Mealey's Native American Law

  • April 08, 2020

    Government Holds Off On Vow To Take Away Cape Cod Tribe’s Reservation

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of the Interior (DOI) has agreed to delay acting on its decision to take away the reservation of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and revoke the tribe’s gaming rights until a District of Columbia federal judge can rule on the tribe’s request for a restraining order, according to a court order filed April 6 (Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe v. David Bernhardt, et al., No. 18-2242, D. D.C.).

  • April 07, 2020

    Judge Says Fraud, RICO Claims Against Tribe, Officials Can Proceed

    SAN FRANCISCO — Tribal defendants are not entitled to summary judgment on a casino development company’s fraud and racketeering claims based on the election-of-remedies doctrine and the company’s choice to first pursue judgment on its breach of contract claim, which was successful, a California federal judge decided April 3 (JW Gaming Development, LLC v. Angela James, et al., No. 3:18-cv-02669, N.D. Calif., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60264).

  • April 07, 2020

    Conviction As Habitual Offender In Indian Country Stands, 8th Circuit Says

    ST. PAUL, Minn. — A habitual domestic violence offender in Indian country fails in both his procedural attack on his latest conviction and sentence and his claim of “actual innocence,” the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled April 6, affirming a trial court’s decision on remand (Samuel Bryce Silk, Jr. v. United States, No. 18-1908, 8th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 10668).

  • April 06, 2020

    Argument In High Court Case Over Size Of Reservation Delayed By Coronavirus

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oklahoma, an Indian tribe in the state and a convicted child sex offender will have to wait to present their arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court on the present-day size of the tribe’s reservation for the purpose of criminal jurisdiction, with the court postponing its entire April argument calendar April 3 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic (Jimcy McGirt v. Oklahoma, No. 18-9526, U.S. Sup.).

  • April 03, 2020

    DOI Takes Land Into Trust For Michigan Tribe’s Housing, Retail Development

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of the Interior issued a decision March 31 granting a request by a Michigan Indian tribe for the United States to take nearly 160 acres into trust for the tribe so it can develop a multipurpose housing unit and retail project near its casino.

  • April 03, 2020

    5th Circuit Again Upholds Texas’ Injunction Barring Tribe’s Gaming Activities

    NEW ORLEANS — The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on April 2 affirmed an injunction for Texas that shuts down an Indian tribe’s bingo operation in a dispute over tribal gambling in the state that has gone on “[f]or a generation” (Texas v. Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, et al., No. 19-50400, 5th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 10448).

  • April 01, 2020

    DOI Asks Tribes For Help In Allocating $8B Coronavirus Aid Package

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of the Interior (DOI) wants to hear from Native American tribes about how to best spend $8 billion set aside for tribal governments in the recently approved Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, according to a notice sent out to tribes March 31.

  • April 01, 2020

    Tribe Seeks Emergency TRO To Halt Interior’s Plan To Eliminate Reservation

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Cape Cod, Mass., on March 30 asked a District of Columbia federal court to issue an emergency restraining order (TRO) to keep the Department of the Interior (DOI) from taking away the tribe’s 321-acre reservation, which the agency has ordered the Bureau of Indian Affair (BIA) to do based on a recent appeals court ruling in a different case (Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe v. Ryan Zinke, et al., No. 18-2242, D. D.C.).

  • April 01, 2020

    Tribe, Gaming Authority Dismiss Supreme Court Case Over Sovereignty Dispute

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Parties in a U.S. Supreme Court case asking whether Congress abrogated tribal sovereign immunity in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code on March 27 filed a stipulation to dismiss the case (Buchwald Capital Advisors, LLC v. Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, et al., No. 18-1218, U.S. Sup.).

  • April 01, 2020

    Tribe Seeks Damages For PFAS Contamination In Groundwater

    RICHLAND, Wash. — A native American tribe on March 30 sued 3M Co. and other makers of aqueous film forming foams (AFFF), which are used to fight chemical fires, in Washington federal court contending that the AFFF contained per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) that have contaminated the local groundwater supply (Kalispel Tribe of Indians, et al. v. The 3M Company, et al., No. 20-127, E.D. Wash.).

  • April 01, 2020

    Former Blackfeet Leader Sentenced On Head Start Overtime Fraud Charge

    GREAT FALLS, Mont. — The former chairman of the Blackfeet Tribe was sentenced March 30 to 10 months in prison and ordered to pay $174,000 in restitution for his role in an overtime pay scheme that stole federal funds from the tribe’s Head Start child assistance program, according to a docket entry after a sentencing hearing and a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office (United States v. Willie Andrew Sharp, No. 4:19-cr-3, D. Mont.).

