Federal Court Dismisses Fort Peck Tribe from Suit over Wildfire at Turtle Mound Buffalo Ranch 

Here are the materials in Treasure v. Bureau of Indian Affairs (D. Mont.):

1 Complaint

11 Fort Peck Tribe Motion to Dismiss

18 Response

19 Reply

35 DCT Order

Ninth Circuit Motions Panel Denies TransCanada’s Motion for Stay in Challenge to Keystone XL Pipeline

Here is the order in Indigenous Environmental Network v. Dept. of State:








Yellowstone Bison Environmental Suit Dismissed

Here are the materials in Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. Bernhardt (D. Mont.):

33 Motion to File Second Amended Complaint + Proposed Complaint

36 State Response to 33

38 Federal Response to 33

39 Reply in Support of 33

45 DCT Order Granting 33

48 Federal Motion to Dismiss

50 State Motion to Dismiss

53 Plaintiff Motion to Stay

54 Response to 48 and 50

57 Federal Reply in Support of 48

58 State Reply in Support of 50

62 Reply in Support of 53

81 DCt Order

Ninth Circuit Holds that Indian Juveniles Convicted of Sex-Related Delinquency Crimes Must Register under SORNA

Here is today’s opinion in United States v. Juvenile Male.

An excerpt:

Three juvenile defendants, each of whom is a member of an Indian Tribe and who pleaded true to a charge of aggravated sexual abuse with children, appeal their conditions of probation or supervision requiring registration under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 42 U.S.C. § 16901 et seq. Defendants argue that SORNA’s registration requirement contravenes the confidentiality provisions of the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (FJDA), 18 U.S.C. § 5031 et seq., and also challenge its constitutionality. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and 18 U.S.C. § 3742. Because we conclude that Congress, in enacting SORNA, intentionally carved out a class of juveniles from the FJDA’s confidentiality provisions, and that SORNA’s registration requirement is constitutionally sound, we affirm the district courts’ imposition of the sex offender registration conditions.

Montana SCT Reverses Indian Parental Termination for Failure to Comply with ICWA

Here is the opinion in In the Matter of J.W.C.: J.W.C. Opinion

Here is the Court’s synopsis:

The Montana Supreme Court reversed and remanded the District Court’s order terminating parental rights to four Indian children. Mother, Father, and the children were all members of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes (Tribes). The Department of Public Health and Human Services petitioned the District Court for emergency protective services, adjudication as youths in need of care, and temporary legal custody for the children upon finding the parents unable to provide food or shelter. As allowed under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the Tribes filed a Notice of Appearance and Intervention and Mother moved to transfer the case to the Fort Peck Tribal Court. The Tribes never affirmatively accepted or declined jurisdiction. Acknowledging this, the District Court maintained jurisdiction, terminated the parental rights of Mother and Father, and denied Mother’s request to continue the termination and appoint counsel for
the children.

On appeal, Mother argued the District Court should have transferred the case to tribal court, as required by ICWA, and should have appointed counsel for the children, as required by Montana law. In child custody cases when Indian children reside off the reservation, a district court generally must transfer jurisdiction to the tribal court unless the tribal court affirmatively declines to accept jurisdiction, as specified by ICWA and its interpretive guidelines. The Tribal Court never declined jurisdiction and the District Court never held the requisite jurisdictional transfer hearing. On remand, the District Court was directed to properly determine jurisdiction, hold a transfer hearing, and appoint legal counsel for the children.

Here are the briefs: Continue reading

Ninth Circuit Affirms Conviction of Former Fort Peck Member as “Indian” under Major Crimes Act

Here is the opinion in United States v. Smith.

An excerpt on blood quantum:

The government presented sufficient evidence of Smith’s Indian blood to satisfy Bruce’s first prong. We have held this requirement satisfied by as little as 1/8 (12.5%) Indian blood. See Maggi, 598 F.3d at 1080; Bruce, 394 F.3d at 1223. Here, the government presented evidence that Smith has 25/128 (19.5%) Assiniboine and Sioux blood, well in excess of the 1/8 we approved in Bruce and Maggi. We acknowledge that Smith’s § 2255 motion attached a letter from the Fort Peck Tribes Enrollment Office stating that Smith “does not meet the required blood quantum of 1/8 for Associate Membership [in the Fort Peck tribes], nor 1/4 Full Enrollment.” But this evidence was not presented at trial, and even if it had been, a rational trier of fact could have chosen to credit the more specific, higher figure established by the government’s evidence.

An excerpt on the defendant’s relinquishment of tribal membership:

We recognize that Smith relinquished his tribal enrollment in 1996. This decision does not definitively show, however, that Smith or the tribe ceased to consider Smith an Indian person. See Cruz, 554 F.3d at 850 (holding that Bruce requires an analysis of Indian status from the perspective of the individual as well as from the perspective of the tribe). A tribal investigator, Tom Atkinson, testified he had known Smith for most of his life, that Smith had lived on the reservation that entire time and that, as far as Atkinson knew, Smith held himself out to be an Indian person. A rational jury could have concluded that because Smith was once formally enrolled in the tribe and continued to hold himself out as an Indian even after his enrollment ended, both Smith and the tribe continued to view Smith as an Indian despite his unexplained decision to relinquish his formal enrolled status.


Third Part of Billings Gazette Special Report on Tribal Sovereignty

From the Billings Gazette:

Despite court rulings that slice away at tribal sovereignty, Indian law specialist Tom Fredericks of Boulder, Colo., believes “tribal governments are stronger than ever.”

They have to be. Retreating federal budgets place ever more burden on Indian governments to provide basic services.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs for years has been turning more federal responsibilities over to the tribes, contracting with them to provide services such as law enforcement, education and social services on the reservations.

Continue reading

Billings Gazette Special Report on Tribal Sovereignty

From the Billings Gazette:

When the last of the bison herds disappeared in the early 1880s, Indian nations on the Northern Plains were reduced to poverty.

In Montana, where there are no high-flying gambling operations and big population centers, economic conditions for American Indians have been slow to change. Unemployment is rampant, and business opportunities are scarce.

Through various acts of Congress, tribes are contracting with the federal government to provide essential services to their people. But federal funds, static for years, are shrinking. Tribes are taking on more responsibilities than ever for the welfare of their people and are pursuing economic opportunities to support their efforts.

Continue reading