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Legal

[Updated Wed 4/3/2019 12:53 PM]

Legal Department Staff

The NAHC Legal Department Staff includes:

Terrie L. Robinson, General Counsel
Terrie L. Robinson joined the California Native American Heritage Commission in December of 2013 as the second attorney to ever hold the position of General Counsel. Prior to joining the NAHC, Ms. Robinson served as Senior Board Counsel to the Chair of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, Staff Counsel to the Chancellor’s Office, California Community Colleges, and Staff Counsel to the California Earthquake Authority. Before entering State service in 2005, Ms. Robinson taught at several law schools and was an Assistant Professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law; served as litigation and appellate counsel for several law firms; and was a regulatory attorney for Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Ms. Robinson clerked for Judge Cecil F. Poole of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and is a former president of the Charles Houston Bar Association. She holds a Bachelor’s in Political Science from Stanford University, a Master’s in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, and a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School, where she served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Ms. Robinson is a fifth-generation Californian, born and raised in Sacramento.

Samantha R. Cypret, Special Assistant to the General Counsel and Investigations Manager
Samantha R. Cypret is the Special Assistant to the General Counsel and Legal Department Investigations Manager at the California Native American Heritage Commission. Ms. Cypret is a verified member of the Mountain Maidu of Taylorsville Rancheria. She also serves as the Treasurer on the Board of Directors of the California Indian Law Association. She has led training sessions for the Environmental Section of the State Bar California, the Sacramento County Bar Association, the California Preservation Foundation, the Association of Environmental Professionals, as well as for a variety of Tribal Governments, State Agencies, and other Lead Agencies. Prior to joining the NAHC, Ms. Cypret served as the Program Coordinator for California Indian Law Association. She graduated from Lincoln Law School in Sacramento, where she was recipient of the Victor Bertolani Award for the Most Outstanding Graduate. She was also the senior editor of the Voir Dire, Lincoln Law School’s legal publication, and the Dean of the Earl Warren Senate of the Delta Theta Phi Law Fraternity. She served as a Certified Legal Intern for the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office, working in the Misdemeanor and Domestic Violence units. Prior to law school, she graduated from the University of California, Davis with Bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Political Science.

Duties and Projects

The NAHC Legal Department’s duties and projects include:

Enforcement:

  • Preparing CEQA matters affecting Native American cultural resources for consideration of litigation by the Commission;
  • Investigations, public hearings, and enforcement actions to prevent severe and irreparable damage to any Native American sanctified cemetery, place of worship, religious or ceremonial site, or sacred shrine on public lands pursuant to Public Resources Code sections 5097.9, 5097.94(g) and 5097.97;
  • Enforcement of Public Resources Code section 5097.99 prohibiting the possession of Native American artifacts or human remains taken from a Native American grave or cairn after January 1, 1984, except as provided by law, by referring such matters for prosecution to the Attorney General’s Office;
  • Enforcement of Public Resources Code sections 5097.993 and 5097.994 prohibiting damage to Native American historic, cultural, or sacred sites listed or eligible for listing on the California Register of Historic Resources;
  • Assisting the Attorney General’s Office in NAHC enforcement litigation matters and responding to litigation against the NAHC; and
  • Preparing Most Likely Descendant Matters for consideration of litigation by the Commission.

Compliance:

  • Drafting regulations, the Conflict of Interest Code, and the Statement of Incompatible Activities;
  • Reviewing internal policies and procedures for legal sufficiency;
  • Providing advice and counsel to the Executive Secretary and Commissioners; and
  • Overseeing NAHC compliance with applicable state laws and regulations, including the Political Reform Act, the Public Records Act, and the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act.

California Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (CalNAGPRA) and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA):

  • Implementing and overseeing compliance with CalNAGPRA (Public Resources Code section 5097.94(n) and Health and Safety Code section 8010 et seq.), including facilitating the implementation of the provisions of the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act with respect to publicly funded agencies and museums in California. (Health and Safety Code section 8011 (c)); and
  • Preparing CalNAGPRA matters for consideration of enforcement actions by the Commission.

Projects

The NAHC Legal Department’s Projects include:

  • The NAHC “Protect Native Culture” License Plate Campaign: The NAHC is launching an Special Interest License Plate Campaign. The proceeds of the NAHC “Protect Native Culture” License Plate, if issued, would fund:
    • CalNAGPRA implementation
    • Tribal Cultural Resources Legal Clinics and Internships
    • Training for tribes and agencies on cultural resources protection law
    • Land conservation purchases
    • A legal defense fund to pay for outside counsel when the Attorney General cannot represent the NAHC in litigation.

