Articles Posted in Native American Law

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A tribe qualifies to have land taken into trust for its benefit under 25 U.S.C. 5108 of the Indian Reorganization Act if it (1) was "under Federal jurisdiction" as of June 18, 1934, and (2) is "recognized" at the time the decision is made to take land into trust. The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the Interior and the Ione Band of Miwok Indians in a case involving a dispute over a proposed casino in the County. The panel held that the Interior's reading of the ambiguous phrase "under Federal jurisdiction" was the best interpretation and the Interior did not err in adopting that interpretation for purposes of deciding whether the Ione Band was "under Federal jurisdiction" as of 1934. Finally, the Interior did not err in allowing the Band to conduct gaming operations on the Plymouth Parcels under the "restored tribe" exception of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), 25 U.S.C. 2719(a). View "County of Amador v. USDOI" on Justia Law

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The Upper Skagit filed a Request for Determination as to the geographic scope of the Suquamish's usual and accustomed fishing grounds and stations (U&A) as determined by Judge Boldt in 1975. The Upper Skagit sought a determination that the Suquamish's U&A determinations did not include Chuckanut Bay, Samish Bay, and a portion of Padilla Bay where the Upper Skagit has its own court-approved U&A determinations (the Contested Waters). The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's conclusion that Judge Boldt did not intend to include the Contested Waters in the Suquamish's U&A determinations. The panel followed the two-step Muckleshoot analytical framework to interpret Judge Boldt's U&A findings, holding that Judge Boldt intended something different from the plain text of his findings and that the Upper Skagit showed that there was no evidence before Judge Boldt that the Suquamish fished or traveled through certain contested areas. View "Upper Skagit Indian Tribe v. Suquamish Indian Tribe" on Justia Law

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The Quinault Indian Nation filed suit against defendants for engaging in a scheme to defraud the Nation of taxes. After the Nation asked the district court to dismiss the action, Edwards' Estate sought to keep the litigation alive in order to litigate counterclaims against the Nation. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the counterclaims as barred by the Nation's sovereign immunity. The panel explained that if Edward's Estate had brought its claims in a separate suit against the Nation, the suit could not proceed. In this case, the counterclaims did not change the sovereign-immunity analysis. The Nation did not waive tribal sovereign immunity where filing suit did not result in wholesale waiver; the nation has not waived immunity to individual counterclaims; and the estate has not asserted a counterclaim for recoupment. The panel also held that the district court properly denied the Estate's motion for leave to amend. View "Quinault Indian Nation v. Pearson" on Justia Law

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The Tribe filed suit seeking a declaration that it has the right to investigate violations of tribal, state, and federal law, detain, and transport or deliver a non-Indian violator encountered on the reservation to the proper authorities. The Ninth Circuit held that the first amended complaint raised a federal question that provided federal courts with subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1331; the Tribe has presented a prudentially ripe case or controversy and the case is constitutionally ripe as well; and the district court's conclusion that the Tribe's response letter mooted all controversies between the parties was erroneous. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Bishop Paiute Tribe v. Inyo County" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of relators' qui tam action alleging that the College violated the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729-3733, by knowingly providing false progress reports on students in order to keep grant monies. The panel held that the Tribe is not a "person" under the FCA. The panel remanded for further jurisdictional factfinding on whether the College was an arm of the Tribe that shares the Tribe's status for purposes of the FCA. View "United States ex rel Cain v. Salish Kootenai College, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision to enjoin further tribal proceedings regarding whether the Navajo tribal court has jurisdiction over public school districts' employment decisions and practices conducted on the Navajo Reservation. The panel held that the employment-related claims arose from conduct on tribal land and implicate no state criminal law enforcement interests and therefore tribal jurisdiction was colorable or plausible under the panel's interpretation of Nevada v. Hicks, 533 U.S. 353 (2001). The panel explained that well-established exhaustion principles require that the tribal forum have the first opportunity to evaluate its own jurisdiction over this case, including the nature of the state and tribal interests involved. Because the panel's caselaw leaves open the question of what state interests might be sufficient to preclude tribal jurisdiction over disputes arising on tribal land, tribal jurisdiction was plausible enough here that exhaustion was required. View "Window Rock Unified School District v. Nez" on Justia Law

