indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
R.I. tribe takes smokeshop case to higher court
Tuesday, January 27, 2004

The Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island filed court papers on Monday challenging a federal judge's decision stemming from last summer's violent raid by state police.

Acting on orders from Gov. Donald Carcieri (R), state troopers stormed the reservation on July 14. They arrested and charged several tribal members, including chief sachem Matthew Thomas, in a dispute over tax-free cigarettes being sold at the tribe's smokeshop.

The incident drew national attention as videotape of the raid was broadcast on television stations repeatedly. It also brought criticism from tribal leaders and members of Congress, who said the violence could have been avoided.

"Anyone who witnessed the episode on videotape -- as I have -- surely was sickened and profoundly disappointed at the tactics used by the state in its dispute with the tribe regarding sales of tobacco on the tribe's lands," Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) wrote in a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft at the time.

But a federal judge, in a ruling this past December, sanctioned the state's actions. U.S. District Judge William E. Smith said the state has a right to enforce its laws on the tribe despite the tribe's status as a sovereign government.

"The state did not violate federal law nor the tribe's sovereign rights when it enforced the criminal provisions of the state's cigarette tax scheme by executing a search warrant on the settlement lands," Smith wrote on December 29.

Though it was fast-tracked and highly-anticipated, Smith's ruling was never expected to be the last on the controversy. Tribal leaders voted soon after to take their case to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, Massachusetts.

Over the years, the court has tackled some state-tribal disputes but tribes have been on the losing end of the stick. In one high-profile case, the court rebuffed two Maine tribes who sought protection from the state's freedom of information law. Tribal leaders were threatened with jail time for refusing to submit to the law.

The Narragansett Tribe finds itself in a similar predicament. Language in the tribe's settlement act, passed by Congress in 1978, imposes criminal and civil jurisdiction on the reservation. In Rhode Island, violation of tax laws is a criminal offense.

But whether the settlement act imposes state laws upon the tribe itself is an open question. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a case involving a county's raid of a tribal casino, weighed the issue but did not directly rule on it. Some Indian law practitioners took the decision as a positive sign that the court was not ready to subject tribes to state law even in places like California, where the state has criminal and civil jurisdiction on Indian lands.

Taxation on reservations, however, is something the high court has ruled on several times. States have a right to impose taxes on sales tobacco, fuel and other products to non-Indians. Throughout the country, tribes and states have come to agreements on how best to resolve the issue.

According to Narragansett leaders, the smokeshop was an attempt to start economic development. Most tribal members live in and around the 1,800-acre reservation, where unemployment is high.

The tribe has its sights set on a casino but cannot open one without state approval. State lawmakers, so far, have refused to put the issue to voters although a mid-1990s referendum failed.

The tribe is barred from the provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988, thanks to a rider inserted by former Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.). The 1st Circuit upheld the provision.

A decision on the smokeshop could take up to a year. An appeal to the Supreme Court is possible, although the justices have refused several cases involving New England tribes in recent years.

Court Decision:
Narragansett Tribe v. Rhode Island (December 29, 2003)

Relevant Links:
Smokeshop Showdown, Providence Journal - http://www.projo.com/extra/2003/smokeshop
Narragansett Tribe - http://www.narragansett-tribe.org
Rhode Island Governor - http://www.governor.state.ri.us
Rhode Island Attorney General - http://www.riag.state.ri.us

Related Stories:
Narragansett Tribe will challenge smoke shop ruling (01/08)
Campbell 'sickened' by raid of Narragansett smoke shop (07/25)
Tribal raid a sign of 'liberal' New England racism (07/21)
State's raid on tribal land sparks strong reactions (07/16)
R.I. escalates fight over tribal smoke shop (07/15)
Narragansett chief arrested in 'violent' raid (7/14)
R.I. governor promises to help Narragansett Tribe (06/04)
R.I. tribe upset over reservation checkpoint bill (05/30)
R.I. bill sets up reservation checkpoints (5/28)
R.I. tribe delays opening of tobacco shop (5/23)

