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Non-Indian firms concerned about tribal contracting dispute





Non-Indian companies are hoping that the federal government's refusal to fully fund tribal self-determination contracts won't affect their industry.

Tribes and Alaska Native corporations have won two major decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court. But the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service still owe an estimated $2 billion in contract support costs.

“Can you imagine telling your landlord, ‘Sorry, I’m only going to pay you 80 percent of the rent this month?’” Noni Manning, the former finance manager for the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, one of the tribes involved in the Supreme Court litigation, told The Washington Post. “In the rest of the world, a contract is a contract.”

Non-Indian interests, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have supported tribes in their bid to receive full funding for their contracts. They fear that the government's position could affect thousands of other companies.

“The government’s position would have the effect of making contracts illusory by giving it a broad right to refuse payment at the stated price for services rendered,” the chamber said in a brief to the Supreme Court last year.

Even as the BIA and the IHS move slowly to resolve outstanding claims, the Obama administration asked Congress for permission to impose spending caps on individual contracts. The proposal is opposed by tribes and members of Congress from both parties.

“They are not going to be able to sustain this position either legally or politically,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a member of the Chickasaw Nation, told the Post of the proposal.

Get the Story:
Federal contractors on edge as Indian tribes wait for claims (The Washington Post 12/23)

Supreme Court Decisions:
Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter (June 18, 2012)
Cherokee Nation v. Leavitt:
Cherokee Nation v. Leavitt (March 1, 2005)

Related Stories:
Senate Indian Affairs Committee holds hearing on fiscal crisis (11/14)