|Attorneys discuss new legal opinion from the Interior Department that addresses the U.S. Supreme Court decision
The Office of the Solicitor of the Department of the Interior has issued a legal opinion (the “Opinion“) to the Secretary of the Interior interpreting the statutory phrase “under federal jurisdiction” in the Indian Reorganization Act, 25 U.S.C. § 461 et seq. (1934), (the “IRA“). The Opinion is a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Carcieri v. Salazar, 555 U.S. 379 (2009) (hereinafter, “Carcieri”), which limited Secretarial authority to take land into trust for tribes to those tribes “under federal jurisdiction” in 1934. The Opinion advises the Department of the Interior (“Interior“) that a tribe may be considered “under federal jurisdiction” in 1934 if it can show:
1. there is a sufficient showing in the tribe’s history, at or before 1934, that it was under federal jurisdiction, i.e. whether the United States had in 1934 or at some point in the tribe’s history prior to 1934, taken an action or series of actions through a course of dealings or other relevants acts for or on behalf of the tribe, or in some instance tribal members, that are sufficient to establish or that generally reflect federal obligations, duties, responsibility for or authority over the tribe by the United States; and if so,
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2. the tribe’s jurisdictional status remained intact in 1934.
Notably, the Opinion states that a tribe need not have been both under federal jurisdiction in 1934 and federally recognized in 1934 to be eligible to have land taken into trust on its behalf.
Christine L. Swanick and Wilda Wahpepah:
Interior’s Carcieri opinion means more diligence for trust land development projects
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DOI Solicitor Opinion:
Meaning of "Under Federal Jurisdiction" for Purposes of the Indian
Reorganization Act (March 12, 2014)
DOI addresses Carcieri land-into-trust case with
legal opinion (3/13)