become energized by their aspirations. We are reminded why we chose this professional direction and how fortunate we are to practice Native American law every day. It also reminds us that we are stewards for a practice area that is going to continue to face challenges and outlive our careers. I know that several of us have stayed in touch with the students from previous mixers and have enjoyed watching and coaching their progress. Conviction seems to be in abundance, though uncertainty remains a concern. Yet whenever I speak with Tribal leaders about the Native American law students that we come across, the universal comment is that they wish there were more of you in law school. Rest assured that your goals are noble, and you already have supporters that will help develop your career. (Now get back to the books!)

Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at ted.griswold@procopio.com and 619.515.3277.