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Court opens Blackfeet housing authority to lawsuit

The Blackfeet Nation's housing authority can be sued by tribal members whose homes have been overrun by mold and other problems, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday.

In a unanimous decision, the court said the tribe waived its sovereign immunity. Contracts the housing authority signed with tribal members contained a "sue and be sued" clause, the decision stated.

But the Department of Housing and Urban Development cannot be sued, the court determined. The tribal members failed to cite any laws that would hold the federal government responsible for the faulty homes, Judge Harry Pregerson wrote for the majority.

Pregerson authored a second opinion that blasted the United States for its treatment of Native people. He blamed the lack of adequate and affordable housing on reservations to decades of failed Indian policy.

"We as a nation should live up to the promises that we have made. We should come to the assistance of the men, women, and children who will continue to live in absolute squalor until we step in," he wrote.

According to a Missoula News article cited by the court, 153 families are affected by the bad homes. Many are suffering from cancer, asthma, kidney failure, respiratory problems and other ailments.

Get the Story:
Blackfeet Housing Authority can be sued, court rules (AP 7/22)

Court Decision:
Marceau v. Blackfeet Housing Authority (July 21, 2006)

Related Stories:
Reservation homes threatened by dangerous mold (05/16)
Navajo Nation homes contaminated with mold (03/02)
Reservation homes plagued by mold problems (12/03)
Judge dismisses suit over bad homes at Blackfeet (01/23)