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
Dynamic Homes
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:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Lakota Country Times: Summer program connects with Native youth (7/29)
Native Sun News: Native POP celebrates Native artists in Rapid City (7/29)
Clara Caufield: Tribal governments often discourage the free press (7/29)
Tweedy Sombrero Navarrete: A Christian call to protect sacred land (7/29)
Navajo Nation lawmaker accuses colleague of sexual harassment (7/29)
Native Democrats make urgent case for Hillary Clinton as president (7/28)
Mark Trahant: The story is far from over for Senator Bernie Sanders (7/28)
Native Sun News: Indian Health Service eyes new hospital in Rapid (7/28)
Brandon Ecoffey: Oglala Sioux Tribe must start fitness revolution (7/28)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Show respect for sacred Lakota family unit (7/28)
Gyasi Ross: It's gonna be awhile before the first Native president (7/28)
Harlan McKosato: Violence against Native people swept under rug (7/28)
Harold Monteau: Even more lessons in indigenous law and policy (7/28)
Indian Country shares spotlight at Democratic National Convention (7/27)
Recap: Native American Council at Democratic National Convention (7/27)
Lakota Country Times: SuAnne Big Crow Center focuses on fitness (7/27)
Native Sun News: Tribal college showcases works of Lakota artists (7/27)
Vi Waln: Too many of our own people continue to smoke cigarettes (7/27)
Andre Cramblit: Growing wiser in my return to Dartmouth College (7/27)
Indian Country makes presence known at Democratic convention (7/26)
Tim Giago: Questioning the motto of GOP candidate Donald Trump (7/26)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala team lands Indian relay title again (7/26)
Native Sun News: Tribes honor author of Indian Child Welfare Act (7/26)
Delphine Red Shirt: Let's eat food that's always been good for us (7/26)
Peter d'Errico: Luci Tapahonso tackles legacy of boarding schools (7/26)
Donald Trump tried to partner with Agua Caliente Band on casino (7/26)
Native American Council meets at Democratic National Convention (7/25)
Police officer cleared over fatal shooting of Navajo Nation woman (7/25)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Donald Trump and his campaign of hatred (7/25)
Native Sun News: Tribal advocate focuses on Great Plains efforts (7/25)
Lakota Country Times: Descendants of Pine Ridge legend gather (7/25)
Johnny Rustywire: Navajo mother works hard at motel for family (7/25)
Alex Jacobs: Nation finally admits problem with policing and race (7/25)
Dwaine Perry: Ramapough Lunaape Nation marching for justice (7/25)
Charges filed for assault on disabled member of Nisqually Tribe (7/25)
Man arrested for American Indian Movement flag settles lawsuit (7/25)
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)
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.