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Frank's Landing Indian Community loses decision in sovereignty case

The Frank's Landing Indian Community cannot engage in gaming on its homelands in Washington state, a federal appeals court ruled this week.

While Congress has recognized Frank's Landing as a "self-governing dependent Indian community," it is not a federally recognized tribe, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded in the unanimous decision on Monday. That means it cannot follow the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, Judge Morgan Christen wrote.

"Congress clearly and unambiguously intended federal recognition by the Secretary to be a prerequisite for participation in IGRA gaming," Christen wrote in the 21-page decision in reference to the Secretary of the Department of the Interior.

The Wa He Lut Indian School is located at Frank's Landing Indian Community in Washington. Photo: David H. Barehand

Frank's Landing is known for its prominent role in the so-called Fish Wars of the 1960s and 1970s. The six-acre community, located along the Nisqually River, was frequently targeted by state officials who asserted authority over the fishing and subsistence rights of tribal citizens.

"Frank’s Landing is a unique place," the community's website states. "It is the site of the historic fishing disputes that eventually led to the Boldt Decision."

The Bold decision, named for the judge who wrote it in 1974, confirmed that tribes reserved their rights to fish through treaties signed with the United States. The landmark ruling split the catch 50-50 between tribes and Washington state.

The 9th Circuit's action in the IGRA case does not change that history. But it's a setback for Frank's Landing, where leaders like the late Billy Frank Jr. have long been at the forefront of modern-day tribal sovereignty movements.

Turtle Talk has posted briefs from the case, Frank’s Landing Indian Community v. National Indian Gaming Commission.

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision
Frank's Landing Indian Community v. National Indian Gaming Commission (March 12, 2019)

9th Circuit Court of Appeals: Frank's Landing Indian Community v. National Indian Gaming Commission

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