Indian Law Articles

Pit River Tribe v. United States Forest Service, 9th Cir. 2006

The Pit River Tribe and other plaintiffs won a significant victory in the Ninth Circuit for Indian religious freedom. On November 6, 2006, the Ninth Circuit reversed the Eastern District of California's summary judgment in favor of the government that would allow, once again, the destruction of sacred lands.

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NIGC Case Involves Greater Issues than MICS Authority

The D.C. Circuit's decision holding that the NIGC lacks authority to fully regulate class III gaming involves a lot more than the limited issue raised in the litigation and determined by the courts. It involves the larger issue of the NIGC's actions and structure with respect to Indian gaming - at least at the Washington level. To understand, one has to first look at the history of the entire case.

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Bush Returning U.S. to Termination Policy

In what is yet another example of the Bush Administration proving that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, the administration has responded to the Cobell Settlement before Congress by adding provisions to slowly terminate the federal trust responsibility over both individual Indian and tribal trust lands. In a document entitled "New Issues for S.1439," the Bush administration has proposed that the Cobell settlement legislation include provisions that would consolidate fractionated Indian lands over the next 10 years to 10 owners and convert the federal trust relationship into a "beneficiary-managed" trust under which the United States would have no liability.

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CRIT v. NIGC, D.C. Cir.

On October 20, 2006, the D.C. Circuit dealt another blow to the National Indian Gaming Commission's ("NIGC") claimed penultimate authority over Indian gaming. As both the original administrative law judge recommended and the D.C. District Court held, the D.C. Circuit found that the NIGC's claimed authority over all aspects of class III gaming, even if it contravenes a tribal-state compact, simply does not exist. Specifically, the Court held that the NIGC has no authority to promulgate and enforce minimum internal control standards ("MICS") for class III gaming.

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Trust Litigation Settlement Still Before Congress

Congress is still attempting to pass settlement legislation for the Cobell litigation. However, Senator McCain has criticized the Bush administration's apparent delay tactics in resolving the matter. Interior's failure to respond to the settlement legislation will most likely stop the legislation from passing before the upcoming recess that will last until after the November elections.

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Indian Affairs Committee Approves Artman

On September 14, 2006, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee unanimously approved Carl Artman's nomination as Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs. The full Senate is expected to confirm Artman without any issues.

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Bill Would Allow Funding for Tribal Veterans Cemeteries

Representative Tom Udall (D-NM) proposed a bill in the House of Representatives that would permit states for provide grants financed by the Department of Veterans Affairs for the development of veterans cemeteries on tribal lands. In essence, Indian veterans killed in battle will be able to be buried near home without foregoing burial in a cemetary designated for veterans. Currently, Indian veterans killed in battle can be buried near their home or buried in a national veterans cemetery - a difficult choice for many. If the bill is approved, Indian veterans can be buried in a veterans cemetery at home, eliminating this difficult choice.

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New Law Includes Tribes in ERISA

President Bush signed the Pension Protection Act of 2006, which made significant changes to the Employment Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"). Section 906 of the new Act brings Indian tribes expressly under the ERISA. Prior to this new law, ERISA did not mention tribes and it was not entirely clear whether ERISA applied to tribes. Many tribes and law firms, including Brad S. Jolly & Associates, did not concede that ERISA applied to tribes.

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