Tribal Crypto-Currency MazaCoin Gaining Recognition


Newsweek is reporting on how the virtual currency Mazacoin has joined the ranks of alternatives to Bitcoin now trading in the “Wild West” of 21st century digital currencies. The brainchild of Payu Harris, a Cheyenne with Oglala Sioux heritage and a mysterious programmer known only as “AnonymousPirate,” Mazacoin announced its ambition to replace the U.S. dollar as the official currency of the Oglala Sioux nation, historically known as the Oglala Lakota, and its 46,855 members.

Some 507,185,000 Mazacoins are now on the market, trading in a handful of obscure online markets. But with each coin currently worth little more than one ten-thousandth of a dollar, the Mazacoin world is valued only around $63,000—a speck of dust in the crypto-currency galaxy dominated by Bitcoin, an $8 billion giant where coins trade at around $620 apiece.

Harris, 39, a resident of Rapid City, South Dakota, wants to keep half of all Mazacoins in a tribal trust, out of the tax-collecting and regulating hands of the federal government. Mazacoin, he tells Newsweek, is designed to replace the more than $200 million in annual federal funding that supports the Oglala Sioux nation “with funding we control. We can build our economy from scratch.”

“The source of those funds in a trust would be exempt from U.S. taxation,” W. Gregory Guedel, a lawyer who chairs law firm Foster Pepper’s Native American Legal Services Group, tells Newsweek. One potential scenario: If the slowly growing number of national retailers now accepting Bitcoin, which now include and Dell, ever move to accept Mazacoin in exchange for goods, then a consumer in, say, Sweden, could use the tribal currency to buy books on Amazon, with a percentage of the transaction going to the tribal trust, Guedel says. Mazacoin, he asserts, “potentially opens up a global market to this Tribe.”


Rising Oceans Threaten Native American Historical Sites


The Los Angeles Times is reporting on the threat rising sea levels pose for coastal Native American archaeological sites, like those found on Santa Cruz Island off mainland California.

"We're standing on a living history book, and we're losing pages from it every day." Gil Unzueta (Chumash), who is monitoring the survey effort to catalog and preserve Native artifacts on Santa Cruz. 

ABA Opens Full Membership To Tribal Court Practitioners

The American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates has unanimously voted to amend the ABA Constitution to permit Tribal Court practitioners to be full members of the ABA.

“We commend the ABA for recognizing that there are three sovereign court systems in the United States (federal, state and Tribal) and for amending its constitution to permit Tribal Court practitioners – who are not currently eligible to be ABA members – to become full members of the ABA,” said Mary Smith, National Native American Bar Association President. “This constitutional amendment will – at long last – put Tribal Court bar admissions on equal footing with the bars of states, territories and possessions of the United States.”

The ABA has made significant strides towards inclusion but there was a glaring injustice that needed to be corrected – full membership for American citizens who happen to be licensed through a Tribal Court as opposed to a state, federal or territorial bar. Under previous policy, anyone licensed in a state, federal or territorial jurisdiction within the United States could join the ABA as a full member with all rights and responsibilities. That policy did not extend to those who are licensed through a Tribal Court of a federally recognized Tribe. Thus, there was a class of persons who were denied the opportunity for full membership because they practiced solely in a Tribal Court. As a policy decision, the ABA had previously extended the opportunity for full membership to lawyers who practice in Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The same inclusive policy now applies to individuals practicing before Tribal Courts within the United States.


Tribal Federal Recognition Comment Period Extended To 30 September 2014

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has extended the public comment period on Part 83 reforms to the federal recognition process, which are designed to improve and streamline the often decades-long effort Tribes must presently undertake to achieve federal recognition. Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn said the proposed regulation has received "significant" attention, and additional comments are being accepted until September 30, 2014.

"With this extended comment period, the [Interior] Department is providing more opportunities for comment and suggestions from tribes and the public than any other rule issued by Indian Affairs during this Administration,” Washburn said, “Input from tribes, including the 17 that have been recognized under the regulations, states, local governments, the public and non-federally recognized tribes will result in a better final rule.”

Tribal consultations will be held over the phone on August 18 and August 20. The sessions are only open to representatives of federally recognized tribes.

The public meetings also will be held over the phone, from 1:30pm to 4:30pm Eastern time on September 3 and September 5, 2014. Anyone interested in the federal recognition process can call in to 888-323-4307 and use the passcode 4823348 to participate.


