Lloyd Miller: Supreme Court to rule in self-determination lawsuit

"Last month the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case testing whether federal contracts with Tribes are really contracts at all. The case involves contracts that the Bureau of Indian Affairs awards tribal governments under the Indian Self-Determination Act, but it also has direct implications for tribal contracts with the Indian Health Service. If the government is right, these contracts are not contracts at all. Instead, the government can pay whatever it wants, whenever it wants, even after the Tribes have fully performed their end of the bargain. That outcome would tear down the foundation of the Indian Self-Determination Act, under which Tribes operate one-half of all BIA and IHS operations, and it would relegate Indian Tribes to being second-class contractors.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

The Indian Self-Determination Act was rewritten in the 1980s and 1990s precisely to compel the government to award true, binding contracts to Tribes that chose to take over federal operations on their reservations. The agencies were told to calculate the full amount due under each contract, to pay each tribal contractor that amount, and to request supplemental appropriations from Congress if agency funds ran out. After all, that’s what the government does with every other government contractor, and in 1987, Senator Daniel Inouye declared that the past discriminatory treatment suffered by tribal contractors would end with the new statutory language."

Get the Story:
Lloyd Miller: Conflict in the Courts, Tribal Contracts in the Balance (Indian Country Today 6/6)

Oral Argument Transcript:
Ramah Navajo Chapter v. Salazar (April 28, 2012)

10th Circuit Decision:
Ramah Navajo Chapter v. Salazar (May 9, 2011)

Related Stories:
SCOTUSBlog: Recap of argument in self-determination suit (04/19)
Turtle Talk: Commentary on self-determination argument (4/19)
Supreme Court transcript from self-determination case (4/18)
Supreme Court set for hearing in self-determination case (4/16)
Supreme Court agrees to take up self-determination dispute (01/09)
Supreme Court puts off action on self-determination litigation (11/28)
10th Circuit sides with tribes on self-determination contracts (5/9)

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