The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals
today ruled in the long-running case over the status of the Yankton Sioux Reservation
in South Dakota.
An 1858 treaty reserved 430,400 acres for the tribe. The U.S. Supreme Court
ruled that tribe ceded about half of the reservation, cutting it down to about 262,300 acres.
The current case concerns the status of 37,600 acres within the original reservation boundaries. Over the state's objections, the 8th Circuit affirmed that lands already in trust retain their Indian Country status.
The court specifically said that lands that the tribe and individual Indians acquired through the land-into-trust process of the Indian Reorganization Act
of 1934 are Indian Country.
"By taking former Yankton Sioux Reservation lands back into trust under the IRA, the [Interior] Secretary effectively exercised his authority to consolidate the tribe’s land base by restoring reservation status to former pieces of a reservation in existence since 1858," the decision stated.
Additionally, the court said lands that were acquired through means other than the IRA are Indian Country because they are "dependent Indian communities."
On another issue, the court declined to rule on the status of fee lands that have been continuously held by individual Indians. "Finally, the record regarding fee lands continuously held by tribal members is not ripe for review," the decision stated.
8th Circuit Decision:
Yankton Sioux Tribe v. Podhrasky
(August 25, 2009)