  • March 31, 2020

    2nd Indian Tribe Sues Insurers In Oklahoma Seeking Coverage For Coronavirus Losses

    DURANT, Okla. — Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is one of two Native American Indian tribes to sue its insurers on March 24 in an Oklahoma court, arguing that they are responsible for its losses and expenses related to the COVID-19 infection and coronavirus pandemic that has allegedly damaged its property and prevented it from being used for its intended purpose (Choctaw Nation Department of Commerce v. Lexington Insurance Co., et al., No. 20-35, Okla. Dist., Bryan Co.).

  • March 31, 2020

    ‘Competent Physician-Led Health Care’ Owed To Tribe Under Treaty, Judge Rules

    PIERRE, S.D. — A South Dakota federal judge on March 30 awarded summary judgment to an Indian tribe — but only to a “limited extent” — on its claim that the United States violated its treaty-guaranteed responsibilities to provide health care services to the tribe’s members when it shut down the tribal hospital’s emergency room for seven months in 2015 (Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. United States of America, et al., No. 3:16-cv-03038, D. S.D., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54323).

  • March 30, 2020

    Cape Cod Tribe Slams Government For Taking Away Trust Land

    MASHPEE, Mass. — The leader of the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribe on Cape Cod attacked the Trump Administration on March 27 for its “cruel” decision to notify the tribe that day — while it is trying to come to grips with the novel coronavirus pandemic — that the government is taking its 321 acres of land out of trust and taking away its reservation.

  • March 30, 2020

    Chickasaw Nation Indian Tribe:  Policies Cover Losses Related To Coronavirus

    ADA, Okla. — The Chickasaw Nation Department of Commerce on March 24 sued its insurers in Oklahoma court, seeking a declaration that its insurance policies cover its losses and expenses that are related to the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19 infection (Chickasaw Nation Department of Commerce v. Lexington Insurance Co., et al., No. 20-35, Okla. Dist., Pontotoc Co.).

  • March 27, 2020

    Magistrate Judge Denies Dismissal Of Former Tribal Employee’s RICO Action

    BILLINGS, Mont. — A Montana federal magistrate judge on March 23 turned back two requests by the individual operators of a Native American nursing home to dismiss a former employee’s claim that she was fired in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (Tammy Wilhite v. Paul Littlelight, et al., No. 1:19-cv-20, D. Mont., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51127).

  • March 27, 2020

    Judge Remands Again, Directs Army Corps To Conduct Environmental Study For DAPL

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to adequately respond to concerns by experts about the dangers of an oil spill from the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), it must prepare a detailed environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project, a District of Columbia federal judge held March 25 in a long-running challenge to the pipeline’s construction by four Indian tribes (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, et al., No. 16-1534, D. D.C., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51540).

  • March 27, 2020

    Conservation Groups Take Fight Against Indian Coal Company To High Court

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tribal and environmental groups on March 24 asked the U.S. Supreme Court to vacate dismissal of their challenge to the federal government’s approval of coal-mining activities by an Indian company on Indian land based on tribal sovereign immunity, saying the ruling creates a conflict among courts that handle most of the Native American law disputes in the country (Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, et al. v. Bureau of Indian Affairs, et al., No. 19-1166, U.S. Sup.).

  • March 26, 2020

    Judge:  DOI Erred In Banning Tribes From Filing Second Recognition Request

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of the Interior (DOI) acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it banned Indian tribes that were denied federal recognition from repetitioning the agency for recognition status, a District of Columbia federal judge held March 25 in vacating the ban and remanding the issue to the DOI in a Michigan tribe’s suit seeking federal recognition (Burt Lake Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians v. David Bernhardt, et al., No. 1:17-cv-38, D. D.C.).

  • March 25, 2020

    Polluter Seeks Review Of Tribes’ Jurisdiction To Impose Toxic Waste Storage Fees

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Indian tribes that want the owner of a Superfund site to continue to pay an annual $1.5 million use permit fee to store millions of tons of toxic waste on private land within their reservation have stretched the landmark jurisdictional ruling in Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544 (1981), too far, the property owner tells the U.S. Supreme Court in a March 16 petition for certiorari (FMC Corporation v. Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, No. 19-1143, U.S. Sup.).