For more information, visit the “Protect Native Culture” License Plate page at: (link to License Plate Page)

  • The NAHC/UCLA Tribal Cultural Resources Law Project:

In 2017, the NAHC and the UCLA School of Law’s Native Nations Law & Policy Center, established a Tribal Cultural Resources Project (TCR) within the law school’s existing Tribal Legal Development Clinic. The purpose of the TCR Project is to provide cultural resources protection capacity-building for Tribes in California, both federally recognized and non-federally recognized, that are seeking to protect and reclaim their cultural resources.

All services will be provided to California Tribes at no cost by UCLA law students and graduate students and will further the Project’s overall aim of creating materials, models, templates, and guides that can benefit all of California Indian country by empowering Tribes to be strong advocates for protection of their cultural resources.

Training

The NAHC Legal Department provides free training to Tribes, public agencies, and other interested organizations on AB 52 tribal consultation under CEQA. Here are some AB 52 trainings the NAHC Legal Department participated in or provided, as well as training materials:

Public Records Act Requests

The NAHC Legal Department oversees the NAHC’s responses to Public Records Act requests.  If you have a Public Records Act request, please email it to nahc@nahc.ca.gov with “Public Records Act Request” in the subject line.

Please be advised of the following exemptions from disclosure under the Public Records Act:

  • Government Code section 6254, subdivision (r) exempts from disclosure, except as provided otherwise, records of Native American graves, cemeteries, and sacred places and records of Native American places, features, and objects described in Sections 5097.9 and 5097.993 of the Public Resources Code maintained by, or in the possession of, the Native American Heritage Commission, another state agency, or a local agency.
  • Government Code section 6254.10 exempts from disclosure records that relate to archaeological site information and reports maintained by, or in the possession of, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the State Historical Resources Commission, the State Lands Commission, the Native American Heritage Commission, another state agency, or a local agency, including the records that the agency obtains through a consultation process between a California Native American tribe and a state or local agency.

Pending Investigations and Public Hearings Regarding Access or Damage to Native American Sacred Sites (Public Resources Code sections 5097.9, 5097.94 (g) and  5097.97)

  • Owens Lake (Patsiata): The NAHC voted on January 19, 2018 to open an investigation to determine whether to declare Owens Lake (Patsiata) a Native American sanctified cemetery, place of worship, religious or ceremonial site, or sacred shrine pursuant to Public Resources Code sections 5097.9, 5097.94(g) and 5097.97.  The investigation is ongoing.

http://nahc.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Owens-Valley-Investiagtion-Memo.pdf

To request an investigation and public hearing to declare a site on public (non-federal and non-tribal) lands to be a Native American sanctified cemetery, place of worship, religious or ceremonial site, or sacred shrine, send your request to Investigations Manager Samantha Cypret at nahc@nahc.ca.gov with “Investigations Request” in the subject line.

File Complaints Regarding Native American Artifacts Taken From Graves or Cairns (Public Resources Code section 5097.99)

Public Resources Code section 5097.99 prohibits any person from obtaining or possessing any Native American artifacts or human remains which are taken from a Native American grave or cairn on or after January 1, 1984, except as otherwise provided by law or in accordance with an agreement reached pursuant to subdivision (l) of Public Resources Code section 5097.94 or Public Resources Code section 5097.98.

If you believe someone has obtained or currently possesses Native American artifacts or Native American human remains which were taken from a Native American grave or cairn on or after January 1, 1984, please contact the NAHC at nahc@nahc.ca.gov or by phone at (916) 373-3710.

File Complaints Regarding Excavation or Destruction of Native American Historical, Cultural, or Sacred Sites Listed on the California Register of Historic Resources (Public Resources Code sections 5097.993 and 5097.994)

Public Resources Code section 5097.993 prohibits excavating, destroying, injuring, or defacing a Native American historic, cultural, or sacred site that is listed or eligible for listing on the California Register of Historic Resources if the act was committed with the specific intent to vandalize, deface, destroy, steal, convert, possess, collect or sell a Native American historic, cultural, or sacred artifact, art object, inscription, feature, or site, and the act was committed on public land or on private land by someone other than the landowner. Exceptions to this law apply. Public Resources Code section 5097.994 provides for civil penalties for violations of this act. If you have reason to believe Native American historic, cultural, or sacred site eligible for listing on the California Register of Historic Resources has been damaged or destroy, please contact the NAHC at nahc@nahc.ca.gov or by phone at (916) 373-3710.

California Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Administration

It is the policy of the State of California that Native American remains and associated grave artifacts be repatriated.  (Public Resources Code section 5097.991).  The NAHC administers the California Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (Health and Safety Code sections 8010 et seq.) (CalNAGPRA), which provides a process for the repatriation of Native American cultural items – Native America human remains, associated funerary objects, unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony – from state and local agencies and museums that receive state funding.  To learn more about CalNAGPRA, please visit our CalNAGPRA page. (link to the CalNAGPRA page)

Litigation

The NAHC Legal Department recommends legal matters for litigation to the Commissioners.  Only the Commissioners, by a majority vote, can initiate litigation on behalf of the NAHC.  The NAHC Legal Department may recommend litigation to pursue prosecution or civil litigation under the statutes it enforces; to seek injunctive relief to prevent severe and irreparable damage to Native American sacred, religious, ceremonial, or cultural sites on public lands; or to remedy violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when the CEQA environmental review process has failed to adequately assess or mitigate impacts to cultural resources.

When the NAHC Commissioners choose to initiate litigation, it is with the legal representation and permission of the Attorney General’s Office.  As a State agency, the NAHC does not represent Tribes in litigation, nor is the NAHC the attorney for Tribes.  The NAHC acts on the behalf of the State of California to enforce State laws protecting Native American cultural resources.

Regulations

The NAHC proposes to adopt regulations to implement the statutes enforced by the NAHC. The Commissioners voted at their October 21, 2016 meeting to assign subcommittees of Commissioners to work with staff on proposing regulations in the following areas:

  • Chapter 1 General Provisions
    Subcommittee Members: Commissioners Miranda and Tumamait-Stenslie
  • Chapter 2 The Commission
    Subcommittee Members: Commissioners Myers and Lopez-Keifer
  • Chapter 3 Most Likely Descendants
    Subcommittee Members: Commissioners Miranda and Tumamait-Stenslie
  • Chapter 4 Sacred Lands Inventory
    Subcommittee Members: None assigned
  • Chapter 5 SB 18 List
    Subcommittee Members: Commissioners Attebery and Lopez-Keifer
  • Chapter 6 Public Resources Code section 5097.97 Investigations
    Subcommittee Members: None assigned
  • Chapter 7 Fines
    Subcommittee Members: None assigned
  • Chapter 8 California Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
    Subcommittee Members: Commissioners McKay and Pagaling
  • Chapter 9 Conflict of Interest Code
    Subcommittee Members: None assigned
  • Chapter 10 NAHC Commissioner Code of Ethics
    Subcommittee Members: None assigned

The Commissioners approved draft regulations for Chapters 1 (General Provisions) and 3 (Most Likely Descendants), but the formal rulemaking process has not begun. To see the agenda item approving the draft regulations for Chapters 1 and 3, click here.

NAHC/UCLA Tribal Cultural Resources Project

In 2017, the NAHC and the UCLA School of Law’s Native Nations Law & Policy Center, established a Tribal Cultural Resources Project (TCR) within the law school’s existing Tribal Legal Development Clinic. The purpose of the TCR Project is to provide cultural resources protection capacity-building for Tribes in California, both federally recognized and non-federally recognized, that are seeking to protect and reclaim their cultural resources.

All services will be provided to California Tribes at no cost by UCLA law students and graduate students and will further the Project’s overall aim of creating materials, models, templates, and guides that can benefit all of California Indian country by empowering Tribes to be strong advocates for protection of their cultural resources.

For more information, please see the NAHC and UCLA Law School’s Press Release here.

Available Internships (High School and College Students) and Externships (Law Students)

Currently, the NAHC Legal Department only provides unpaid internships for high school and college students and unpaid externships for law students.  Past interns have come from Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento and Stanford University.  Past law school externs have come from the McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific.  For more information on the availability of internships or law school externships, contact the NAHC Legal Department at nahc@nahc.ca.gov with “Internship/Law School Externship” in the subject line.