Indian Law Articles

Potential House Committee on Indian Affairs Falls

Although we all had hoped that the House of Representatives would finally establish an Indian affairs committee, like the Senate, those hopes have been dashed - at least for now. Apparently, because the Democrats already had disputes with the Republican minority regarding the oversight roles of other committees, the House Democratic leadership felt that a dispute over creating an Indian affairs committee was not worth it. Thus, Indian affairs will remain with the House Resources Committee at least through the 110th Congress.

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Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Superior Court, Cal. S.Ct. (Dec. 21, 2006)

In a 4-3 split decision, the California Supreme Court upheld the California Court of Appeals decision that Indian tribes do not have sovereign immunity against suits seeking to enforce state campaign contribution laws. Like the Court of Appeals, the State Supreme Court took an extremely odd and constitutionally questionable approach to attempt to bypass federally mandated and protected sovereign immunity. In short, the Court felt that the state's rights under the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution outweigh tribes' federally guaranteed sovereign immunity in the context of political contributions.

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Bush Signs Native American Languages Preservation Act

On December 14, 2006, President Bush signed the Native American Languages Preservation Act into law. The Act was passed by both houses of Congress the week before.

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NIGC Publishes Rule-Making Agenda

The National Indian Gaming Commission ("NIGC") has updated its proposed rule-making agenda. In its semi-annual regulatory agenda, the NIGC has listed seven rules in the proposed stage, three in the final stage, five in long-term development, and one rule as completed.

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Indian Veterans' Cemetery Bill Passes Congress

Congressman Tom Udall's (D-NM) bill to allow tribes to receive funds for veterans' cemeteries passed both houses of Congress. Under the Native American Veterans Cemetery Act, tribes can establish cemeteries for deceased veterans on the reservation. Representative Udall noted what most of us already know, but the majority of Americans fail to recognize: that Indians have the highest record per capita of any ethnic group serving in the U.S. military. The Native American Veterans Cemetery Act is a good step forward in recognizing the unique sacrifice of Indian peoples for the United States that is unmatched by any other group in the country.

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Native Languages Legislation Passes Congress

Congress passed the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act of 2006, sending it to the President for signature. The Act provides for the revitalization of Indian languages through support of Indian language immersion programs, such as language nests, survival schools, and language restoration programs. The Act does not create new programs, but incorporates proven native language education into programs currently authorized by the Native American Programs Act of 1974.

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New Judge Assigned to Cobell Litigation

Judge James Robertson, an appointee of the Clinton administration, has been assigned to preside over the Cobell litigation, taking over from Judge Lamberth, who was removed by the appellate court for claims of appearing biased against the federal government when stating the obvious in terms of the government's abhorrent behavior in the past and in the current litigation.

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Settling IIM Trust Mismanagement Alone Not Option

Indian country's refusal to agree to the Bush Administration's disgusting proposal to settle the Cobell litigation was more than the correct response. However, it is seeming more and more that the United States will not agree to any settlement of the Cobell litigation that does not include an en masse disposal of all of the government's wrongdoings toward Indian peoples and nations. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) himself has stated outright that he will not support any bill that settles the Cobell litigation if it does not simultaneously "settle" as many other trust claims as possible. Unfortunately, every time the government has supposedly "settled" all outstanding claims for its violations of the trust responsibility and other wrongs to Indian peoples and nations, it simply begins a cycle of new violations and wrongs that it will seek to "settle" later. Perhaps that is why the Bush administration is so desirable of limiting future claims altogether.

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