Montana Federal District Court Holds Crow Tribe Has Jurisdiction Over Electric Co-op

Previous post on this litigation here.

Oregon Court Affirms Klamath Tribes’ Water Rights

On Wednesday, February 24, 2021, in an order from Klamath County Circuit Court Judge Cameron F. Wogan, the Oregon court again affirmed the Klamath Tribes’ water and treaty rights. Wednesday’s order rejected attacks on the Tribes’ water rights determined by the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) during the administrative phase of the Klamath Basin Adjudication (KBA), affirmed the senior priority date of the Klamath Tribes’ water rights in the Klamath Basin, and upheld the need to maintain a healthy and productive habitat to meet the Tribes’ treaty right to fish, hunt, trap, and gather.

Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry responded to the order, “We are pleased that Judge Wogan upheld the rulings from the administrative phase of the KBA. He reaffirmed that the 1864 treaty entered into between the Klamath Tribes and the United States reserved to the Tribes sufficient water to keep our fisheries and other aquatic resources healthy so that we can protect our natural resources and cultural traditions.”

NARF Staff Attorney Sue Noe explained, “Judge Wogan correctly affirmed quantification of the Tribal water rights based on the habitat needs of the fish, wildlife, and plants. Although he ruled that opponents of the Tribal rights will have another chance to try to reduce the amounts by showing the Tribes don’t need all the water awarded by OWRD to meet their livelihood needs, Judge Wogan made clear in no uncertain terms that the amounts cannot be below what is necessary to provide healthy and productive habitat.”

Importantly, like all other courts that have considered the issue, Judge Wogan ruled that the Klamath Tribes’ water rights extend to Upper Klamath Lake. Upper Klamath Lake forms part of the border of the former Reservation and provides critical habitat for the endangered c’waam and koptu (Lost River and shortnose sucker fish), which are sacred fish species traditionally harvested by the Tribes.

Represented by NARF, the Klamath Tribes successfully achieved recognition of their treaty-reserved water rights in federal court litigation in the 1970s and 1980s in United States v. Adair, but the federal courts left quantification of the water rights to the state adjudication in the KBA. After the successful conclusion of the KBA’s 38-year administrative phase, the Tribes were able to begin enforcing their water rights for the first time in 2013. The administrative determinations are presently on review in the Klamath County Circuit Court and Judge Wogan’s ruling is the latest to come out of that process.

Amicus Brief of NCAI in Census Case

Here is the National Congress of American Indians’ (“NCAI”) Amicus Brief in Trump v. New York, which is being argued today and addresses whether unauthorized immigrants should now be excluded from the Census count.

From the brief:

Multiple amici argue, in effect, that unauthorized immigrants are not “persons” to be counted for purposes of apportionment. Because the United States once tried to argue that American Indians were not “persons” under the law, amicus NCAI is compelled to refute these arguments.

….

These arguments are inconsistent with the Constitution’s text and history. Worse still, in a nation where “all persons are created equal,” Matthews v. Lucas, 427 U.S. 495, 516 (1976) (Stevens, J., dissenting), see also Declaration of Independence ¶ 2 (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. . . .”), these attempts to deny the very personhood of unauthorized immigrants are morally bankrupt.

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe v. Donald J. Trump

Here is the complaint in Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe v. Donald J. Trump, which relates to Cheyenne River’s Health Safety Checkpoints.

From the complaint:

The United States and the nation’s Native American tribes are in a state of emergency. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly throughout the country, infecting millions of people, including in South Dakota, which has had 6,353 confirmed cases and 83 deaths outside the boundaries of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. Experts estimate that, for every confirmed COVID-19 case, there could be as many as eleven unconfirmed cases. “At this time, there is no known cure, no effective treatment, and no vaccine. Because people may be infected but asymptomatic, they may unwittingly infect others.” S. Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, 590 U.S. —-, 140 S. Ct. 1613, 2020 WL 2813056 at *1 (May 29, 2020) (Roberts, C.J., concurring).

On April 2, 2020, in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe established a comprehensive COVID-19 response plan, including Health Safety checkpoints to monitor the entry of individuals onto the Tribe’s Reservation. These Health Safety Checkpoints have allowed the Tribe to effectively track individuals that have returned to the Reservation from hotspots throughout both the state of South Dakota and other off-Reservation locations and to keep the Tribe’s rate of infection significantly below the rate for South Dakota at large. To date, the Tribe has had no COVID-19 deaths.

News coverage here, and the press release can be seen here.

NDN Collective, Inc. (NDN) announces Request for Information (RFI) for Indigenous Contractors to Provide Support to Indigenous Communities Dealing with COVID-19.

