Justia Native American Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use
Crow Tribe of Indians, et al. v. Repsis, et al.
In 1992, the Crow Tribe brought a declaratory action against Wyoming Game and Fish officials to determine whether the 1868 Treaty with the Crows afforded it an unrestricted right to hunt in the Bighorn National Forest. Relying on a line of prior Supreme Court cases interpreting Indian treaties, the federal district court in Wyoming held in Crow Tribe of Indians v. Repsis (Repsis I), 866 F. Supp. 520 (D. Wyo. 1994), that Wyoming’s admission as a state extinguished the Tribe’s treaty hunting rights (the “Statehood Holding”). In Crow Tribe of Indians v. Repsis (Repsis II), 73 F.3d 982 (10th Cir. 1995), the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s Statehood Holding. Alternatively, the Tenth Circuit held that the Bighorn National Forest was “occupied,” so the Tribe’s treaty hunting rights would not have applied to the area in question (the “Occupation Rationale”), and also reasoned that Wyoming could have justified its restrictions on hunting due to its interest in conservation (the “Conservation Necessity Rationale”). In 2019, the Supreme Court decided Herrera v. Wyoming, 139 S. Ct. 1686 (2019), in response to Wyoming’s attempts to prosecute a Tribe member for hunting in Bighorn National Forest. Critically, the Court held that the Tribe’s treaty rights had not been extinguished by Wyoming’s admittance as a state and that Bighorn National Forest was not categorically “occupied.” On remand, Wyoming continued its efforts to prosecute the Tribe’s member, arguing in part that the defendant could not assert a treaty right to hunt in Bighorn National Forest because Repsis II continued to bind the Tribe and its members through the doctrine of issue preclusion. The Tribe moved for relief from Repsis II under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). But the district court denied the Tribe’s motion, holding that it lacked the power to grant relief because the Tenth Circuit relied on alternative grounds for affirmance (the Occupation and Conservation Necessity Rationales) that the district court had not considered in Repsis I. The Tribe appealed, arguing that the district court legally erred when it held that it lacked the power to review the Tribe’s Rule 60(b) motion. The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court abused its discretion when it held that it lacked the authority to review the Tribe’s motion for post-judgment relief. The matter was remanded again for further proceedings. View "Crow Tribe of Indians, et al. v. Repsis, et al." on Justia Law
Kansas ex rel Kobach, et al. v. U.S. Department of Interior, et al.
congressional mandate to compensate the Wyandotte Tribe for its loss of millions of acres in the Ohio River Valley morphed into a thirty-year dispute over ten acres in a Wichita, Kansas suburb. In 1992, eight years after Congress’s enacted remedy, the Tribe used $25,000 of that compensation to buy a ten-acre lot in Kansas called the Park City Parcel. The next year, the Tribe applied for trust status on the Park City Parcel under Congress’s 1984 enactment, but the Secretary of the Interior denied the application. The Tribe tried again in 2008, reapplying for trust status on the Park City Parcel to set up gaming operations. Since then, the State of Kansas opposed the Tribe’s efforts to conduct gaming on the Parcel. The State disputed the Tribe’s claim that its purchase came from the allocated $100,000 in congressional funds. And the State argued that no exception to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) authorized the Tribe to operate gaming on the lot. In 2020, the Secretary rejected the State’s arguments, approving the Tribe’s trust application and ruling that the Tribe could conduct gaming operations on the Park City Parcel. The district court agreed. And so did the Tenth Circuit. The Court affirmed the ruling that the Secretary was statutorily bound to take the Park City Parcel into trust and to allow a gaming operation there under IGRA’s settlement-of-a-land-claim exception. View "Kansas ex rel Kobach, et al. v. U.S. Department of Interior, et al." on Justia Law
IN RE: KLAMATH IRRIGATION DISTRICT V. USDC-ORM
Disputes over the allocation of water within the Klamath Basin in southern Oregon and northern California, particularly during the recent period of severe and prolonged drought, have prompted many lawsuits in this and other courts. In this episode, Klamath Irrigation District (“KID”) petitions for a writ of mandamus to compel the district court to remand KID’s motion for preliminary injunction to the Klamath County Circuit Court in Oregon. The motion had originally been filed by KID in that Oregon court but was removed to federal district court by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (“Reclamation”), a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Interior. Reclamation was identified by KID as the respondent for KID’s motion. The Ninth Circuit denied KID’s petition for writ of mandamus. The panel considered the five factors in Bauman v. U.S. District Court, 557 F.3d 813, 817 (9th Cir. 2004), in determining whether mandamus was warranted. The panel began with the third factor—clear error as a matter of law— because it was a necessary condition for granting the writ of mandamus. The panel rejected KID’s attempt to circumvent KID II, the Tribes’ rights, and the effect of the ESA by characterizing the relief it sought as an application of the ACFFOD. The panel expressed no views on the merits of KID’s underlying motion for preliminary injunction and concluded only that the district court did not err in declining to remand the motion for preliminary injunction to the state court. The panel held that it need not consider the remaining Bauman factors because the third factor was dispositive. View "IN RE: KLAMATH IRRIGATION DISTRICT V. USDC-ORM" on Justia Law