Marijuana Wars: Yurok Tribe Battles To Reclaim Its Lands


The Los Angeles Times reports that with the assistance of federal and state agencies, the Yurok Tribe in California is taking the offensive in a battle to drive renegade marijuana growers off the Tribe’s native lands.

For years, illegal marijuana growers with out-of-state license plates came to the upper reaches of the Yurok Indian Reservation, followed by dump trucks of fertilizer and heavy equipment that punched roads into tribal land.

Runaway marijuana cultivation had made it unsafe for Tribal members to hike, pray, gather medicine and materials for baskets, or prepare sites for ceremonial dances. Chemical runoff and silt harmed the salmon, and rodenticides poisoned the rare Humboldt marten and weasel-like fisher, which the Yurok consider sacred. This year, as growers siphoned water directly from the streams that feed the Klamath River, the problem became a crisis: about 200 households that rely entirely on surface water are now at risk of running dry, with no alternative supply.

Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O’Rourke highlighted the problems caused by illegal marijuana growers:

“They're stealing millions and millions of gallons of water and it’s impacting our ecosystem. We can't … make it into our dance places, our women and children can't leave the road to gather. We can't hunt. We can't live the life we've lived for thousands of years. We are coming close to being prisoners in our own land. Everything we stand for, everything we do is impacted”

The Tribe and federal and state agencies have now launched “Operation Yurok”, a massive raid on and around reservation land that is expected to lead to the destruction of an estimated 100,000 marijuana plants. In addition to Yurok police, other participating agencies included the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Drug Enforcement Administration, the California Department of Justice’s North State Marijuana Investigation Team, the California National Guard’s counterdrug program, and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife.


Tulalip Tribes Battle Domestic Violence With Expanded Powers

The Tulalip Tribes are now one of just three Native American Tribes in the U.S. to take advantage of a federal program designed to better combat domestic violence on tribal lands. In an agreement signed with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Tribal Prosecuting Attorney Sharon Jones Hayden was appointed Special Assistant U.S. Attorney with expanded authority over domestic violence cases.

Hayden’s appointment is part of a federal pilot program to allow Tribes to start exercising this new authority under the 2013 re-authorization of the federal Violence Against Women Act, which recognizes the authority of Tribes to prosecute certain domestic violence crimes committed on tribal lands by non-Indians. The pilot program has three goals: to strengthen tribal justice systems, to decrease domestic violence on tribal lands and to ensure that criminals are prosecuted in the most effective manner available.

Since the 1978 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe, Tribal Courts have been prevented from filing charges against non-tribal defendants, even if the crimes occurred on the Tribe’s reservation. One U.S. Department of Justice study looking at crime from 1992-2002 found the majority of violent crimes against Native Americans were committed by non-Indians.


Tribal Employment Rights & Law Seminar - 14 July 2014


Sovereignty, Jurisdiction And Best Practices
July 14, 2014
Washington State Convention Center, Seattle


Who Should Attend
Attorneys, Tribal representatives, human resource executives and staff, and governmental officials

Why You Should Attend
Creating and maintaining sustainable and productive employment is a top priority for Tribes, Tribal businesses, and the agencies and enterprises that serve Native American communities. The relationship between Tribes and the workers they employ is an important aspect of Tribal governance and the development of reservation economies. The complex and ever-changing laws and regulations governing the relationships between Tribal employers and workers require special expertise and current information to manage effectively. This conference will offer in-depth guidance on crucial legal issues in employment law in Native American communities, including: the application of federal employment laws to Tribes, Tribal preference policies and sovereignty issues, collective bargaining, employment insurance and risk management, best practices for personnel dispute resolution, selecting and managing employee benefit and retirement plans, and using the EB-5 investor visa program to create new job opportunities on reservations.