RFI here.

More information here.

NDN Collective, Inc. (NDN) announces the release of a Request for Information (RFI) to collaboratively identify contractors and other technical assistance providers who can provide support to Indigenous communities bracing from economic impacts, stresses to public services due to COVID-19.  This team will specifically provide assistance in accessing federal stimulus resources for Native Nations, Indigenous-led organizations, and individuals, and other.  The RFI is designed to complement COVID-19 Response grants and loans that are offered by NDN to maximize the potential of these resources to solve current critical needs by building capacity to use these funds effectively.

NAICJA Webiner – McGirt v. Oklahoma Supreme Court Oral Arguments: An analysis of the History, Law, and Arguments of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reservation Case

McGirt Flier v2

Date & Time: Wednesday, June 3, 2020 from 12:30 pm-2:00 PM MST (90) minutes.

Webinar Narrative: The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on May 11, 2020 in McGirt v. Oklahoma, case #18-9526 (by telephone) involving the status of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation. Last year, the Court heard arguments on a nearly identical case in the Murphy matter. This decision could have enormous impact for Indian law, positive or negative. Come join us for a FREE webinar to hear tribal perspective as to the surrounding Muscogee cultural history, the jurisprudence of Indian lands in Oklahoma and thoughts and analysis of the oral arguments from the Muscogee Nation’s Supreme Court amicus brief advocate Riyaz Kanji.

Register Here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_7CZVYSf8QMSxDtxHftI-Tg

 

Montana Court Temporarily Blocks Montana Law that Restricts Native American Voting Rights

A Montana court has issued a temporary restraining order blocking a state law that severely restricts Native Americans’ right to vote. The Montana Ballot Interference Prevention ACT (BIPA) imposed severe restrictions on ballot collection efforts that are critical to Native American voters, particularly those living on rural reservations. The TRO means the law is blocked pending the outcome of a hearing scheduled for May 29. The primary is June 2.

Read more about the lawsuit, Western Native Voice v. Stapleton.

Tribes and Voting Rights Group Notify South Dakota of Serious Voter Registration Violations

On May 20, 2020, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and Four Directions, a non-profit group that works to encourage civic participation in Indian Country, notified South Dakota officials of serious and ongoing violations of federal requirements for providing voter registration opportunities through public assistance agencies and departments of motor vehicles. The notice letter, directed to the Secretary of State as the state’s chief elections official, asks state officials to respond within 20 days to avoid the need for federal court litigation. In this matter, the Tribes are represented by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and Four Directions is represented by Demos.

Under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), state public assistance agencies and motor vehicle offices are required to provide voter registration services when people are applying for services, renewing their eligibility, and providing change-of-address information. The notice letter documents a steep drop in voter registration applications from public assistance agencies in recent years, and other clear evidence of non-compliance with the NVRA.

“When you go to a state office, such as to get your driver’s license or to apply for public assistance, you are supposed to be able to register to vote at the same time. The state is supposed to facilitate voter registration, but that is not what is happening in South Dakota. Reservation residents in particular are not being given this opportunity, and it is driving down voter participation,” said NARF Staff Attorney Natalie Landreth.

Brenda Wright, Senior Advisor for Legal Strategies at Demos, representing Four Directions, stated: “Access to voter registration through government agencies is more important now than ever, given the difficulties of conducting traditional door-to-door registration drives. Demos has worked in many states to improve agency-based voter registration, and we hope that South Dakota officials will also work with us to ensure that South Dakotans can participate fully in the upcoming elections.”

O.J. Semans, Jr., speaking on behalf of Four Directions, stated, “My wife Barb and I are deeply concerned that Native Americans are losing the opportunity to register through South Dakota’s public assistance agencies and when getting a driver’s license. We’ve worked with the former Secretary of State, the Help America Vote Act task force and the election board in the past on developing formulas to create satellite offices on Indian Reservations. It is our hope that the state of South Dakota will once again work with us to ensure full participation in the 2020 Elections and beyond.”

The violations described in the letter include:

  • Failure to provide voter registration applications to persons during all public benefits transactions required by the NVRA
  • Failure to update applicants’ voter registration address when they report a change of address to public benefits agencies
  • Failure to provide voter registration services to persons who lack either a social security number or driver’s license

Under the NVRA, the Native American groups named in the notice letter may initiate litigation in federal court as soon as 20 days after the notice letter, if state officials do not remedy the violations during that time frame. The notice letter urges the state officials to indicate whether they are willing to engage in compliance discussions before the 20-day period expires.