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Law
Supreme Court called less sympathetic to Indians


For many decades, the U.S. Supreme Court was a place tribes and individual Indians could look to obtain justice. But observers say the court's latest ruling involving the Oneida Nation shows how the tables have turned.

"I've been in this business 35 years, and I would certainly say that over the last 20 years, the courts have been less sympathetic to Indian issues," Tim Weaver, an attorney for the Yakima Nation of Washington who has argued before the court twice, told The Oneida Observer-Dispatch.

Robert Odawi Porter of Syracuse University's Center for Indigenous Law, Governance & Citizenship said the court took the case only to reverse it. He said the decision was unfair because it sanctioned the theft of the tribe's land.

But people on the other side of the case say their views were finally heard, for the first time, by the high court. The city of Sherrill, the smallest in New York, and other communities plan to impose taxes on the Oneida Nation because the court held that the tribe's newly acquired properties cannot be considered Indian Country without going through the land-into-trust process.

Critics of the tribe and Indian policy also say the decision calls into question five land claim settlements in New York. Three out-of-state tribes whose ancestors left New York more than 100 years ago would be allowed to return and assert some governmental rights.

Meanwhile, local officials are considering sending tax bills to the Oneida Nation, the Cayuga Nation and the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma. The tribes have acquired land without going through the land-into-trust process.

In an editorial, The Auburn Citizen endorses the collection of taxes. "This county has waited more than two decades for the nation's highest court to resolve this legal issue, and as a result lost tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes from the Cayuga Indian Nation and the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma," the paper says. "Each day those funds go uncollected is another day of money lost for all of the taxpayers living here."

Get the Story:
How Sherrill won its case (The Oneida Observer-Dispatch 4/7)
3 Indian businesses may face foreclosing (The Syracuse Post-Standard 4/7)
Local people testify at Albany land claim hearing (Journal Register News Service 4/6)
Editorial: No reason to stall on Indian tax collection (The Auburn Citizen 4/7)

Get the Decision:
Syllabus | Opinion [Ginsburg] | Concurrence [Souter] | Dissent [Stevens]

Relevant Links:
Oneida Nation - http://www.oneida-nation.net
NARF-NCAI Tribal Supreme Court Project - http://doc.narf.org/sc/index.html

Decision in Oneida Indian Nation v. City of Sherrill:
Majority Opinion | Van Graafeiland Dissent

Decision in Cayuga Indian Nation v. Village of Union Springs:
Decision | Order (April 23, 2004)

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Major defeat for Oneida Nation in Supreme Court case (3/30)
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