Judicial Forum Hosted by Cow Creek Umpqua Tribal Court

The Cow Creek Umpqua Tribal Court hosted the annual meeting of the Oregon Tribal, State, Federal Court Judicial Forum at Seven Feathers Casino Resort in August. Established in 2016, the forum is charged with identifying and recommending ways to improve the administration of justice and improving the working relationship between the courts. Since its inception, it has served as an avenue to foster relationships and address gaps in providing court services, as well as  develop legislative initiatives and revisions to court procedures.

The forum consists of 18 judges representing the nine Oregon Tribes, the Oregon Supreme Court, Oregon Court of Appeals, Oregon Circuit Courts, and the United States District Court for Oregon.

This year, the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians was selected to host the forum, and the preceding evening reception. At the evening reception, the Cow Creek Tribal Youth Council opened with a greeting in Takelma, the ancestral language of the Cow Creek Umpqua people, and gave a presentation on their
activities. Judges said they were impressed with the Youth Council members and their achievements.

The following day, Co-Chair William Johnson, Chief Judge of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, presented a land acknowledgement that recognized meeting on the historic lands of the Cow Creek Umpqua people.

A keynote of the forum was the presentation by Professor Kate Forte, Director of Indian Law at the Michigan State School of Law, on the recent Indian Child Welfare Act decision in the United States Supreme Court. Professor Forte helped prepare arguments on behalf of various Tribes. Other presentations included a discussion led by Brent Leonhard, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, on other recent Supreme Court cases that affect Tribal, state and federal relations. Klamath Tribal and state judges also presented on how state and Tribal courts can work together in addressing judicial issues that affect Tribal youth.

Blankets designed by the Tribal Youth Council were presented to the retiring forum co-chairs, Chief Judge of the Warm Springs Tribal Court, Lisa Lomas, and Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters. They were honored for their efforts in creating the forum and shepherding its growth. Blankets were presented by Cow Creek Umpqua Heritage Programs Manager Ben Steward and Cow Creek Umpqua Chief Judge Ron Yockim, along with the new co-chairs, Oregon Appellate Judge Darleen Ortega, and Chief Judge William Johnson.

The forum concluded with a tour of the Cow Creek Umpqua Tribal Government Office and a discussion of the tribal history and development of the Cow Creek Tribal Court by Cultural Resources Manager Jennifer Bryant.

“It was refreshing to hear the various judges describe the Tribal Youth Council presentation as ‘enriching’ and they were honored to be able to share time with them,” said Yockim. “As Chief Judge, I am very proud of the assistance provided by Tribal staff and the youth. Their efforts made it a very exciting and informative meeting.”