Justia Native American Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the order of the district court finding that the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) incorrectly approved the taking of two areas of land into trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribe, holding that the plain meaning of the text of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (IRA) precluded the BIA's interpretation of 25 U.S.C. 5129. The Tribe planned to use land taken into trust in Mashpee, Massachusetts primarily for housing and planning to use land in Taunton, Massachusetts for economic activities. In approving the taking of the two areas of land into trust for the Tribe the BIA construed 25 U.S.C. 5129 to permit it to accept lands for the Tribe. The district court remanded the matter to the BIA, finding that the BIA incorrectly read the statute as giving it authority to take land into trust for the Tribe. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the IRA unambiguously foreclosed the BIA's interpretation of 25 U.S.C. 5129; and (2) therefore, the BIA lacked authority to take land into trust for the benefit of the Tribe. View "Littlefield v. Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribe" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the complaint filed by the Narragansett Indian Tribe against federal and Rhode Island agencies concerning a highway bridge reconstruction over historic tribal land, holding that the Tribe’s claim was not the type of claim federal courts may adjudicate. The Tribe filed suit in federal district court alleging breach of contract and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The heart of the Tribe’s claim contended that the state of Rhode Island broke a promise made to the Tribe. The district court granted Defendants’ motions to dismiss, concluding (1) as to the federal defendants, none of the three statutes identified in the complaint waived the federal government’s sovereign immunity as to the Tribe’s claims; and (2) as to the state defendants, the Tribe alleged no basis to support the court’s exercise of jurisdiction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the National Historic Preservation Act does not waive the federal government’s sovereign immunity in connection with the bringing of this suit; and (2) as to the state agencies, the complaint lacked any basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction. View "Narragansett Indian Tribe v. Rhode Island Department of Transportation" on Justia Law