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Narragansett Tribe files lawsuit over failed transfer of historic sites

Filed Under: Environment | Law
More on: carcieri, immunity, jurisdiction, land claims, land-into-trut, narragansett, rhode island, transportation

A dancer at a Narragansett Tribe powwow. Photo: peppergrasss

The Narragansett Tribe is suing the state of Rhode Island and the federal government over the failed transfer of three historic sites.

The tribe reached an agreement in January 2013 that required the state to transfer the properties. Four years later, the land is stuck in limbo.

“When it came time to end up getting the property that was a different matter," John Brown III, the tribe's historic preservation officer, told Rhode Island Public Radio. "And that’s where we’re at now.”

According to a letter submitted in federal court, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation refused to transfer the property until the tribe waived its sovereign immunity and accepted state criminal and civil jurisdiction on the land.

Attempts to mediate the dispute were unsuccessful, prompting the Federal Highway Administration to terminate the agreement, according to another letter from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

The state department and the federal agency are named as defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed on March 31. The tribe is seeking a termporary restraining order in hopes of enforcing the original agreement, an attorney told The Providence Journal.

The tribe's reservation was placed under state jurisdiction by a land claim settlement that was enacted by Congress. The Rhode Island Claims Settlement Act, however, didn't outright say whether properties acquired through the land-into-trust process were subject to the same restriction.

The uncertainly was at the center of Carcieri v. Salazar, in which the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the tribe from acquiring new trust lands. Congress has failed to address the decision, which has led to more litigation and more regulatory hurdles.

Read More on the Story:
Narragansetts Sue State Over Delay In Transferring Three Historic Properties (Rhode Island Public Radio 4/4)
Narragansett Tribe seeks injunction to stop work on Providence Viaduct (The Providence Journal 4/3)

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