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Procopio and California Indian Legal Services Secure Important Victory in Treatment of Cultural Resources by Museum

Yountville, CA - Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP and California Indian Legal Services (CILS) announced today settlement of a lawsuit brought by two California Indians against the Napa Valley Museum, in Yountville, California in the County of Napa. The case arises from damage, destruction and loss of several Native American cultural items while under the care and custody of the Napa Valley Museum. The articles were loaned to the museum by two California Indians, Chester and Coleen McCloud,

In June 2009, the Museum asked members of the community to loan culturally important items that it could display for its “Portals to the Past” exhibition, and the McClouds generously obliged. As a condition of loaning the items, the McClouds expressly requested that the items be handled in a manner consistent with their religious and spiritual beliefs. Items included a 7 Foot Old Growth Bark House, jewelry, mortar and pestle set, a bark doll, a tule boat, and a willow bow set, all hand made in the traditional Indian manner, and many had been passed through generations of family members. The Museum agreed to treat the items as the McCloud’s requested, and make sure the items would not be handled by the public. Upon closure of the Portals exhibit, the McClouds discovered that the loaned articles were all either significantly damaged through mishandling or were inexplicably missing.

Resolution of the matter included monetary compensation to the McClouds, an apology from the Museum for the mishandling of articles, and significant operational changes, including the adoption of a new policy, at the Museum to avoid future mistreatment of loaned articles. The Legal Team worked with Native American Museum experts in the development of industry-standard lending agreements to be used in any future borrowing and display of Native American Cultural items by the Napa Museum. Going forward, the Museum’s handling of culturally significant items will match or exceed the best practices in the industry.

The Legal Team represented the McCloud family on a pro bono basis. The Legal Team included Fred Taylor and Ted Griswold of Procopio and Alex Cleghorn and Nicholas Mazanec of California Indian Legal Services. The two firms are working collaboratively to assist other low income Native American clients in Northern California regarding public domain allotment matters.

“We are glad we successfully resolved this situation for our clients. Cultural resource issues continue to be an important issue for California Indians and we filed this lawsuit to achieve justice for our clients and to make sure this would never happen at this museum again.

CILS values the pro-bono partnerships we have forged with firms such as Procopio; the co-counsel relationship makes for smart and balanced sharing of resources vital to ensuring CILS effective advocacy for our native communities,” said Alex Cleghorn, CILS Directing Attorney.

The McClouds were devastated by the damage and loss and Coleen McCloud said that “without lawyers like California Indian Legal Services, no one would have helped us.”

Procopio's Native American Law Practice Group provides CILS and its clients pro bono legal expertise in litigation, property rights, protection of cultural resources and other matters throughout California. CILS and Procopio act as co-counsel as a public interest collaboration serving the Native American Community. For more information, please contact Practice Group Leader, Ted Griswold, at ted.griswold@procopio.com or 619.515.3277.

About California Indian Legal Services

California Indian Legal Services (CILS) is one of the oldest non-profit law firms devoted exclusively to the cause of Native American rights. Governed by a Board of Trustees selected by California tribes and tribal organizations, CILS has provided free and low-cost legal services to California tribes, tribal organizations and Native American individuals throughout the state for over four decades. Our mission is to protect and advance Indian rights, foster Indian self-determination, and facilitate tribal nation-building.  For more information, please visit www.calindian.org.

Alex Cleghorn, Directing Attorney, can be reached at 916.978.0960.

About Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP

With more than 120 attorneys in San Diego and Carlsbad, Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP is one of the largest business law firms in Southern California. We are a local law firm with a global network that gives us the ability to serve our clients’ interests throughout the world. Procopio is dedicated to understanding the businesses and industries of our clients and collaborating with them to develop tailored strategies. We advise companies at every stage in the corporate life cycle, helping them to plan, finance, and operate their businesses. Since 1946, our success has been derived from our commitment to our clients and our ability to maximize the value we provide to them. Our goal is to continue building long-term relationships with our clients through a steady, team-oriented approach. For additional information, please visit www.procopio.com.