The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and 16 other Native Nations have filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that could weaken the federal Clean Water Act.
The case being contested is small in the grand scheme of things, but the precedent it could set is huge. An adverse ruling would mean “thousands of miles of streams and wetlands—many critical to the Tribes—would lose longstanding Clean Water Act protections,” the Tribes said.
In January, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, Sackett v. EPA, in its upcoming session.
Implies that much of eastern Oklahoma is reservation lands
Ruling puts tribes in strong negotiating position
On the surface, MCGIRT v. OKLAHOMA was an effort by Jimcy McGirt, an enrolled member of the Seminole Nation, to get a new trial on sexual assault conviction, a crime that took place on the Creek Reservation.
The underlying issues the case needed to resolve gave the decision a much broader impact.
At issue was whether the State of Oklahoma or U.S. government had jurisdiction to prosecute McGirt’s crime. The Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had jurisdiction because the Creek Nation effectively was an Indian reservation, at least as far as prosecuting major crimes such as sexual assault.
This was a roundabout way of a broken treaty getting long-overdue attention.
The decision’s impact ranges from overturning more convictions, like McGirts’, that were committed by an Indigenous person on Indigenous lands. It also could affect such things as zoning, taxation, and environmental law within reservation borders.
The decision will spark significant negotiations between the U.S. government, the state of Oklahoma, and the five Native Nations in the state. Continue reading →
Members of the Asian-American rock band The Slants have the right to call themselves by a disparaging name, the Supreme Court says, in a ruling that could have broad impact on how the First Amendment is applied in other trademark cases.
Checkerboarding refers to the federal government practice of breaking up what had been communally owned tribal reservations into individually owned parcels, called allotments. That way, non-Natives could buy land from individual Native Americans and weaken Native control of the reservation.
Leech Lake in northern Minnesota is one of the extreme examples of what can happen under this allotment system. According to Cris Stainbrook, president of the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, the Leech Lake Band and individual allotees own a mere 4 percent of the land within their historic reservation boundaries.
A case now before the U.S. Supreme Court — Nebraska v. Parker — is bringing an interesting challenge to this historical effort to diminish Native control over traditional reservation lands. The case started when Omaha Tribal members tried to impose liquor licenses and taxes on alcohol sales in Pender, Nebraska.
According to Wikipedia, Pender had a population of 1,002 in 2010 and supports seven liquor stores. The Omaha Tribe tried to gain revenue in 2006 by imposing taxes on these “nuisance” businesses.
Business owners affected by the proposed tax sued to block them, arguing they were not on the reservation and the tribe had no jurisdiction. The state of Nebraska joined the plaintiffs. The Omaha Tribe argues that while they no longer own land in Pender, it is still within the historic boundaries of its reservation.