10th Circuit backs UKB in housing fund dispute
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals backed the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians of Oklahoma in a funding dispute with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The tribe consistently received funding under the
Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act from 1997 through 2005. But HUD drastically reduced the tribe's Indian Housing Block Grant after a complaint from the Cherokee Nation.

The Cherokee Nation claimed it was the only entity eligible to receive IHBG funding within its Tribal Jurisdictional Statistical Area. HUD agreed, saying the United Keetoowah Band lacked "court jurisdiction" over the affected area and didn't have an agreement with the Cherokee Nation.

The 10th Circuit, however, said NAHASDA requires HUD to consider the "need" of tribes and the "Indian areas" of tribes. The United Keetoowah Band's lack of "court jurisdiction" and lack of agreement cannot be used against the tribe, the court said.

"This language explicitly and unambiguously mandates that the factors in HUD’s allocation formula reflect -- in other words, have some connection or nexus with -- the need of Indian tribes and Indian areas of the tribes," Judge Paul J. Kelly wrote for the majority. "The language does not permit of any other reading."

The majority also said it had "grave concerns" that the Cherokee Nation was allowed to intervene in the dispute because HUD regulations do not allow appeals by third-party tribes. But since the court ruled for the United Keetoowah Band on other grounds, it did not make a holding on this issue.

Judge Mary Beck Briscoe dissented in an unusually long opinion. She said NAHASDA is "ambiguous" with respect to the jurisdiction issue.

10th Circuit Decision:
United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians v. HUD (June 5, 2009)