Lyle Denniston: Supreme Court considers Omaha Tribe dispute

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

Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSBlog offers a preview of oral arguments in Nebraska v. Parker, a reservation boundary dispute case affecting the Omaha Tribe that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear on January 20:
A thirsty resident or visitor to the small town of Pender, Nebraska — a community of 1,006 people in the state’s far northeast corner — has a rather wide variety of choices. Liquor is available at Smitty City West, a convenience store; Pender Lanes, a bowling alley; three bars (Shriebs, Welsh’s and the Other Side); a veteran’s club; and Twin Creeks Golf Club. But the prices that these outlets charge may depend on whether Pender is located within an Indian reservation and whether they have to pay a tax levied by the Omaha Indian tribe.

Those are the issues that go before the Supreme Court next week, on January 20, when the Justices hear oral arguments in Nebraska v. Parker. Its impact could go beyond the sometimes heated relationships between townsmen and the tribe. But on a less agitated level, the Court is now being asked to define what happens to Indian lands after Congress agreed to let settlers occupy lands within an Indian reservation.

Pender was laid out on 160 acres in 1884 by a Nebraska settler, W.E. Peebles. The town was founded and given the name of Sir John Pender, a Scottish businessman who had some role in the laying of the transatlantic communications cable and became a director of an American railroad. Lots in Pender were sold in April 1885.

That was three years after Congress passed a law to conduct an appraisal of the lands of the Omaha tribe, anticipating sales to settlers on the western end of the tribe’s reservation. All of the lands west of a railway right-of-way, granted by the tribe, were to be sold to settlers. Tribal members had first choice on selecting lands for their own private use, then the remainder were open for sale to the public.

Get the Story:
Lyle Denniston: Argument preview: The Indians vs. the settlers, a modern sequel (SCOTUSBlog 1/13)

Supreme Court Documents:
Docket Sheet No. 14-1406 | Questions Presented | Hearing List: January 2016

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

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