Tribal Engagement in the Federal Judicial Nominations Process

Download PDF

TITLE: Tribal Engagement in the Federal Judicial Nominations Process

WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of the United States, invoking the divine blessing of the Creator upon our efforts and purposes, in order to preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our Indian nations, rights secured under Indian treaties and agreements with the United States, and all other rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws and Constitution of the United States, to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian people, to preserve Indian cultural values, and otherwise promote the health, safety and welfare of the Indian people, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and

WHEREAS, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments; and

WHEREAS, there is a government-to-government relationship between tribal governments and the federal government that is acknowledged in the U.S. Constitution, treaties, statutes, policies, and the federal trust relationship; and

WHEREAS, past NCAI resolutions, including Resolutions #ECWS-16-004 and #PHX-16-030, have recognized the important role the federal judiciary plays in the recognition and interpretation of tribal rights and have called for the appointment of qualified Native Americans and others who understand federal Indian law; and

WHEREAS, despite the fact that there are many Native Americans possessing excellent qualifications for the federal judiciary, only 1 of the 870 sitting federal judges is a tribal member; and

WHEREAS, there are currently a record number of judicial vacancies and many of the more than 120 current judicial vacancies are for district courts and circuit courts of appeals that encompass large portions of Indian Country.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) calls on all Indian tribes to engage with their Senators about vacancies in their areas and convey to them the importance of selecting candidates who understand Indian tribal governments and federal Indian law; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, NCAI calls on the Administration to consult with Indian tribes about judicial vacancies in their areas and to give qualified Native Americans due consideration for positions in the federal judiciary; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, NCAI urges the President and the Senate to give serious consideration to whether any potential nominee understands the fundamental principles of inherent tribal sovereignty and the federal trust responsibility; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NCAI urges the Senate Judiciary Committee to include in its confirmation proceedings a public discussion of the U.S. Constitution and its relationship to tribal self-government; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NCAI urges all of the members of the federal judiciary to increase their understanding of Indian tribal governments, to engage in visits to Indian reservations and discussions with tribal judges and elected tribal leaders, and to support the principles of respect for tribal self-government and deference to the political branches and intergovernmental comity in determining the course of the federal-tribal relationship and the scope of recognized tribal authority; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.


The foregoing resolution was adopted by the General Assembly at the 2017 Midyear Session of the National Congress of American Indians, held at the Mohegan Sun Convention Center, June 12 to June 15, 2017, with a quorum present.