Scrapbook: Supreme Court rules on Indian Country

"On Feb. 25, 1998, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case involving the Interior Alaska Native village of Venetie and the State of Alaska that none of the 44 million acres of land retained by Alaska Natives in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act met the federal definition of 'Indian Country.'

Tribal advocates throughout the state had been encouraged by their earlier victory in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but the State of Alaska had appealed it to the U.S. Supreme Court. Under federal law, tribal land such as that within Indian reservations is usually designated as 'Indian Country,' and as such is subject to tribal laws and taxes.

Heather Kendall Miller, an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, argued the case for Venetie before the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 10, 1997. She was disappointed by the decision and feels it has hurt tribal governments in Alaska.

'This undercuts tribal authority to regulate over a land base, and it has serious implications for communities' ability to provide for such basic needs as law enforcement, alcohol prohibition, raising revenue -- all things that governments typically do,' she said.

Even so, Miller says that tribal governments are doing the best they can. 'As a result of the ruling, their ability to regulate non-Natives is circumscribed, but they nonetheless continue to manage their affairs and do the best they can in the face of very challenging circumstances,' she said."

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Alaska Scrapbook: Feb. 25, 1998: U.S. Supreme Court rules against 'Indian Country' in Venetie case (The Anchorage Daily News 2/25)
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