Omaha Tribe surprised by appeal in reservation boundary case

A view of the Omaha Reservation in Nebraska. Photo from Omaha Tribe

The Omaha Tribe of Nebraska is gearing up for another round of litigation in a case that questions the boundaries of its reservation.

Last December, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the reservation was not diminished when Congress opened part of the tribe's land base to non-Indian settlers in 1882. The decision confirms that businesses in the village of Pender must comply with tribal liquor laws and regulations.

The tribe met with officials in Pender on Tuesday to talk about the case. Chairman Vernon Miller thought the discussion was productive but he found out yesterday that the village is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the 8th Circuit victory.

Schrieb's Bar on Main Street in Pender. Image from Google Maps

"We are surprised, " Miller said in a press release today. He described the meeting as "a sincere effort at moving forward with regard to liquor licensing, taxation and economic development in the area."

"The fact they planned to file a petition the next day was never mentioned," Miller added.

The tribe will now have to invest more time and resources in defending its reservation boundaries. Resolution of the Supreme Court petition could take several months.

"We are gravely disappointed that the state of Nebraska continues to waste the funds of Nebraska taxpayers by supporting Pender in this litigation which seeks to diminish our boundary and challenge our sovereignty while turning its back on the original citizens of this state, who are also tax paying citizens of the state of Nebraska," Miller said.

A reservation diminishment case hasn't been heard by the Supreme Court since South Dakota v. Yankton Sioux Tribe, a 1998 decision cited by the 8th Circuit. But tribes and their advocates are always worried because the justices appear to be hostile toward Indian Country -- since John G. Roberts came on as chief justice in 2005, tribal interests have won only two cases and have lost nine.

8th Circuit Decision:
Smith v. Parker (December 19, 2014)

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