indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Indian Law Online Master Degree
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Oneida Nation families lose court challenge
Monday, August 11, 2003

A federal judge is refusing to get involved in a dispute between the Oneida Nation of New York and tribal members who say they are victims of retaliation for opposing the tribal leadership.

Unless a higher authority steps in, or the tribe changes its mind, four families who live on the 32-acre Oneida Reservation will lose their homes next week. The tribe considers the homes unsafe for living and plans to demolish them August 20.

Among those who is being evicted is Maisie Shenandoah, the 71-year-old aunt of Oneida representative Ray Halbritter. Shenandoah and her allies say the only reason they are being targeted is because they have criticized Halbritter.

But in a 15-page ruling issued on Friday, U.S. District Judge Norman Mordue said there was no evidence that the tribe is violating the civil rights of its members. Citing long-standing principles of federal Indian policy, he said he had no jurisdiction to interfere in matters of tribal self-government.

The battle over the homes dates back at least three years, when the tribe began what has been called a "beautification" campaign. The tribe's housing department sought to inspect homes on the reservation in order to ensure their safety.

Some tribal members tried to prevent the inspections but were unsuccessful. One woman, Danielle Patterson, was arrested while trying to resist a forced inspection, a November 2001 scuffle with tribal police that was caught on videotape.

Patterson eventually lost her trailer home to the beautification program. The tribe offered her a four-bedroom home rent free for six months but she refused.

"Why would I pay rent to them for a house that I could never own?" she told The Syracuse Post-Standard in December 2001. "Why would I pay rent to them if I already own my own home?"

The tribe has made the same offer to the current set of evictees, led by Maisie Shenandoah. In his decision, Mordue cited the offer as tipping the case in the tribe's favor.

But the major reason for Mordue's refusal to get involved is the Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA) of 1968. Although the law imposes certain U.S. constitutional guarantees -- such as freedom of speech -- on tribal governments, the courts have ruled that the standards are to be set by tribes without federal or state review.

The only way out of this limitation is to seek what is called a writ of habeas corpus, which is a challenge to detention by a tribal government. Detention doesn't necessarily have to involve being put in jail, it can involve parole or other related actions -- most notably permanent banishment from a tribe.

In the case of the plaintiffs, none have been stripped of their tribal membership or have been forced to leave the reservation. They argued that taking away their homes will have the same effect, but Murdue dismissed the claims as not falling under ICRA.

"Insofar as allegations by various plaintiffs concerning retaliatory conduct by defendants such as withholding of housing and/or heating assistance, withholding of government distribution checks and confiscation of boats and automobiles, and even the destruction or threatened destruction of their homes, it is clear that these alleged incidents concern economic restraints and/or personal property rather than actual liberty interests," he wrote.

Get the Ruling:
Shenandoah v. Halbritter (August 8, 2003)

Relevant Links:
Oneidas for Democracy - http://www.oneidasfordemocracy.org
Oneida Nation - http://www.oneida-nation.net

Related Stories:
Oneida families lose homes waiting on court (8/1)
Oneida Nation issues eviction orders against families (7/30)
Oneida Nation sends inspector to homes (06/12)
Oneida Nation members compare tribe to Hitler (05/13)
Oneida Nation residents fear destruction of homes (5/9)
Demolition of Oneida woman's home turned into film (5/8)
Oneida woman's home demolished (10/23)
Oneida woman's home will be demolished (10/22)
Oneida woman won't appear before court (09/24)
Accusers of Oneida official won't testify (8/9)
Oneida official accused of harassment (7/17)
Film showing at school canceled (4/17)
Oneida Nation offers home to member (12/19)
Video clears up little in Oneida dispute (12/10)
Police video documents Oneida scuffle (12/7)
Oneida Nation disputes homes (11/20)

Copyright 2000-2003 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Activists take annual swim to Alcatraz Island (10/21)
Mark Trahant: Alaska Natives ready for conference and election (10/21)
Chelsey Luger & Gyasi Ross: From slow suicide to slow healing (10/21)
Bill John Baker: Addressing breast cancer in our communities (10/21)
ICT interview with Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn of BIA (10/21)
Column: Billy Mills still inspires 50 years after Olympic victory (10/21)
Editorial: Winnebago Tribe's business makes a big contribution (10/21)
Suquamish Tribe shares fish from hatchery at annual giveaway (10/21)
Closure of Chukchansi Tribe's casino affects reservation water (10/21)
Eastern Shawnee Tribe considers casino on ancestral Ohio site (10/21)
Town meeting for Lac Vieux Desert Band off-reservation casino (10/21)
North Fork Rancheria won't give up off-reservation casino plan (10/21)
Tohono O'odham Nation was looking for off-reservation casino (10/21)
Poarch Creeks won't confirm or deny talks for gaming compact (10/21)
Tim Giago: Deaths of Native men in Rapid City remain unsolved (10/20)
Charles 'Chuck' Trimble: Let Crazy Horse's spirit rest in peace (10/20)
Mark Trahant: Races come down to turnout in three key states (10/20)
Native Sun News: Billy Mills wows youth at Black Hills Powwow (10/20)
Cedric Sunray: Tribes abandon traditional aspects of inclusion (10/20)
Dustina Gill: Vote for Rick Weiland to protect our sacred waters (10/20)
Ousted Project Runway contestant reaffirms Puyallup heritage (10/20)
White House Tribal Nations Conference takes place December 3 (10/20)
Bryan Brewer: Park helps Oglala Sioux Tribe protect its culture (10/20)
Robert Porter: Don't let tribal issues fall prey to partisan politics (10/20)
Gabe Galanda: Abramoff's playbook still used in Indian Country (10/20)
Jay Daniels: Let BIA make changes to rights-of-way regulation (10/20)
Mike McBride: Sovereign goodwill at a low in tribal tax dispute (10/20)
Top Navajo Nation court holds hearing in presidential dispute (10/20)
Eastern Shawnee Tribe to open resort at ancestral site in Ohio (10/20)
Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas selects Lester Randall as new leader (10/20)
Editorial: Address safety concerns about tribal hunts at night (10/20)
Chukchansi Tribe sends layoff notices to most casino workers (10/20)
Rivals raise nearly $16M to block North Fork Rancheria casino (10/20)
Judge won't let BIA proceed with compact for Pojoaque Pueblo (10/20)
Candidates discuss Menominee Nation's off-reservation casino (10/20)
Opinion: Suckers help Chumash Tribe finance casino expansion (10/20)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux Tribe buckles to pressure on park (10/17)
Mark Trahant: Native vote could tip races in Idaho and Colorado (10/17)
Crystal Willcuts: Remembering the beauty that was my mother (10/17)
Blackfeet actress Misty Upham found dead after going missing (10/17)
Citizen Potawatomi Nation sues city over detachment petition (10/17)
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.