indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Appeals court to consider Narragansett sovereignty
Tuesday, December 6, 2005



STATE RAID: Troopers pin tribal members on the ground during raid of the Narragansett Reservation on July 14, 2003.
The Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island is back in court today to defend its sovereignty from encroachment by state officials.

The tribe won federal recognition in 1983 after its land claims were settled by an act of Congress. But two decades later, the tribe faces unresolved questions over its legal rights as a sovereign entity.

The doubts led state officials to raid the Narragansett Reservation on July 14, 2003, in order to shut down a smoke shop. The state claims it has authority, under the act of Congress, over all activities on tribal land.

But the unprecedented show of force sparked outcries throughout Indian Country and among some members of Congress, who called for an investigation. They say the state disrespected the tribe's sovereignty by engaging in the violent raid.

"Imagine if federal marshals roughed up and arrested your governor and state leaders because the federal government disagreed with a decision made by your state government?" Tex Hall, the former president of the National Congress of American Indians, said at the time. "It is unfathomable."

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with those sentiments. This past May, a three-judge panel ruled that the state violated the tribe's rights when troopers raided the reservation, seized tribal property and arrested several tribal members, including Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas.

The victory was largely symbolic because the court upheld the right of the state to seek taxes from the sale of tobacco goods to non-Indians. That prompted the state to seek a rehearing of the case, arguing again that it has broad authority over activities on the reservation.

Two months later, the court said it would indeed hold a new hearing to determine the extent of state jurisdiction on tribal lands. A special panel of six judges will consider the case in Boston, Massachusetts, this afternoon.

At issue are the state's powers under the Rhode Island Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1978. The law granted the state criminal and civil jurisdiction on the reservation.

The law has been interpreted to mean the state can prosecute individual tribal members for violating state laws. But whether the state has power over the tribal government itself is still up for debate.

The U.S. Supreme Court took up that question in a 2003 case that parallels the Narragansett one. Officials in Inyo County, California, raided the casino owned by the Bishop Paiute Tribe and seized tribal property as part of a county investigation.

The 9th Circuit, much like the 1st Circuit, ruled that the county violated the tribe's sovereignty. But in ruling that the tribe had no recourse to sue the county under a federal civil rights law, the Supreme Court bypassed the much larger question of whether a state can tell a tribal government what to do on the reservation.

Most tribes won't encounter the issue. But over 100 tribes in California are affected because the state, under Public Law 280, has criminal and civil jurisdiction on reservations. Five other states still have the law on the books.

In New England, several tribes fall under special acts of Congress that grant the state jurisdiction in Indian Country. In Maine, this has proved disastrous to the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe because the state courts have ruled that some of the activities of their tribal governments are subject to state law.

In Massachusetts, the state courts have ruled that the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe waived its sovereign immunity by agreeing to state jurisdiction. The tribe decided not to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Today's case will be heard by Chief Judge Michael Boudin and Judges Juan R. Torruella, Bruce M. Selya, Sandra L. Lynch, Kermit V. Lipez and Jeffrey R. Howard. The May 12 ruling had been decided by Torruella, Howard and Judge Joseph DiClerico, a federal court judge from New Hampshire who was sitting by designation.

En Banc Order:
Narragansett Tribe v. Rhode Island (June 8, 2005)

Smoke Shop Ruling:
Narragansett Tribe v. Rhode Island (May 12, 2005)

Inyo County Decision:
Syllabus | Opinion [Ginsburg] | Concurrence [Stevens]

Nevada v. Hicks Decision:
Syllabus | Opinion | Concurrence (Souter) | Concurrence (Ginsburg) | Concurrence (O'Connor) | Concurrence (Stevens)

More on the Smoke Shop Raid:
Video | Text: Gov. Carcieri's July 14 Press Conference | Text: Gov. Carcieri's July 15 Statement | Text: Excerpts of Narragansett Chief Sachem July 14 Press Conference

Relevant Laws:
Rhode Island Indian Claims Settlement Act (US Code)

Relevant Links:
Narragansett Tribe - http://www.narragansett-tribe.org
Smoke Shop Showdown - http://www.projo.com/extra/2003/smokeshop

