indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Health Coverage for American Indians and Alaska Natives
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Massachusetts tribe drops appeal in sovereignty case
Friday, July 8, 2005

A Massachusetts tribe who lost a major sovereignty case in state court announced this week it will not appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe was planning to challenge a negative decision from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Last December, the court ruled 5-1 that the tribe waived its sovereign immunity and agreed to abide by state and local laws under a settlement act passed by Congress in 1987.

But the tribal council unanimously passed a resolution not to move forward with the appeal. The tribe, based on the island of Martha's Vineyard, instead said it would work with the town of Aquinnah on a possible resolution of the dispute that led to the case.

"Our goal is to provide mutually acceptable solutions to land use issues while respecting the need to set the tone for future cooperation between the tribe and town in matters of mutual benefit," the tribe said in a statement.

The move averts a potential showdown before the nation's highest court, which has ruled against tribal interests in a series of sovereignty cases in recent years. The recent resignation of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor could push the court even further in that direction.

But two related cases appear to be headed towards Supreme Court review. In nearby Rhode Island, the state is trying to force the Narragansett Tribe to submit to state tax laws. The state also wants to stop the tribe from acquiring new trust lands.

The cases represent an ongoing trend in New England, whose tribes received federal recognition only within the last 25 years. In Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, state officials have argued that the tribes have limited rights compared to tribes in the West.

To some extent, the state and federal courts have agreed. In Maine, tribal leaders were forced by a state court to turn over internal documents to the state due a provision in their settlement act that treats them in a similar manner to municipal governments.

The provision affecting the Wampanoags wasn't as extensive. The state court still ruled that the tribe willingly gave up its some of its rights in exchange for federal recognition.

"Here, the facts clearly establish a waiver of sovereign immunity stated, in no uncertain terms, in a duly executed agreement, and the facts show that the tribe bargained for, and knowingly agreed to, that waiver," Justice John M. Greaney wrote for the majority. "There is absolutely nothing to suggest that the tribe was 'hoodwinked' or that its negotiators were 'unsophisticated' or did not know what they were doing."

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers the tribes in Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, hasn't reached such a sweeping conclusion. Neither has the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers two tribes in Connecticut.

The 1st Circuit, however, refused to review the Maine case and protect the rights of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Penobscot Nation. But the Narragansett Tribe won a victory in the trust land case and a split victory in the taxation case.

The record in the 2nd Circuit has been more positive. Over the years, the court has upheld the rights of the Connecticut tribes to engage in gaming and acquire trust lands.

The Rhode Island trust land case, however, raises much of the same issues and also poses a broader challenge to the ability of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take land into trust for tribes nationwide. A request for a rehearing before a full panel of the 1st Circuit is pending.

The state also requested a rehearing in the taxation case. If that is refused, an appeal to the Supreme Court is likely.

New England tribes aren't the only ones in the nation who agreed to state jurisdiction. In Texas, the Tigua Tribe and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe gained federal recognition only after promising not to open casinos. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals later ruled that the tribes can be sued for violating state gambling laws.

In the Wampanoag case, one justice dissented with the majority's reasoning because he said the tribe did not "clearly, explicitly, and unequivocally" waive its immunity. He noted that, at the time of the agreement in 1983, the tribe was not federally recognized.

"Therefore, it had no sovereign immunity to waive," wrote Justice Roderick L. Ireland.

In order to gain recognition, the tribe had to go to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which initially rejected the case. The tribe was finally recognized in 1987.

Get the Decision:
Aquinnah v. Gay Head Wampanoag Tribe (December 9, 2004)

Lower Court Decision:
Town of Aquinnah v. Gay Head Wampanoag Tribe (June 11, 2003)

Relevant Links:
Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head - http://www.wampanoagtribe.net
NARF-NCAI Tribal Supreme Court Project - http://doc.narf.org/sc/index.html

