Ninth Circuit Briefs in Kalispel Tribe of Indians v. Dept. of the Interior


Kalispel Opening Brief

Spokane Tribe Answer Brief

Interior Answer Brief


Lower court materials here.

Interior & Spokane Tribe Prevail over Spokane County & Kalispel Tribe re: Spokane Casino

Here are the materials in Kalispel Tribe of Indians v. Dept. of Interior (E.D. Wash.):

79 Kalispe MSJ

82 Spokane County MSJ

96 Spokane Tribe Cross MSJ

98 DOI Cross MSJ

113 Kalispel Reply

114 Spokane County Reply

115 Spokane Tribe Reply

116 DOI Reply

118 DCT Order

We posted the complaint here.

Fletcher Review of David Grann’s “Killers of the Flower Moon”

Here is “Failed Protectors: The Indian Trust and Killers of the Flower Moon,” forthcoming in the Michigan Law Review.


This Review uses Killers of the Flower Moon as a jumping off point for highlighting for readers how so many Indian people in Indian country can be so easily victimized by criminals. And yet, for however horrible the Osage Reign of Terror, the reality for too many Indian people today is much much worse. The federal government is absolutely to blame for these conditions. This Review shows how policy choices made by all three branches of the federal government have failed Indian people. Part I establishes the federal-tribal trust relationship that originated with a duty of protection. Part II establishes how the United States failure to fulfill its duties to the Osage Nation and its citizens allowed and even indirectly encouraged the Osage Reign of Terror. Part III offers thoughts on the future of the trust relationship in light of the rise of tribal self-determination. Part IV concludes the Review with a warning about how modern crime rates against Indian women and children are outrageously high in large part because of the continuing failures of the United States.


Federal Circuit Rejects Wyandot Nation of Kansas Trust Claims

Here is the opinion in Wyandot Nation of Kansas v. United States.

An excerpt:

The Wyandot Nation of Kansas (“Wyandot Nation”) is a Native American tribe allegedly tracing its ancestry to the Historic Wyandot Nation. It claims to be a federally recognized Indian tribe and a successor-in-interest to all of the treaties between the Historic Wyandot Nation and the United States. On June 1, 2015, Wyandot Nation filed a complaint in the United States Court of Federal Claims alleging that the United States had breached its trust and fiduciary obligations with respect to two trusts that resulted from prior treaties, including one related to amounts payable under a treaty signed in 1867 and one related to the Huron Cemetery. The Court of Federal Claims dismissed without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction and standing. Wyandot Nation appeals. We affirm.

Briefs here.

Fletcher: “Indian Country And Climate Change After DAPL” @


Indian Country And Climate Change After DAPL

Law360, New York (February 27, 2017, 12:01 PM EST) —

Matthew L.M. Fletcher

In the chaos of the early weeks of the Trump administration, the president managed to highlight his support for the natural resources extraction industry by strongly encouraging the imminent approval of the Dakota Access pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline, circumventing additional environmental review. The U.S. Department of the Army quickly issued a notice of intent to grant an easement to Dakota Access, with oil beginning to flow as soon as June 2017. On Wednesday, law enforcement officials forced the last of the NoDAPL protesters out and arrested several people.

Litigation continues, as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Oglala Sioux Tribe pursue a host of environmental, treaty and cultural claims in federal court. The claims have a great deal of merit. The American Civil Liberties Union claims the drinking water of 18 million people is at stake, suggesting extensive environmental review is merited. Initial claims that Dakota Access intentionally plowed over Lakota cultural sites seem to have been vindicated as the North Dakota Public Service Commission has filed a complaint formally making the same claims after an investigation. The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center argues that the completion of the pipeline will lead to more human trafficking and violence against women. The federal government’s abrupt change in positions from requiring minimal environmental review initially, to requiring an environmental impact statement in the latter months of the Obama administration as the government began to realize the extent of the impact of the pipeline, to now dropping that requirement altogether for purely political reasons is almost the definition of “arbitrary” under the Administrative Procedures Act.

The NoDAPL movement doesn’t seem to be confined to the aquifer attached the Lake Oahe, but instead could be part of a broader undertaking against the current administration and its allies on numerous fronts. The initial organizers of the movement began their activism at the Keystone XL pipeline, and have already pledged to restart that protest. The occasionally violent reaction by local police against NoDAPL protesters (a federal court action against the local sheriff is pending) focused attention on the police violence against Native Americans nationallyThe president’s investments in the companies building the pipeline highlight the greater conflicts of interest that have scandalized the administration.

Most importantly, the new administration’s support for the Dakota Access pipeline is the administration’s opening salvo in the financial and political war over climate change. The oil and gas industry already has the administration in its pocket, and is all too happy the president continues to deny climate change is caused by humans.

