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National Native American Bar Association
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For Immediate Release, June 29, 2015
Contact: Linda Benally (623) 308-2329


Phoenix, AZ – On Friday, June 26, NNABA issued Formal Ethics Opinion No. 1 to provide context and guidance for tribal lawyers and advocates confronting disenrollment issues, and to support and explain NNABA’s recent Resolution #2015-06, adopted by NNABA on April 8, 2015.

“NNABA supports the administration of justice in American indigenous communities, which we believe must extend to protect individuals’ human rights to identity, culture and citizenship, as recognized in tribal, federal and international law,” said NNABA President Linda Benally. “Particularly crucial is the attendant right to suffer the loss of such fundamental indigenous rights only through due process of law.  NNABA decided to address the ethics of disenrollment controversy because it is an area of increasing activity and its ethical implications are perhaps not well understood by tribal advocates or clients.”

NNABA announced the issuance of Formal Ethics Opinion No. 1 in Phoenix at the Annual Meeting of the Native American Bar Association of Arizona. The Opinion discusses how the right to tribal citizenship, while protected by federal law and confirmed by international law, is increasingly under attack through the practice of disenrollment. The Opinion follows NNABA Resolution #2015-06, Supporting Equal Protection and Due Process for Any Divestment of the American Indigenous Right of Tribal Citizenship, to encourage protection for this fundamental American indigenous human right.

As the Opinion explains, the responsibility of a tribal advocate differs from that of the usual advocate; his or her duty is to further justice in the greater Native American community and to be a minister of justice. This is particularly true in the context of disenrollment controversies in which tribal governments abridge the human rights of Native American citizens and deny them due process, because removing them from their indigenous community can harm the community as a whole.

These ethical duties, similarly set forth in the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct and discussed at length in the Opinion, include acting as an advisor, specifically ensuring that the citizen targeted for disenrollment is accorded procedural justice; and not bringing or defending a proceeding or asserting or controverting an issue unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous; and representing a tribal government as a client, as is reasonably necessary in the best interest of the tribe.

Learn more about NNABA’s mission and initiatives, and read the full text of Resolution #2015-06 HERE.

NNABA was founded in 1973 and serves as the national association for Native American attorneys, judges, law professors and law students, tribal court practitioners, and tribal advocates and strives to be a leader on social, cultural, political and legal issues affecting American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. NNABA’s work is centered on representation of indigenous communities and individuals, broadly covering issues important to the Native American community.

For more information contact (480) 727-0420 or visit

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