UPPER SKAGIT INDIAN TRIBE, ET AL V. SAUK-SUIATTLE INDIAN TRIBE
The Upper Skagit Indian Tribe (the Upper Skagit tribe) claimed that the usual and accustomed fishing areas of the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe (the Sauk tribe) under a 1974 decision do not include the Skagit River, and therefore that decision did not authorize the Sauk tribe to open salmon fisheries on that river. The dispute, in this case, relates to the meaning of Finding of Fact 131 in Final Decision I, which defines the Sauk tribe’s U&As The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the Upper Skagit tribe. The court concluded that the district court intended to omit the Skagit River from the Sauk tribe’s usual and accustomed fishing areas. The panel agreed with the Upper Skagit tribe’s contention that Finding of Fact 131 clearly and unambiguously established Judge Boldt’s intent not to include the Skagit River in the Sauk tribe’s U&As. The panel held that if Judge Boldt intended to include the Skagit River in the U&As of the Sauk tribe, he would have used that specific term, as he did elsewhere. The panel held that the Lane Report, on which Judge Boldt heavily relied, reinforced its conclusion. The panel held that none of the statements undermined its conclusion that Judge Boldt’s intent was clear or showed that he intended to include the Skagit River in the U&As contrary to the plain text of Finding of Fact 131. View "UPPER SKAGIT INDIAN TRIBE, ET AL V. SAUK-SUIATTLE INDIAN TRIBE" on Justia Law
Pueblo of Jemez v. United States, et al.
The Pueblo of Jemez filed a quiet title action against the United States relating to lands comprising the Valles Caldera National Preserve (“Valles Caldera”), which the United States purchased from private landowners in 2000. In an earlier appeal, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the district court’s ruling dismissing the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Court reversed and remanded, finding that an 1860 federal grant of title to private landowners would not extinguish the Jemez Pueblo’s claimed aboriginal title. Upon remand, the Jemez Pueblo could establish that it once and still had aboriginal title to the lands at issue. After a twenty-one-day trial, the district court ruled that the Jemez Pueblo failed to establish ever having aboriginal title to the entire lands of the Valles Caldera, failing to show that it ever used the entire claimed land to the exclusion of other Indian groups. The Jemez Pueblo moved for reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). But rather than seek reconsideration of its complaint’s QTA claim to the entire Valles Caldera, the Jemez Pueblo shrunk its QTA claim into claims of title to four discrete subareas within the Valles Caldera: (1) Banco Bonito, (2) the Paramount Shrine Lands, (3) Valle San Antonio, and (4) the Redondo Meadows. The district court declined to reconsider all but Banco Bonito, on grounds that the Jemez Pueblo hadn’t earlier provided the government notice of these claims. Even so, being thorough, the court later considered and rejected those three claims on the merits. Of the issues raised by the Jemez Pueblo on appeal, we primarily address its challenge to the district court’s ruling that the Jemez Pueblo lost aboriginal title to Banco Bonito. The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court erroneously interpreted "Jemez I" in ruling that the Jemez Pueblo lost aboriginal title to Banco Bonito. So in accordance with longstanding Supreme Court precedent, and by the district court’s findings, the Court held the Jemez Pueblo still had aboriginal title to Banco Bonito. The Court reversed in part the denial of the Jemez Pueblo’s motion for reconsideration, and vacated in part and remanded with instructions to the district court. The Court affirmed in all other respects. View "Pueblo of Jemez v. United States, et al." on Justia Law
Gattineri v. Town of Lynnfield, Mass.
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellants' complaint against the Town of Lynnfield, Massachusetts and several of the town's agencies and employees (collectively, Lynnfield) in this dispute over Appellants' spring water business, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.Appellants owned and operated the Pocahontas Spring in Lynnfield, Massachusetts, which sat on protected wetlands subject to state and local regulations. When Appellants sought to revive their spring water business and to maintain the Spring for Native Americans as a source of healing water. Appellants brought this complaint alleging that Lynnfield conspired to have neighbors lodge false complaint about Appellants' allegedly unlawful activities at the Spring and Lynnfield would respond to intimidate Appellants and interfere with their business. The First Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that Appellants' failure adequately to brief their two First Amendment claims proved fatal in this case. View "Gattineri v. Town of Lynnfield, Mass." on Justia Law
Ahtna, Inc. v. Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, et al.
