Saturday, February 28, 2009

United States Supreme Court Rules on Federal Land Trust for Native American Indian Tribes

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on ability of the federal government to take land into trust for Native American Indian Tribes

As reported by the Associated Press:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday limited the federal government's authority to hold land in trust for Indian tribes, a victory for Rhode Island and other states seeking to impose local laws and control over development on Indian lands.

The court's ruling (The case is Carcieri v. Salazar, 07-526) applies to tribes recognized by the federal government after the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act

The U.S. government argued that the law allows it to take land into trust for tribes regardless of when they were recognized, but Justice Clarence Thomas said in his majority opinion that the law "unambiguously refers to those tribes that were under the federal jurisdiction" when it was enacted.


Indian rights advocates said Congress intended for the law to set a new standard for future relationships with all tribes, regardless of when they were recognized.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston rejected the state's argument that Rhode Island should be the applicable authority. The high court reversed the appellate ruling.

It remains unclear how many tribes could be affected by Tuesday's ruling. Lawyers for Rhode Island believe several hundred tribes recognized after 1934 might now be unable to place new land into a federal trust without specific permission from Congress. Richard Guest, an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, said dozens of tribes may be affected. Read more about the ruling here....

Following on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, chairman of a congressional committee that oversees Native American Indian issues said Wednesday that he will call a hearing on the repercussions of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that could derail the Mashpee Wampanoag's quest to build a casino.

As reported by South Coast Today,

A hearing before the House panel could be the first step toward a congressional reaction to Tuesday's decision by the high court, which found the U.S. Department of Interior doesn't have the authority to take land into federal trust for American Indian tribes recognized after 1934.

"While the full ramifications of this decision are not yet known, it has the potential to throw a shroud over the sovereign nature of land held by untold numbers of Indian tribes," U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-West Virginia, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement issued Wednesday. "In the near future, I will convene my committee to hold a hearing on this most pressing issue."

No date has been set for a hearing, a spokeswoman for Rahall said.

Among expert observers and political insiders, the expectation is that Congress will move to provide relief to tribes recognized after 1934 in the wake of Tuesday's Supreme Court decision.

But what that fix might look like remained to be seen Wednesday.

What are people's opinions on this new ruling and how do you think it will effect tribes? Leave a comment and share your opinion.

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