your internet resource on facebook on twitter on Google+ 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:
Republicans push controversial Indian energy bill through House (10/9)
Native Sun News: South Dakota community honors Code Talkers (10/9)
Lakota Country Times: Native Americans arrested at high rates (10/9)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Lakota immersion remains our only hope (10/9)
Steve Russell: Indian people stuck with the laws of colonizers (10/9)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Native people play key role in politics (10/9)
Julian Brave NoiseCat: Trading tribal sovereignty for marijuana (10/9)
Studio denies theft of tribal artifacts from ranch in New Mexico (10/9)
Omaha Tribe hosts basketball stars Shoni and Jude Schimmel (10/9)
Winnebago Tribe chooses eight in special election for council (10/9)
Students from Salish Kootenai College send satellite to space (10/9)
Pamunkey Tribe sees challenge to federal recognition decision (10/9)
Six indicted for stealing funds from Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate (10/9)
Kris Lane: Columbus was clearly not a friend to Native peoples (10/9)
Researchers adapt Korean alphabet for use in Native language (10/9)
Excavation at Indian city uncovers numerous signs of conflict (10/9)
Thomas St. Dennis: Don't let rival tribe stop Little River casino (10/9)
Viejas Band opens new gaming floor and hotel with expansion (10/9)
White Earth Nation plans hotel and RV park at third casino site (10/9)
Eastern Shoshone Tribe to debut expansion of casino in 2016 (10/9)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe adds competition to casino scene (10/9)
White House blasts Native American Energy Act ahead of vote (10/8)
House Natural Resources Committee approves two Indian bills (10/8)
First Nations Development Institute awards $250K for ranching (10/8)
Four Native chefs participate in unique food event in New Mexico (10/8)
Native Sun News: Lone Indian voice opposes mountain lion hunt (10/8)
Lakota Country Times: Wind power comes to Rosebud community (10/8)
Delphine Red Shirt: Scandal shuts down program for Indian youth (10/8)
Vince Two Eagles: Native medicine goes back thousands of years (10/8)
Jay Daniels: Indian lands still face threat from state governments (10/8)
Steven Newcomb: Religious doctrine guides Indian law and policy (10/8)
Brian Pierson: Recent federal court decisions affecting Indian law (10/8)
Choctaw Nation and Chickasaw Nation celebrate trust settlement (10/8)
Actor joked about taking tribal artifacts from ranch in New Mexico (10/8)
Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians gives $100K for cancer center (10/8)
Radio station brings news and more to Yankton Sioux Reservation (10/8)
Indian gaming industry grew 116 percent between 2001 and 2013 (10/8)
Arizona tribes on road to recovery with $1.81B in casino revenues (10/8)
Pojoaque Pueblo secures injunction in New Mexico casino dispute (10/8)
Little River Band sees off-reservation casino as boost for revenue (10/8)
Pioneering tribes share experiences with prosecuting non-Indians (10/7)
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs approves two bills at meeting (10/7)
Congress approves land-into-trust bill for Pueblos in New Mexico (10/7)
House Natural Resources Committee holds markup on Indian bills (10/7)
Native Sun News: Rival teams meet on football field at Pine Ridge (10/7)
Lakota Country Times: Tribes receive $940M in Ramah settlement (10/7)
James Giago Davies: Embrace distance running in Indian Country (10/7)
Brandon Ecoffey: Powerful forces aim to keep out the Native vote (10/7)
Thomas Perez: Youth on Wind River Reservation share high hopes (10/7)
Stephen Corry: Native people displaced for sake of 'conservation' (10/7)
States oppose tribal jurisdiction in upcoming Supreme Court case (10/7)
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe challenges Indian education reforms (10/7)
Two indicted for death of Seminole Nation man who went missing (10/7)
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.