At least until the new administration forces it to stop, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now states that cutting a ton of greenhouse gasses saves the world $36 in social costs, a useful metric for calculating a carbon tax. The government defines “social costs” as including “changes in net agricultural productivity, human health, property damages from increased flood risk, and changes in energy system costs, such as reduced costs for heating and increased costs for air conditioning.” The Dakota Access pipeline is expected to move about 172 million barrels a year or 23.4 tons. Using the EPA’s current social cost rate, the pipeline will impose a social cost of more than $842 million a year in impacts to agriculture, health, floods and so on. That’s only if the pipeline operates smoothly. If there’s a spill, the impacts will dwarf the estimated social costs, and will be felt most acutely in Indian country.

Though the Department of the Army’s current official position is that there is no significant impact to the environment as a result of the construction of the pipeline, the costs to Americans — and especially American Indians — are gravely significant. The administration’s position favoring Dakota Access is a giveaway of upwards of a billion dollars from the American people to the president’s business partners. Modern American government is founded on transparency, and a full environmental review is uniquely critical in these types of matters.

Finally, the completion of pipeline projects like DAPL and Keystone XL over tribal objections also implicates the federal-tribal trust relationship. Long ago, the United States and Indian tribes entered into an arrangement whereby the government agreed to preserve the internal sovereignty and the natural resources of Indian tribes in exchange for the tribal incorporation as domestic nations into the American polity. Overall, the federal government’s satisfaction of its trust obligations to Indian tribes preserved what remains of Indian lands. But we all know the government’s historical failures to fulfill its trust duties sometimes were grievous, especially in terms of tribal cultures and Indian children, but often involved the confiscation and spoliation of tribal assets. Recent administrations acknowledged and, generally speaking, respected the trust relationship. In fact, each of the last several presidential administrations dating back to the 1960s has issued statements, and even executive orders, supportive of tribal sovereignty and the trust relationship.

The new administration seems different. The key to the trust relationship is communication and consultation. None of that was present here. Summarily reversing carefully considered Obama administration decisions not only may be legally arbitrary, but, given the rhetoric of the administration, may actually be based in avarice toward Indian people and others who worry about climate change and environmental justice. There never really has been a presidential administration that openly disdained Indian people going back to the Jackson administration. The government’s based its numerous historical breaches of its duties to Indian people — assimilation, allotment, termination — on misguided efforts to help, and often came from the brainstorms of groups like the Friends of the Indian.

In the second decade of the 21st century, Indian tribes and Indian people are at the vanguard of challenging government and business acts that worsen climate change. One wonders if it is only a matter of time before Native Americans and their resources are in the administration’s crosshairs. The burning tipis of Standing Rock portend a dark time.

—By Matthew L.M. Fletcher, Michigan State University College of Law

Matthew L.M. Fletcher is a professor of law at Michigan State University College of Law. Fletcher is the primary editor and author of the leading law blog on American Indian law and policy, Turtle Talk.

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or Portfolio Media Inc., or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin Denies Advocating for the “Privatization” of Tribal Assets

Here is “Trump Adviser Says He’s Not Privatizing Tribal Land” from Rep. Mullin’s full statement is here. An excerpt:

By removing public-land restrictions on Indian trust land, such as the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA), we are not “privatizing” Indian land.  We must also remove the barriers from the decision-making process and stop forcing tribes to ask permission from federal entities like the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). 

Prior coverage here. Rep. Mullin’s quote there:

“We should take tribal land away from public treatment,” said Markwayne Mullin, a Republican U.S. Representative from Oklahoma and a Cherokee tribe member who is co-chairing Trump’s Native American Affairs Coalition. “As long as we can do it without unintended consequences, I think we will have broad support around Indian country.”

This “privatization” talk is unlikely to end here. Anti-Indian advocates won’t have to look very hard to find Indians and others who would sympathetic to something akin to “privatization.”

Hopi Tribe Trust Breach Claim re: Safe Drinking Water Fails in Federal Circuit

Here is the opinion in Hopi Tribe v. United States.

An excerpt:

The Hopi Tribe filed suit against the United States in the Court of Federal Claims seeking damages to cover the cost of providing safe drinking water on the Hopi Reservation. In order to invoke the trial court’s jurisdiction, the Hopi Tribe must identify a statute or regulation imposing a specific obligation on the United States to provide adequate drinking water that would give rise to a claim for money damages. Because the Court of Federal Claims properly concluded that the Hopi Tribe failed to identify any source for a money-mandating obligation, we affirm


Hopi Tribe Brief

US Answer Brief

Hopi Reply

Lower court materials here.