Appeals court allows federal prosecution in Indian status case

A man with 19.25 percent Assiniboine and Sioux blood is an "Indian" under federal law, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week.

Ronnie Lynn Smith is not an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Tribes of Montana. At one point, he was an "associate" member although he relinquished his status in 1996.

But in an unpublished opinion, the 9th Circuit said Smith has more Indian blood than other defendants who have challenged federal prosecution. "We have held this requirement satisfied by as little as 1/8 (12.5%) Indian blood," the court stated.

"Here, the government presented evidence that Smith has 25/128 (19.5%) Assiniboine and Sioux blood," the court added.

Despite giving up his status in the tribe, the court also said Smith "held himself out to be an Indian person." He was living on the reservation at the time of his indictment in federal court.

9th Circuit Decision:
US v. Smith (July 8, 2011)

Prior 9th Circuit Decisions:
US v. LaBuff (July 1, 2011)
US v. Maggi / US v. Mann (March 16, 2010)
US v. Cruz (February 10, 2009)

Related Stories:
Appeals court rules man is Indian enough for federal jurisdiction (7/6)
9th Circuit rules two criminal defendants aren't 'Indian' (3/17)
9th Circuit reverses conviction in Indian status case (2/11)

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