The State of Alaska claimed the right under Revised Statute 2477 (RS 2477) to clear land and permit the use of boat launches, camping sites, and day use sites within an alleged 100-foot right of way centered on a road on land belonging to an Alaska Native corporation. The Native corporation sued, arguing that its prior aboriginal title prevented the federal government from conveying a right of way to the State or, alternatively, if the right of way existed, that construction of boat launches, camping sites, and day use sites exceeded its scope. After years of litigation and motion practice the superior court issued two partial summary judgment orders. It held as a matter of law that any preexisting aboriginal title did not disturb the State’s right of way over the land. It also concluded as a matter of law that the right of way was limited to ingress and egress. Because the superior court did not err when it granted the State’s motion regarding aboriginal title, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed that grant of partial summary judgment. But because the scope of a particular RS 2477 right of way was a question of fact, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court's conclusion as a matter of law that the State’s right of way was limited to ingress and egress. View "Ahtna, Inc. v. Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, et al." on Justia Law
Grondal v. United States
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the Bureau of Indian Affair's (BIA) motion for summary judgment and ejectment order in an action brought by a group of recreational vehicle owners seeking to retain their rights to remain on a lakeside RV park located on American Indian land held in trust by the Bureau.The panel concluded that the Moses Allotment Number 8 (MA-8) land remains held in trust by the United States, and the BIA, as holder of legal title to the land, had and has standing to bring its claim for trespass and ejectment. In this case, of the three transactions and trust extensions in MA-8's history that Mill Bay and Wapato Heritage challenge, none were legally deficient. The panel rejected Mill Bay's argument that the IAs and the BIA are precluded under res judicata from ejecting Mill Bay, and rejected Mill Bay's interpretation of Paragraph 8 of the Master Lease: Paragraph 8 does not apply when the Lease expires by the passage of time, as happened here. Finally, the panel concluded that United States v. City of Tacoma, 332 F.3d 574 (9th Cir. 2003), which holds that the United States is not subject to equitable estoppel when it acts in its sovereign capacity as trustee for Indian land, is not distinguishable and that Mill Bay is barred from asserting its defense of equitable estoppel against the BIA. View "Grondal v. United States" on Justia Law
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation v. United States Department of the Interior
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. 2719, allows a federally recognized Indian tribe to conduct gaming on lands taken into trust by the Secretary of the Interior as of October 17, 1988 and permits gaming on lands that are thereafter taken into trust for an Indian tribe that is restored to federal recognition where the tribe establishes a significant historical connection to the particular land. Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians regained its federal recognition in 1991 and requested an opinion on whether a Vallejo parcel would be eligible for tribal gaming. Yocha Dehe, a federally recognized tribe, objected. The Interior Department concluded that Scotts Valley failed to demonstrate the requisite “significant historical connection to the land.” Scotts Valley challenged the decision.Yocha Dehe moved to intervene to defend the decision alongside the government, explaining its interest in preventing Scotts Valley from developing a casino in the Bay Area, which would compete with Yocha Dehe’s gaming facility, and that the site Scotts Valley seeks to develop "holds cultural resources affiliated with [Yocha Dehe’s] Patwin ancestors.”The D.C. Circuit affirmed the denial of Yocha Dehe’s motion, citing lack of standing. Injuries from a potential future competitor are neither “imminent” nor “certainly impending.” There was an insufficient causal link between the alleged threatened injuries and the challenged agency action, given other steps required before Scotts Valley could operate a casino. Resolution of the case would not “as a practical matter impair or impede” the Tribe’s ability to protect its interests. View "Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation v. United States Department of the Interior" on Justia Law
Navajo Nation v. U.S. Department of the Interior
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal, based on lack of jurisdiction, of Navajo Nation's breach of trust claim alleging that Federal Appellees failed to consider the Nation's as-yet-undetermined water rights in managing the Colorado River. Several states intervened to protect their interests in the Colorado's waters.The panel concluded that the district court erred in dismissing the complaint because, in contrast to the district court's determination, the amendment was not futile. The panel explained that, although the Supreme Court retained original jurisdiction over water rights claims to the Colorado River in Arizona I, the Nation's complaint does not seek a judicial quantification of rights to the River, so the panel need not decide whether the Supreme Court's retained jurisdiction is exclusive. Furthermore, contrary to the Intervenors' arguments on appeal, the Nation's claim is not barred by res judicata, despite the federal government's representation of the Nation in Arizona I. Finally, the panel concluded that the district court erred in denying the Nation's motion to amend and in dismissing the Nation's complaint. In this case, the complaint properly stated a breach of trust claim premised on the Nation's treaties with the United States and the Nation's federally reserved Winters rights, especially when considered along with the Federal Appellees' pervasive control over the Colorado River. Accordingly, the panel remanded with instructions to permit the Nation to amend its complaint. View "Navajo Nation v. U.S. Department of the Interior" on Justia Law