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Petitioners sought review of the EPA's federal implementation plan (FIP) under the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7401, for the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona. The FIP was promulgated under the EPA's Tribal Authority Rule (TAR) that governs CAA requirements on tribal lands. The court concluded that the federal government's partial ownership of the Station does not eliminate any deference to the EPA's interpretation of the CAA and its implementing regulations; the EPA reasonably interpreted the TAR and the Regional Haze Regulations to conclude that the emission reductions deadline in 40 C.F.R. 51.308(e)(2)(iii) does not apply to FIPs for regional haze that are promulgated in place of tribal implementation plans (TIPs); the court deferred to the EPA's determination that the FIP alternative was "better than BART" for nitrous oxide emissions; and the EPA's decision not to determine best available retrofit technology (BART) for particulate matter was a reasonable exercise of the EPA's discretion under the TAR. Accordingly, the court denied the petitions for review. View "Yazzie v. USEPA" on Justia Law

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The Tribe petitioned for review of the EPA's federal implementation plan (FIP) under the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7401, for the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona. The FIP was promulgated under the EPA's Tribal Authority Rule that governs CAA requirements on tribal lands. The Tribe claimed that it was not adequately consulted about its interests before the plan was promulgated and objected to a proposed closure of the Station in 2044. The court concluded that no authority allowed it to treat this as a duty to consult, stemming from the general trust relationship with the Indian tribes. In this case, the record showed that the EPA did, in fact, consult with the Hopi Tribe throughout the rulemaking process. Furthermore, while the EPA did not participate in the Technical Working Group (TWG) negotiations, the DOI did. The court also concluded that the record belies the Tribe's contention that the EPA failed to analyze each of the five best available retrofit technology (BART) factors. Because the TWG proposal was an alternative to BART, the court concluded that there was no error in the EPA not analyzing the BART factors under the TWG alternative. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "The Hopi Tribe v. USEPA" on Justia Law

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After petitioners disagreed with how the Tribal Council was governing internal tribal affairs, they submitted a recall petition to the Tribe's Election Committee. The Council subsequently disciplined petitioners for press releases that the Tribe described as inaccurate, false, and defamatory. The Council voted to withhold petitioners' per capita distributions and to ban them temporarily from tribal lands and facilities. Petitioners subsequently filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under the Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA), 25 U.S.C. 1303, against the members of the Council. The district court dismissed the petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that petitioners' punishment of exclusion was not a detention sufficient to invoke federal habeas jurisdiction. The court held that, reading the ICRA's habeas provision in light of the Indian canons of construction and Congress's plenary authority to limit tribal sovereignty, the district court lacked jurisdiction under section 1303 of the ICRA to review this temporary exclusion claim. The court also explained that any disputes about per capita payments must be brought in a tribal forum, not through federal habeas proceedings. View "Tavares v. Whitehouse" on Justia Law

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In this interlocutory appeal, the water agencies challenged the district court's grant of partial summary judgment for the Tribe and the United States. The judgment declared that the United States impliedly reserved appurtenant water sources, including groundwater, when it created the Tribe's reservation in California's arid Coachella Valley. The court concluded that in the Winters v. United States doctrine, federal reserved water rights are directly applicable to Indian reservations and other federal enclaves, encompassing water rights in navigable and nonnavigable streams; the Winters doctrine does not distinguish between surface water and groundwater; rather, its limits derive only from the government's intent in withdrawing land for a public purpose and the location of the water in relation to the reservation created; because the United States intended to reserve water when it established a home for the Tribe, the court held that the district court did not err in determining that the government reserved appurtenant water sources—including groundwater—when it created the Tribe's reservation in the Coachella Valley; and the creation of the Agua Caliente Reservation carried with it an implied right to use water from the Coachella Valley aquifer. The court held that state water rights were preempted by federal reserved rights; held that the fact that the Tribe did not historically access groundwater does not destroy its right to groundwater now; and held that state water entitlements do not affect the court's analysis with respect to the creation of the Tribe's federally reserved water right. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Coachella Valley Water District" on Justia Law