Related Stories:
Massachusetts tribe drops sovereignty case (7/11)
Narragansett chief reflects on raid of smoke shop (07/08)
Narragansett Tribe meets with state on smoke shop (05/27)
Narragansett Tribe meets with state on smoke shop (05/27)
Narragansett Tribe denies deal on smoke shop (05/26)
Narragansett Tribe delays smoke shop reopening (05/24)
Narragansett Tribe, state weigh options on smoke shop (05/16)
Tribal sovereignty must be respected, court rules (05/13)
New trial sought in state police raid of reservation (04/14)
Police stand behind trooper in raid of reservation (03/31)
Jury awards damages in state raid of reservation (3/29)
Lawsuit over state raid of reservation goes to jury (3/25)
State troopers defend actions in reservation raid (3/24)
State troopers on trial over raid of reservation (3/22)
Narragansett Tribe marks one year after state raid (07/15)
Narragansett Tribe to mark anniversary of raid (7/13)
State's raid on tribal land sparks strong reactions (07/16)
R.I. raids Narragansett tribal smoke shop (7/15)
Narragansett Tribe wants to head to federal court (7/15)
Analysis: Carcieri 'paternalistic' on Indians (7/15)
Column: Tribal smokeshop raid something out of 1963 (7/15)
Narragansett chief arrested in 'violent' raid (7/14)
R.I. governor promises to help Narragansett Tribe (06/04)
R.I. tribe upset over reservation checkpoint bill (05/30)
R.I. bill sets up reservation checkpoints (5/28)
R.I. tribe delays opening of tobacco shop (5/23)
Tribal fears in Supreme Court case go unrealized (5/20)
Supreme Court rules in Inyo County case (5/19)
Supreme Court bars state officials from tribal suit (6/26)
O'Connor defends tribes amidst squabbling (6/26)

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

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux officer rejoins Rapid City police (10/30)
Mark Trahant: Native voters must be prepared on election day (10/30)
Kevin Gover: Mascot fight exposes myths about Native people (10/30)
Peter d'Errico: Kevin Washburn honored by Indian law students (10/30)
Chris Deschene still urging Navajo Nation voters to choose him (10/30)
Tribes in North Carolina back Democrat Sen. Hagan in tight race (10/30)
Opinion: Helping the Tongva people revive their own language (10/30)
Judge grants injunction to keep Chukchansi Tribe casino closed (10/30)
Tribes in South Dakota would benefit from gaming referendum (10/30)
Employee at Puyallup Tribe's casino gets wedding ring returned (10/30)
Editorial: Keep tribal casinos in California on existing Indian land (10/30)
Column: Menominee Nation off-reservation casino goes ignored (10/30)
Quapaw Tribe faces competition for Kansas commercial casino (10/30)
Native Sun News: Montana tribe sees cut in heating assistance (10/29)
Mark Trahant: Alaska Senate race is a real test of Native policy (10/29)
Winona LaDuke: Taking treaty advice from indigenous nations (10/29)
Vena A-Dae Romero: FDA failing to consult tribal governments (10/29)
Zachary Pullin: Native Americans overcame barriers to voting (10/29)
Navajo Nation president vetoes bill to address language issue (10/29)
Prairie Island Indian Community sues over nuclear waste rule (10/29)
County's letter on CSKT water compact talks stirs controversy (10/29)
Vice: Hip-hop artist Drezus on new journey after jail sentence (10/29)
Opinion: Overcoming stereotypes of Native American culture (10/29)
Charges sought in dispute at Chukchansi Tribe's closed casino (10/29)
Pechanga Band chair featured in ads against North Fork casino (10/29)
Grand Ronde Tribes continue fight against Cowlitz Tribe casino (10/29)
Puyallup Tribe offers reward for return of casino worker's ring (10/29)
Ask the Expert: Why can't I win at tribal casino slot machines? (10/29)
Native Sun News: Event commemorates Sand Creek Massacre (10/28)
Erma Vizenor: Join tribes for protest at NFL game in Minnesota (10/28)
Bill John Baker: Cherokee Nation helps build tomorrow's leaders (10/28)
Ruth Hopkins: Tribes need to raise awareness of breast cancer (10/28)
Navajo Nation election officials refuse to delay upcoming vote (10/28)
Senate candidates battle for Indian vote in South Dakota race (10/28)
Eastern Shawnee Tribe lays claim to former reservation in Ohio (10/28)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe to investigate potential burial grounds (10/28)
Judge rules for tribes in Wyoming in dispute over diverted water (10/28)
Editorial: Delaware Tribe pursues return to homelands in Kansas (10/28)
Opinion: Cowboys and Indians come together on common cause (10/28)
Opinion: Help Moapa Band bring solar energy to more consumers (10/28)
Ex-employee sentenced for stealing from Passamaquoddy Tribe (10/28)
Chukchansi Tribe sends audits to NIGC as casino remains closed (10/28)
Little River Band still touting proposal for off-reservation casino (10/28)
Santee Sioux Tribe getting ready to debut golf course at casino (10/28)
Nisqually Tribe to launch part of $45M casino expansion project (10/28)
Opinion: Vote yes to support North Fork Rancheria gaming deal (10/28)
Editorial: No logic in putting Cowlitz Tribe's gaming site in trust (10/28)
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.