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.
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).
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.
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.).
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.).
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.).
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.).
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.).
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).
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.
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.).
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).
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).
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.).
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.).
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.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. solicitor general filed an amicus curiae brief on March 20 in support of Oklahoma in its Supreme Court fight over the size of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation and a motion seeking to participate in oral argument to present the federal government’s “unique perspective” on the issues in the case (Jimcy McGirt v. Oklahoma, No. 18-9526, U.S. Sup.).
DENVER — A 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on March 17 denied a Native American prisoner’s request to appeal the denial of relief for his conviction via a plea agreement to “abusive sexual contact” with two children, finding in part no error in the trial court’s refusal to send the case to tribal court (Gerald Paul Headley v. United States, No. 19-8075, 10th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 8399).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. government on March 18 again waived its right to respond to a U.S. Supreme Court petition challenging the fraud and racketeering convictions of a Pennsylvania man and his Delaware attorney, who partnered with Indian tribes to make short-term, high-interest loans to customers in need of quick cash in what has been called a “rent-a-tribe” scheme (Wheeler K. Neff v. United States, No. 19-1127, Charles M. Hallinan v. United States, No. 19-1087, U.S. Sup.).
TACOMA, Wash. — A Washington Indian tribe cannot seek a declaration that it is a signatory to an 1855 treaty and that its members still have the treaty-given right to hunt anywhere in the state because its treaty rights were already determined in prior litigation, a federal judge decided March 18 in dismissing the tribe’s case (Snoqualmie Indian Tribe v. Washington, No. 3:19-cv-06227, W.D. Wash., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47160).