Michael Sandoval: San Felipe Pueblo respects rights of neighbors

Larry Littlebird, the founder of the non-proift Hamaatsa, walks his 320-acre property in New Mexico. Photo by Deborah Littlebird / Hamaatsa

Michael T. Sandoval, the leader of San Felipe Pueblo, hails a decision from the New Mexico Supreme Court that affirms the tribe's sovereign immunity. The case arose after the tribe tribe barred the non-profit Hamaatsa from crossing its property but Sandoval claims the the organization -- whose founder is from neighboring tribes -- can still gain access through federal land:
The Pueblo has never sought to interfere with Hamaatsa’s access to the road along the public BLM property.

Because the litigation never progressed to the evidentiary stage, these facts do not appear in the courts’ decisions. They were, however, argued by the Pueblo in its pleadings and are in fact true.

While sympathetically reporting the Littlebirds’ sense of grievance, your article ignores the Supreme Court’s fidelity to what is in fact “settled federal law.”

Like federal and state governments, Indian tribal governments are immune from suit unless the tribe waives its immunity or Congress permits such a suit. This is the law and has been consistently recognized by courts at all levels throughout the country, including the United States Supreme Court.

Get the Story:
Michael T. Sandoval: Pueblo has not ‘trapped’ nonprofit (The Albuquerque Journal 6/26)

Also Today:
Learning center says it’s ‘penned in’ after NM Supreme Court decision on pueblo road dispute (The Albuquerque Journal 6/21)

New Mexico Supreme Court Decision:
Hamaatsa, Inc. v. Pueblo of San Felipe (June 16, 2016)

New Mexico Court of Appeals Decision:
Hamaatsa, Inc. v. Pueblo of San Felipe (July 23, 2013)

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