Tribal counsel, leading Tribal law practitioners, and industry experts will provide the latest insights on current topics with significant Tribal implications in employment law. Don't miss this excellent update on today's legal and policy developments, along with practical strategies and tips to assist attorneys, Tribal leaders, agency officials, and Tribal enterprise managers navigate these critical issues.
~ W. Gregory Guedel, Esq. and Christopher T. Stearns, Esq., Program Co-Chairs

What You Will Learn
• Employment law in Indian country: A case of competing sovereigns
• What Tribal businesses need to know about Federal employment law
• Indian Tribes & discrimination issues including the structuring of Indian-hire preference requirements for non-tribal entities
• Federal EB-5 Employment Investor Visa Program
• Indian Tribes & collective bargaining
• Employment insurance for tribes as employers
• Tribal employee benefit plans
• Best practices for Tribal counsel setting up personnel and dispute resolution system

Faculty Bios
W. Gregory Guedel, Program Co-Chair, is the Chair of Foster Pepper LLC's Native American Legal Services Group and serves as Chair of the American Bar Association's National Committee on Native American Concerns. His practice focuses on Tribal economic development, construction, government contracting, and business transactions.

Christopher T. Stearns (Navajo), Program Co-Chair, of counsel, Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker, LLP, specializes in public policy, energy, self-governance, and election law. He is a Commissioner for the Washington State Gambling Commission and past Chairman of the Seattle Human Rights Commission. He was Democratic Counsel for the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources and Director of Indian Affairs for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Sherry L. Barry, Tribal Liaison, Washington & Northern Idaho District Council of Laborers, is Tribal Employments Rights Commissioner for the Quinault Indian Nation. She is the Vice Chair of the Washington State L&I Apprenticeship Division/PNW TERO Affiliates, Tribal Liaison Sub Committee and Vice Chair of KGHI Public Broadcast Radio (Labor and Native American Talk Radio).

Jason R. Donovan, Foster Pepper PLLC, focuses on representing policyholders in insurance coverage disputes involving commercial general liability, directors and officer's liability, employment practices liability and professional services liability. He started his career representing insurance companies, but now represents policyholders exclusively.

Troy A. Eid, principal shareholder, Greenberg Traurig LLP, is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Colorado. He was Colorado's United States Attorney, and recently chaired the National Indian Law and Order Commission where he helped prepare their final report to the President and Congress, "A Roadmap for Making Native America Safer".

J. Scott Galloway, of counsel, Foster Pepper PLLC, focuses on ERISA, employee benefits, executive compensation, fiduciary, and investment law. He advises employers with respect to issues involving pension, profit sharing, 401(k), stock bonus, stock option, deferred compensation, and medical and other welfare benefit plans.

Stephen H. Greetham, Chief General Counsel for the Chickasaw Nation Commerce Department and Senior Legal Advisor to the Chickasaw Nation Justice Division, works closely with Tribal leadership on the management of litigation and negotiation. He is also Vice President of the Tribal In-house Counsel Association, a national non-profit.

Vicki J. Limas, Professor of Law, University of Tulsa College of Law, focuses on employment law, particularly employment issues affecting Indian Tribes and individuals and is a contributing writer to Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law.

Pamela Means, MSPA, MAAA, EA, President, Means & Associates, an actuarial and third party retirement administration firm, ERISA Compliance Associates, a compliance review firm, and The Tribal Group, a consulting firm that specializes in Tribal Retirement Plans and Trusts. She is a member of a number of national actuarial societies.

Brian K. Nichols, shareholder, Modrall Sperling, is Co-Chair of the Native American Law Practice Group. He consults with businesses doing commerce with Tribal nations, and advises clients regarding employment, property, vendor preferences and procurement, and worker health and safety.

Steven R. Peltin, Chair of the Employment and Labor Relations Practice Group at Foster Pepper PLLC. He helps employers address a wide variety of personnel issues, and represents employers before courts and administrative agencies. He prepares and negotiates employment, confidentiality, and non-compete agreements.

Lisa M. Vanderford-Anderson, Reservation Attorney, Tulalip Tribes, is also a Tribal Appellate Judge for the Northwest Intertribal Court System and a Mediator. She is experienced in employment law and dispute resolution. Her practice includes employment law (litigation and HR advising), Elder Protection, Child Welfare and other civil matters.

Ava (Xiaoqiu) Wang, Senior Counsel, Ater Wynne LLP, focuses on American immigration law. She is experienced in employment visa and the EB-5 investment program, particularly designation of a regional center and investor's I-526 and I-829.

Leilani Wilson-Walkush, Senior Consultant, Breakwater Investment Group, LLC, is an enrolled member of the Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, and is a shareholder of two Alaska Native Corporations - Sealaska Corporation and Goldbelt, Inc. She is experienced as both a successful financial advisor and a champion of Native awareness.


