Home > News > More Headlines > Mont. court recognizes tribe through common law
Printer friendly version
Mont. court recognizes tribe through common law
THURSDAY, MAY 1, 2003

Despite not being recognized by the federal government, the Little Shell Chippewa Tribe possesses attributes of tribal sovereignty, the Montana Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.

In a unanimous decision, the court refused to intervene in an internal election dispute. Writing for the majority, Justice Jim Regnier said to do so would violate tribal sovereignty.

"Indian tribes and their officials enjoy sovereign immunity from suit unless expressly limited by Congress," Regnier wrote.

The ruling, issued Tuesday, has the effect of judicial recognition for the tribe. The justices relied on a 1901 Supreme Court decision, Montoya v. United States , that sets out four criteria for "common law recognition."

The Little Shell Tribe, Regnier said, "satisfies each element of the Montoya test and therefore is a tribe entitled to sovereignty."

But the tribe has yet to finalize its status before the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In May 2000, former assistant secretary Kevin Gover issued a preliminary decision in favor of recognition and, after several extensions of the public comment period that were requested by tribe, the petition is still open for review.

That didn't stop the court from relying on Gover's analysis. The decision cites the proposed finding as evidence for the tribe satisfying the first three Montoya criteria: 1) members must be of the same or a similar race; 2) members must be united in a community; and 3) they must exist under one leadership or government.

For the fourth test -- that the tribe must occupy a territory -- the court said Little Shell members primarily live in three areas. "Furthermore, tribes are not required to occupy a reservation to either receive common law or federal recognition," Regnier added.

The tribe has been seeking federal status for more than 100 years. In 1892, Chief Little Shell refused to sign a treaty with the United States that would have paid out 10 cents an acre for 10 million acres of land. Little Shell ancestors left, and were forced off, what is now the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota.

In agreeing to recognize the tribe, Gover disagreed with an analysis by BIA researchers who said the tribe failed to satisfy three out of seven mandatory requirements that are laid out in federal regulations.

BIA researchers said the tribe failed to show evidence for certain period of time. The tribe has said it is working to fill the gaps.

Although Tuesday's decision was unanimous on the tribe's common law recognition, Justice Terry N. Trieweiler said he would have allowed the suit because members sued the tribe's corporation, not the tribe itself. "While I agree that the district court was without jurisdiction to entertain the complaint to the extent that it affected the election of tribal officials, I disagree that the district court was without jurisdiction to consider the complaint as it related to officers of that state corporation," he wrote.

Court Decision and Court Briefs:
Koke v. Little Shell Chippewa (April 2003)

Related Documents:
Federal Register Notice: Little Shell Chippewa (July 2000)

Related Stories:
Little Shell finding a departure (08/16)
Decisions put Gover in the middle (08/16)

Copyright © Indianz.Com

Stay Connected

On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud

More Headlines

Indian Health Service reform efforts gaining steam on Capitol Hill (5/25)
Keepseagle attorneys open application process for $38M in grants (5/25)
Three tribes enter cooperative agreements for buy-back program (5/25)
New leader selected for HUD's Office of Native American Programs (5/25)
Cronkite News: Tribes seek return of property up for sale in France (5/25)
Native Sun News: Anti-suicide effort incorporates tribal traditions (5/25)
Lakota Country Times: Pine Ridge youth showcase film projects (5/25)
Brandon Ecoffey: Lakota people come together in times of need (5/25)
Editorial: Tribes must come up with plan for return of Black Hills (5/25)
John McCoy: Disenrollment and blood quantum are not our way (5/25)
Adrian Jawort: Addressing race relations and healing in Montana (5/25)
Fort Peck Tribes oppose new directive on transgender students (5/25)
Leader of United Keetoowah Band ousted through impeachment (5/25)
Sen. Barrasso to chair platform committee for GOP convention (5/25)
Cowlitz Tribe welcomes discussions with opponent over casino (5/25)
Little Traverse Bay Bands open doors to Class II gaming facility (5/25)
Tuolumne Band celebrates 15th birthday with casino expansion (5/25)
Former Winnebago Tribe casino employee denies theft charge (5/25)
Proposed rule brings LGBT equality to tribal housing programs (5/24)
Chairman of Quapaw Tribe endorses Democrat Hillary Clinton (5/24)
Appropriations bill blocks new federal recognition regulation (5/24)
Native American Children's Safety Act clears final Hill hurdle (5/24)
9th Circuit won't rehear Tohono O'odham Nation gaming case (5/24)
Lakota Country Times: Army promises return of tribal children (5/24)
Native Sun News: New business sprouts up at Wounded Knee (5/24)
Mark Trahant: Tulalip citizen lands role in Democratic platform (5/24)
Brandon Ecoffey: Pine Ridge unites for search of missing men (5/24)
Men who went missing found dead on Pine Ridge Reservation (5/24)
Billy Mills: Flawed poll can't justify use of team's racist mascot (5/24)
Richard King: Mascot poll reflects pervasive anti-Indian racism (5/24)
Marco Alvarez: Voices of indigenous people usually go unheard (5/24)
Indian Health Service facility cited for treatment of 6-month-old (5/24)
Tribes meet to discuss sale of ancestors and property in France (5/24)
Families of missing Native women in Canada still await justice (5/24)
Menominee Nation considers options after losing hemp lawsuit (5/24)
Dental group appears to relent on therapists in Indian Country (5/24)
Alaska Natives welcome removal of 'Eskimo' from federal laws (5/24)
Joba Chamberlain lands on disabled list after joining new team (5/24)
Coquille Tribe awaits environmental review for gaming project (5/24)
Seminole Tribe still going strong despite lack of new casino deal (5/24)
Long wait hints at tie in closely-watched tribal jurisdiction case (5/23)
Another Indian Health Service facility in Great Plains threatened (5/23)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee schedules hearing on wildfires (5/23)
Supreme Court delays review of Seneca Nation land case again (5/23)
Native Sun News: Pine Ridge school hosts meth awareness day (5/23)
Lakota Country Times: Native men still missing after two weeks (5/23)
Tim Giago: Some good old days really were the 'good old days' (5/23)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Jay Silverheels was more than 'Tonto' (5/23)
Delphine Red Shirt: It's our duty to teach the Lakota language (5/23)
Ernestine Chasing Hawk: A vendetta in the death of Anna Mae (5/23)
Native Sun News: Rapid City group aims to address disparities (5/23)
Tara Houska: Mascots hurt Native youth despite results of poll (5/23)
Vincent Schilling: Mascot poll doesn't reflect true Indian voices (5/23)
more headlines...

Advertisement

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.