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: Businesses show support for LNI tournament (3/27)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux fighter climbing in the ranks (3/27)
Mark Trahant: Alaska Natives look 10,000 years into the future (3/27)
Ivan Star: The influences of boarding school and Vietnam War (3/27)
Gyasi Ross: Funerals become family reunions in Indian Country (3/27)
Tim Giago hands over the reins as publisher of Native Sun News (3/27)
House committee passes Native American Children's Safety Act (3/27)
Bill to benefit Miami Nation moves forward in House and Senate (3/27)
City extended contract to send treated sewage to sacred peaks (3/27)
Oneida Nation welcomes ruling backing land-into-trust request (3/27)
Lawmakers want BIA to delay new federal recognition reforms (3/27)
Another conviction from Chippewa Cree Tribe corruption probe (3/27)
Editorial: Shakopee Tribe contributes $5M for health initiative (3/27)
Opinion: Navajo Nation enacts 'sin tax' on unhealthy products (3/27)
Editorial: Opposition to Pamunkey Tribe recognition 'revolting' (3/27)
Dennis Jenkins: Hypocrisy for new tribal casinos in Connecticut (3/27)
Supreme Court asked to hear Kialegee Tribal Town gaming case (3/27)
Ho-Chunk Nation extends agreement for off-reservation casino (3/27)
Indiana lawmakers seek role in Pokagon Band gaming compact (3/27)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux leader not pleased with boycott (3/26)
Lakota Country Times: Lakota Nation Invitational stays in Rapid (3/26)
Native Sun News: Mayor of Rapid City addresses race relations (3/26)
Jane Daugherty: Tribal e-commerce continues to draw scrutiny (3/26)
Witness list for Senate Indian Affairs Committee's field hearing (3/26)
Richard Iron Cloud: Remove murderer's name from sacred peak (3/26)
Native Youth: Bring dental therapy providers to Indian Country (3/26)
Steven Newcomb: Tribal nations still under dominating process (3/26)
Law firm hosts tribes for session on marijuana in Indian Country (3/26)
Judge upholds BIA decision on Oneida Nation land-into-trust bid (3/26)
Appeals court rules against Crow Tribe in housing grant dispute (3/26)
Ho-Chunk Nation raises minimum wage to $2.75 above federal (3/26)
Mishewal Wappo Tribe to appeal decision in recognition lawsuit (3/26)
Racist emails of former Montana federal judge to be preserved (3/26)
Shingle Springs Band considered but rejected indoor gun range (3/26)
House panel backs bill to block Tohono O'odham Nation casino (3/26)
Quapaw Tribe did not include casino on land-into-trust request (3/26)
Chumash Tribe never got apology for diplomat's casino remark (3/26)
Governor won't sign casino compact with Fort Sill Apache Tribe (3/26)
Cherokee Nation approves $6.9M renovation project for casino (3/26)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux veteran training for Paralympics (3/25)
Alaska Native musher Chuck Schaeffer completes 2015 Iditarod (3/25)
LTBB News: Michigan tribes come together for historic meeting (3/25)
Lecture focuses on repatriation of tribal intellectual properties (3/25)
Board still working on delivering money for Cobell scholarships (3/25)
Sen. Barrasso to chair field hearing on drugs in Indian Country (3/25)
Bill for tribal marijuana compacts up for hearing in Washington (3/25)
Choctaw Nation chief hopes to travel to Ireland for monument (3/25)
HHS urged to do more to help tribes with foster care programs (3/25)
Eastern Cherokees work to teach language to new generations (3/25)
Another suggestion for Indian woman on $20 bill -- Sakakawea (3/25)
Man from Crow Tribe cites self-defense in fatal casino shooting (3/25)
Shawnee Tribe sees opposition to off-reservation gaming plan (3/25)
Navajo Nation signs Class III casino compact with New Mexico (3/25)
Quapaw Tribe insists a casino isn't focus of Arkansas land plan (3/25)
Suquamish Tribe reaches deal to allow highway work at casino (3/25)
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.