Vince Logan Confirmed as US Special Trustee for American Indians


Vince Logan (Osage) has been confirmed by the United states Senate as the next United States Special Trustee for American Indians.  Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today released the following statement after the confirmation:

“As an investment professional, a mentor for Native American attorneys, and a member of the Osage Nation, Vince has been deeply rooted in Indian Country for many decades. His asset management expertise, legal experience and extensive network of professional relationships in Indian Country will well serve the Office of Special Trustee and the Department of the Interior as we work to build a stronger and more responsive trust asset management system for the Nation’s First Americans. I am pleased the Senate voted to confirm him to this leadership post at Interior.”

For more information on the nomination of Vincent G. Logan, click HERE. More information on the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians is HERE.


Mellon Foundation Awards Grant for Tribal Economic Development Seminars

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a grant to Foster Pepper’s Native American Legal Services Chair Greg Guedel to conduct a visiting-speaker series on Tribal economic development in 2015. The funding will bring national experts on Tribal economic development to Seattle to share their insights and strategies for enhancing opportunity and quality of life in Native American communities. The program will be hosted in the Spring at the University of Washington in partnership with the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, and will provide a unique platform for Tribal leaders to meet and discuss development, poverty reduction, social justice, and the use of sovereignty to create economic programs in Tribal communities.

For more information on Foster Pepper's Native American practice, click HERE.


Patent Office Cancels Trademark For NFL's Redskins

As reported by ESPN,  in a 2-1 ruling the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, an independent tribunal within the USPTO, voted to cancel the federal trademark protection for the "Redskins" name held by the NFL football club.  The Board wrote it was charged with determining only whether the mark was offensive to the people it referenced, instead of to the entire population. Five Native Americans, representing four tribes, brought the case against the league.

"Petitioners have found a preponderance of evidence that a substantial amount of Native Americans found the term Redskins to be disparaging when used in connection with professional football," the ruling said. "While this may reveal differing opinions with the community, it does not negate the opinions of those who find it disparaging."

The ruling does not force the NFL or Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to change the name, but trademarks, registered between 1967 and 1990, will no longer be protected under federal law if the NFL and the Redskins lose an appeal to the U.S. District Court.

Bob Raskopf, the trademark attorney for the Redskins, said the team will appeal the ruling and is confident it will successfully overturn Wednesday's ruling and noted that the team's trademark registrations will remain valid while the case is appealed.

"We are confident we will prevail once again, and that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board's divided ruling will be overturned on appeal. This case is no different than an earlier case, where the Board cancelled the Redskins' trademark registrations, and where a federal district court disagreed and reversed the Board," Raskopf said in a statement.

In 1999, a panel ruled to cancel the trademarks after a 16-year battle with Native American groups. It was eventually overturned on a technicality after the courts decided that the plaintiffs were too old and should have filed their complaint soon after the Redskins registered their nickname in 1967.

"The evidence in the current claim is virtually identical to the evidence a federal judge decided was insufficient more than ten years ago. We expect the same ultimate outcome here," Raskopf said in his statement.

The new case was launched in 2006 by a younger group of Native Americans, and was heard by the board in March of last year.

The group argued that the Redskins should lose their federal trademark protection based on a law that prohibits registered names that are disparaging, scandalous, contemptuous or disreputable.

"The U.S. Patent Office has now restated the obvious truth that Native Americans, civil rights leaders, athletes, religious groups, state legislative bodies, Members of Congress and the president have all echoed: taxpayer resources cannot be used to help private companies profit off the promotion of dictionary defined racial slurs," said Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter and Nation Congress of American Indians executive director Jackie Pata in a joint statement.

"If the most basic sense of morality, decency and civility has not yet convinced the Washington team and the NFL to stop using this hateful slur, then hopefully today's patent ruling will, if only because it imperils the ability of the team's billionaire owner to keep profiting off the denigration and dehumanization of Native Americans.

Without protection, any fan can produce and sell Washington Redskins gear without having to pay the league or the team for royalties and wouldn't be in violation of any law for doing so. NFL teams split merchandise royalties 31 ways -- the Dallas Cowboys have their own deal -- so losing the trademark rights could be seen as a major negative by the league's owners.

The Redskins are an integral part of league sales. From April 1, 2012 to March 2013, the league said more jerseys of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III were sold than any player in a single year in NFL history.