Indianz.Com was the first to report on Dossett's reassignment. An August 31, 2018, story explained that NCAI gave him a different title -- that of "senior counsel" -- following an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. Dossett, who is non-Indian, had worked for the organization, headquartered at the Embassy of Tribal Nations in Washington, D.C., since 1995. The story, which won Indianz.Com an award from the Native American Journalists Association in 2019, led Dossett to sue the news website's parent corporation, Ho-Chunk Inc., in addition to NCAI, which owns Indian Country Today. High Country News, a non-profit organization, also was named as a defendant in the complaint. All three news outlets wrote about the turmoil at NCAI. But in a dramatic turnaround, Dossett's attorney on Wednesday conceded that Ho-Chunk Inc. cannot be sued due to sovereign immunity. The corporation is an arm of the Winnebago Tribe and serves the Indian nation's economic development needs. "I think you're out of the case," Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman told attorney Nicole Ducheneaux, a citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe who is representing Ho-Chunk Inc. in the litigation. "I agree with that," responded Ducheneaux, who founded one of the first law firms to be majority-owned by Native women. As of Wednesday, however, Dossett would not agree to have Ho-Chunk Inc. voluntarily dismissed from the lawsuit, his attorney said. There was a reason for that -- and it appeared to be based solely on the optics of suing a prominent, award-winning tribal entity. Arguing that one tribe lacks sovereign immunity might not go over well with potential clients in Indian Country, Dossett's attorney said. "He wants to continue working as counsel for Native American tribes," attorney Scott Whipple, a solo practitioner, said of Dossett. Dossett's reluctance to have Ho-Chunk Inc. taken off the case means the tribal entity must wait for a formal ruling on a previously-filed motion to dismiss the lawsuit. NCAI and High Country News must also wait for decisions on their respective motions to dismiss. Beckerman, whose duties as a magistrate give her great leeway to address key matters in the case, did not give a timeline for any reports, rulings or recommendations. But she promised to take action "as soon as I can." The hearing was the first in the case since the complaint was filed last August. Ho-Chunk Inc., the National Congress of American Indians and High Country News are represented by separate legal teams. Indianz.Com, though it is owned by Ho-Chunk Inc., operates independently of the corporation. Indian Country Today, while owned by NCAI, also operates independently. During the hearing, however, Dossett's attorney portrayed Indian Country Today in a different manner. He insisted that NCAI's former executive director, Jackie Pata, who left the organization following the turmoil, played a role in reviewing and approving the news outlet's first story about the turmoil. When told about the claim after the hearing, Indian Country Today's award-winning editor Mark Trahant offered his own forceful denial. That never happened, he told Indianz.Com.
Join the Conversation