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
Native American Bank - Native people investing in Native communities
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Two religious rights cases on Supreme Court's horizon
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Filed Under: Law

With three Indian law cases already on the docket, this year's U.S. Supreme Court term could get see the addition of some high-profile religious rights disputes.

The cases are being watched closely in Indian Country, whose efforts to limit negative rulings by the court have largely succeeded in recent years. Since the disastrous 2000-2001 term, when tribal interests lost nearly every decision, the justices have heard fewer and fewer Indian law cases.

This year looks a lot different, with the court set to resolve disputes over land-into-trust, the federal trust responsibility and Native Hawaiian rights. In all three instances, the lower courts ruled in favor of Native interests, leading to fears that the victories will be overturned.

The docket already has the Native American Rights Fund, whose attorneys help run the Tribal Supreme Court Project, suggesting that the current term "may prove to be another difficult period for Indian Country."

The addition of two religious rights cases could make it even harder but since the lower courts ruled against Native interests both times, the justices may not be interested in hearing them. So far this term, they have already rejected three petitions from tribes who were on the losing end of a case.

The first case involves Winslow Friday, a member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe of Wyoming, who is being prosecuting for taking a bald eagle -- a protected species -- without a federal permit. He took the eagle for use in the sacred Sun Dance ceremony and argues that the permitting process violates his rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

"In the more than 20 years of the permit program's existence, no individual tribal member has ever applied for or received a fatal-take permit," his attorney wrote in a petition to the Supreme Court. "At the time of the hearing, only three permits had been issued, to two different tribes in the southwest represented by legal counsel, as opposed to individual Indians."

A federal judge sided with Friday in October 2006 and dismissed the charges. But the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the indictment in May of this year, rejecting the RFRA claims in a unanimous decision.

Friday's petition was filed October 1. The government's response is due November 7.

In the second case, the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe and other tribes in Arizona are suing to stop the U.S. Forest Service from allowing a ski resort in the sacred San Francisco Peaks to use reclaimed sewage to make snow. The tribes say the presence of the wastewater will harm their religious beliefs.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals initially sided with the tribes. But after a rehearing, an en banc panel reversed course and rejected the tribal RFRA claims by an 8-3 vote in August.

The tribes have not yet filed a petition with the Supreme Court. Earlier this month, the 9th Circuit agreed to stay the case while the appeal is being pursued.

Tribes used to look to the Supreme Court to protect their interests but the tide has changed in recent decades. Many attribute the reversal of fortune on the William Rehnquist, whose term as chief justice began in 1986 and ended in 2005, following his death.

"At a recent conference at the University of North Dakota School of Law, professor Alex Skibine remarked that since 1988, the Supreme Court has decided 33 of 44 Indian law cases against tribal interests," Matthew Fletcher, the director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University, wrote in an Indian Country Today opinion piece last year.

President Bush's two nominees to the Supreme Court -- John G. Roberts, who now serves as chief justice, and Samuel Alito -- have shifted the court into more conservative grounds. The winner of the next presidential election -- either Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. John McCain -- may get a chance to shape the court even further.

Related Stories:
Indian law cases on Supreme Court's new docket (10/07)
9th Circuit delays ruling in sacred site case (10/06)
Navajo Nation breach of trust case on docket again (10/2)
Appeals court reverses course on sacred site (8/12)
Appeals court denies rehearing in eagle protection case (7/8)
Appeals court reinstates charges in eagle taking case (5/9)



Copyright © 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: Native youth work to bring relatives home (2/12)
Mark Trahant: Native voters are the true outsiders in any election (2/12)
Vincent Schilling: I am not ashamed to be a sexual assault victim (2/12)
Burns Paiute Tribe to help assess damage from armed takeover (2/12)
Obama weighs tribal request for Bears Ears National Monument (2/12)
Lakota Country Times: Missing Oglala Sioux woman found dead (2/11)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Town repays Oneida Nation with racism (2/11)
Brandon Ecoffey: Treaties guaranteed health care for our people (2/11)
Vincent Armenta: Chumash Tribe battles opponents at every turn (2/11)
Michael Marchand: Arrow Lakes people still fighting for our rights (2/11)
Steven Newcomb: Federal Indian law based on invented realities (2/11)
Native basketball tournament bars player who lacks Indian blood (2/11)
Armed occupation of wildlife refuge in Oregon ends with arrests (2/11)
Native activists ask Obama to help with liquor sales in Whiteclay (2/11)
South Dakota lawmakers kill bill to support return of land to tribes (2/11)
Miami Nation agrees to forfeit $48M from online lending business (2/11)
Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation creates $1.2M endowment at ASU (2/11)
Colville Tribes issue citation for death of rare owl on reservation (2/11)
Fort Independence Indian Community cheated by former partner (2/11)
Paskenta Band donates $125K to buy new vehicle for firefighters (2/11)
Man pleads guilty for dealing meth on Mescalero Apache Nation (2/11)
Public high school gives up racist mascot in response to new law (2/11)
Morongo Band and San Manuel Band question fantasy sports bill (2/11)
Former Sac and Fox Nation casino employee charged with theft (2/11)
Jena Band of Choctaw Indians celebrates 3rd birthday of casino (2/11)
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation again told it can't accept casino bids (2/11)
Editorial: Measure stops Lytton Band from pursuing new casinos (2/11)
Obama seeks another increase for Indian Health Service budget (2/10)
Six of 12 Indian Health Service area directors in 'acting' capacity (2/10)
Lakota Country Times: Indian lawmakers oppose drug testing bill (2/10)
Vince Two Eagles: The rez of the story about treaty-making in US (2/10)
Kristi Noem: Indian Health Service remains in state of emergency (2/10)
Chase Iron Eyes: Real sovereigns don't disenroll their own people (2/10)
Gyasi Ross: African and Native Americans fought for their survival (2/10)
Albert Bender: Tribes should reclaim land from unratified treaties (2/10)
John Lavelle: Supreme Court weighs key tribal sovereignty issue (2/10)
Women take top three leadership positions at Menominee Nation (2/10)
Northern Arapaho Tribe seeking to repatriate remains of students (2/10)
White Mountain Apache Tribe considers change to blood quantum (2/10)
Blackfeet Nation citizens still talking about constitutional reforms (2/10)
Sweat lodge at Army post helps with PTSD treatment for veterans (2/10)
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes welcome return of land (2/10)
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders win big in New Hampshire vote (2/10)
Prairie Island Indian Community unveils $19M gaming expansion (2/10)
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community approves upgrades at casinos (2/10)
Seminole Tribe's gaming compact takes a step forward in Florida (2/10)
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.