Related Stories:
O'Connor resigns from nation's highest court (7/5)
Justice's tenure filled with key Indian law cases (7/5)
Supreme Court wraps up October 2004 term (06/28)
U.S. Supreme Court vacancy impacts tribal rights (06/20)
Mixed ruling on state raid of Narragansett Tribe (5/16)
Massachusetts court deals blow to tribe's sovereignty (12/10)
Wampanoag Tribe to appeal sovereignty case (12/10)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe elects new leader (11/24)
Top court hears Wampanoag sovereignty case (09/09)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe plans new buildings (03/12)
Mass. high court to hear tribal immunity case (2/27)
State to intervene in Wampanoag sovereignty case (01/09)
Mass. town urged to appeal tribal immunity ruling (12/05)
Mass. court upholds Wampanoag Tribe's sovereignty (11/06)
Dershowitz: Judge may be wrong on Wampanoag case (07/22)
Mass. town argues for jurisdiction over tribe (7/21)
Mass. judge asked to reconsider sovereignty ruling (06/24)
Mass. court affirms tribe's sovereignty (6/18)
Mass. tribe argues for sovereign rights on land (02/14)

Copyright 2000-2005 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Interior Department consults tribes about new trust reform law (7/22)
Training sessions planned for final Indian Child Welfare Act rule (7/22)
Yurok Tribe shares sad news about salmon festival -- no salmon (7/22)
Mark Charles: An entire nation's big problem with Donald Trump (7/22)
Mark Trahant: Donald Trump promises a world with no treaties (7/22)
Native Sun News: Appeal delays release of Keepseagle checks (7/22)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe hosts walk for cancer (7/22)
James Giago Davies: Police officers get away with 'kill option' (7/22)
Andre Cramblit: Police officer shootings seem far too common (7/22)
Donald Trump closes convention that left out Indian Country (7/22)
New law in Oklahoma goes against Indian Arts and Crafts Act (7/22)
NMAI seeks input from tribes about veterans memorial in DC (7/22)
Blackfeet Nation swears in leaders and looks to a new future (7/22)
Coeur d'Alene Tribe kicks off popular powwow after absence (7/22)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe declares emergency over opioids (7/22)
Review: Hard look at drugs in Indian Country in 'Seventh Fire' (7/22)
State takes blame for sharing Tohono O'odham Nation minutes (7/22)
Pokagon Band debuts expansion of gaming facility in Michigan (7/22)
Karuk Tribe ready for groundbreaking on long-awaited casino (7/22)
California remains a battleground for Indian Child Welfare Act (7/21)
Yurok Tribe launches operation to rid reservation of marijuana (7/21)
Laguna Pueblo loses case linked to military contract kickbacks (7/21)
Cherokee player Koda Glover wins praise in major league debut (7/21)
Education Department hosts Native youth for roundtable in DC (7/21)
Navajo Nation lawmakers approve bill for travel plaza at casino (7/21)
Mark Trahant: Trump's Republican convention is one big failure (7/21)
Native Sun News: Five Rosebud tribal members killed in crash (7/21)
Lakota Country Times: Fire deals setback to Rosebud program (7/21)
Brandon Ecoffey: Carrying the voices of our people to masses (7/21)
Delphine Red Shirt: Our children need to be kept close to home (7/21)
Peter d'Errico: Celebrating the dark side of White 'civilization' (7/21)
Oglala Sioux Tribe confirms shooting death of 13-year-old girl (7/21)
Tribes in Connecticut sponsor cruise for Republican delegates (7/21)
Tribal lobbyist not buying Donald Trump's message of change (7/21)
Mechoopda Tribe aims to work with county on delayed casino (7/21)
Seminole Tribe helps with probe into robbery of casino patron (7/21)
John Schneider: New Little Traverse casino is underwhelming (7/21)
National Indian Gaming Commission reports growth in industry (7/20)
Interior Department sends more money for Cobell scholarships (7/20)
Former chairman of Winnebago Tribe indicted on theft charges (7/20)
Bill John Baker: An endorsement for Hillary Clinton as president (7/20)
Lakota Country Times: Skate competition moves to Pine Ridge (7/20)
Vi Waln: Lateral oppression is far too real for our tribal citizens (7/20)
Clara Caufield: Indian people too often vote with our stomachs (7/20)
Native Sun News Editorial: Improve our relationship with police (7/20)
Steven Newcomb: Focusing on the independence of our nations (7/20)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.