High court rejects state raid, land claim

High court rejects state raid, land claim

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John Ahni Schertow
November 29, 2006
 

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear two Indian law cases on Monday, closing the doors on a contentious sovereignty case and another tribal land claim.

In the first case, the justices rejected an appeal from the Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island. The tribe’s reservation was raided by state troopers, who arrested tribal leaders and members, seized tribal property and shut down a smoke shop.

In the second, the justices refused to consider the Delaware Nation’s claim to 315 acres in Pennsylvania. The tribe, based in Oklahoma, wanted to trade its land for gaming rights in what has become a controversial practice.

Narragansett Tribe v. Rhode Island, No. 06-414
On July 14, 2003, television stations nationwide broadcast a violent raid of the Narragansett Reservation. State troopers, acting on orders from Gov. Donald Carcieri (R), went there to shut down a smoke shop that was selling tobacco products without a state tax.

The tribe sued the state, claiming its rights were violated. In a May 2005 ruling, a three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the raid trampled on tribal sovereignty but said the state could impose taxes on the reservation, and recommended a compact.

After a rehearing, the 1st Circuit issued an even broader ruling this past May. By a 4-2 vote, the court said the state can enforce all of its laws on the reservation, citing a land claim settlement approved back in 1983.

The tribe subsequently filed a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court. Without comment, the justices denied the writ, upholding the 1st Circuit ruling that could set precedent for other tribes in Maine and Massachusetts that signed similar land claim settlements.

But the issue could come up again with another case in the 1st Circuit. Land taken into trust outside the Narragansett’s land claim area could remain out of reach of state laws depending how the court rules.

There’s also the open question whether acts of Congress that granted state jurisdiction over Indian Country apply to the actions of tribal governments and not just tribal members. The Supreme Court failed to resolve that dispute in another state raid case back in 2003.

From indianz.com (See this link for Court Rulings and related stories)

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