Law Article: Indian Country saw positive developments in 2014

Diane Humetewa was confirmed as a federal judge last May. Photo from Arizona State University

Attorney Fred Schubkegel discusses some of the positive developments in Indian law and policy in 2014, including the confirmation of Diane Humetewa, a member of the Hopi Tribe, as a federal judge:
May: Hon. Diane Humetawa
Another strong female voice advocating for tribal needs is newly appointed judge Diane Humetawa. In the spring of 2014, the Senate voted her unanimously into the position of U.S. District Court Judge for Arizona. Humetawa is a citizen of the Hopi tribe and had previously worked as a U.S. Attorney for Arizona under the George W. Bush administration, as well as an appellate court judge for the Hopi tribe and as special counsel and professor at Arizona State University. She is the first female Native American federal judge in U.S. history and the third Native American to hold such a position.

September: Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act
A key legislative victory from 2014 was passage of the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act. "The bill is designed to stop IRS efforts to tax tribal citizens who receive essential tribal government programs and services, such as housing, education, elder and child care, and cultural awards, among other things,” wrote Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan Brewer. With the passage of this bill, Indian Tribes are optimistic that federal tax policy may finally be coming into alignment with federal Indian law in a way that fully maintains the sovereignty of tribal governments.

December: Repeal of Section 910 of VAWA
In December, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 was amended to repeal Section 910, which had excluded Alaska natives from several key protections. Senator Lisa Murkowski, who had originally championed Section 910, had argued at the time of passage in 2013 that Section 910 did not change the impact of the bill because even without it, the bill pertained only to “Indian country,” where tribes live on reservations and have their own court systems. As defined by federal law, there is almost no Indian country in Alaska.

But Murkowski’s “Alaska exception” in Section 910 had reopened a contentious debate surrounding criminal jurisdiction over Alaska Native villages and created confusion among law enforcement officials. The United States Senate unanimously passed the repeal of Section 910 in December, with Murkowski's full support.

Get the Story:
Fred Schubkegel: Legal Developments in Indian Country in 2014 (The National Law Review 2/4)

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