Monday, June 30, 2008

San Pasqual Band denies some per cap payments; plans evictions

A long-simmering dispute within a California Indian band boiled over this weekend when the tribe withheld casino profit checks from about 50 people, claiming that one of their ancestors was adopted and that as a result, they're not really Indians.

The San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians, which operates the recently expanded Valley View Casino, also fired several people from tribal jobs and leadership positions after questioning their membership and said it would evict them from homes on tribal land. Read more about it here.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Chumash Indians’s new dictionary ensures its language will never die

There are not many experts in Samala, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ nearly extinct native language. Actually, there is just one: Richard Applegate, Ph.D. So when the tribe needed someone to assist in creating a dictionary to revive it, there was only one person to ask.

At the dictionary’s unveiling party at the Chumash Indians’ Chumash Casino Reort in Santa Ynez, Calif., in April, Applegate, a non-Native, said in a speech, “My deepest desire is not to be the sole cultural bearer of this language.”

The 600-plus-page, 4,000-entry illustrated dictionary will hopefully keep that from being the reality for long. Read more about it here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Blackfeet vote for change

Blackfeet tribal members voted Tuesday to overhaul their tribal government and oust their longtime tribal chairman.

Tribal members voted to change their 73-year-old constitution to include a separation of powers, dividing their government into three branches – legislative, judicial and executive. They also elected Henry Butterfly tribal chairman. Butterfly received 1,860 votes to Chairman Earl Old Person’s 999. Read more about it here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Supreme Court strikes down tribal jurisdiction

In a 5-4 decision the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe does not have jurisdiction over a non-Indian bank doing business on the reservation. In Plains Commerce Bank v. Long, the Court reversed the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the bank was subject to tribal jurisdiction.

Plains Commerce Bank, a non-Indian bank, sold land it owned in fee simple on the CRST reservation to non-Indians. The Longs, an Indian couple who had been leasing the land with an option to purchase, claimed the bank discriminated against them by selling the parcel to nonmembers of the tribe on terms more favorable than the bank offered to sell it to them. The couple sued in tribal court, asserting discrimination, breach-of-contract, and bad-faith claims. Over the bank's objection, the tribal court concluded that it had jurisdiction and proceeded to trial, where a jury ruled against the bank on three claims, including the discrimination claim.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts said once the land was sold in fee simple to non-Indians, it passed beyond the tribe’s control. And the mere resale of the land to non-Indians did not threaten the tribe’s interests.

Roberts drew a distinction between the sale of the land and non-Indian activity on the land. Precedent, he said, did allow for the tribe to protect its interest in guarding the health or safety of its member by regulating non-Indian activity on the land.

“But the key point is that any threat to the tribe’s sovereign interests flows from changed uses or non-member activities, rather than from the mere fact of resale,” Roberts wrote.

Justices Ginsberg, Stevens, Souter and Breyer dissented.

IHS may stop funding to tribes charging co-pays

Several tribes could be in danger of losing IHS funding within the next few months if they do not cease charging eligible beneficiaries for any portion of health services or medicine they receive at IHS-funded facilities, according to Indian Country Today.

The paper reports that federal agency has been holding consultations with tribes nationwide since April to try to get a handle on the number of tribes conducting the practice.

Ronald B. Demaray, acting director of the agency's Office of Tribal Programs said the agency is considering terminating its relationship with tribes charging co-pays.

Navajo Council wants to fire Navajo attorney general

The Navajo Tribal Council wants to fire Attorney General Louis Denetsosie from the job he's held since 2003. The council's Government Services Committee voted in favor of the bill Friday. It must go to the Ethics and Rules Committee before being considered by the full council.

Joshua Lavar Butler, a spokesman for the council, told the Las Cruces Sun News that delegates have taken issue with a recent opinion issued by Denetsosie that supports President Joe Shirley's initiative to reduce the council from 88 delegates to 24.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tribe reaches out to local law enforcement to rid reservation of crime

James Ramos, chairman of the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians has made ridding his reservation of crime a priority. He has asked San Bernardino County law enforcement officers to beef up patrols on the reservation in Southern California, according to the Los Angeles Times. The spirit of cooperation that exists between deputies there and the tribal government is in stark contrast the situation that exists at Soboba.

Deputies in San Bernardino are taking classes in Indian law and jurisdiction conducted by the Falmouth Institute. Yesterday’s story in the Times, quotes Falmouth’s own … Richard Phelps. Our company’s founder and CEO.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Blackfeet vote on constitutional overhaul

The Blackfeet Nation will vote tomorrow on whether to overhaul the tribe’s constitution to restructure the Blackfeet government, the first such restructuring of the Blackfeet government since the constitution was first adopted through the Indian Reorganization Act of 1935.

Though the constitution has been amended 11 times, it has never included a separation of powers. If approved, Tuesday’s referendum, will allow for three branches of government – executive, legislative and judicial. Such checks and balances would limit the amount of power the tribal business council holds. Read more about it here.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Appeals Court Closes Tribe’s Sales Tax Loophole

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled invalid the business strategy by the Barona Band of Mission Indians to avoid the sale tax and has ordered the tribe to pay more than $200,000 to state in sales tax.

In 2001, the tribe recruited contractors for the $75 million casino project, promising to protect the contractors from legal liability when they agreed to a contract that called for sales of taxable construction products to be completed on tribal property—which is outside the jurisdiction of the state. Read more about it here.

City and tribe sign joint powers agreement

The Tule River Tribal Council and the City of Porterville, Calif., have ratified a Joint Powers Agreement, allowing the two entities to work together as a separate government on the development of 120 acres of land near the Portersville airport. Read more about it here.

DOJ Says CRIT Boundaries Spread Into California

The U.S. Department of Justice has once again confirmed the Federal Government's long-standing position that the Colorado River Indian Tribes' reservation boundaries spread into California.

In a letter from the Department of Justice to Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack, the Department of Justice states that if any residents leasing CRIT land in California "wish to continue to occupy this land, they must have a valid lease and make payments pursuant to that lease."

CRIT and the Federal Government have long agreed that the CRIT Reservation's boundaries stretch into California, and include lands being leased from the Tribes by private individuals.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Seven indicted in Pine Ridge drug ring

Seven people have been indicted on federal charges of conspiring to distribute cocaine and marijuana on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. They’re charged in connection with an alleged conspiracy that prosecutors say dates back to at least 2002, according to the Rapid City Journal.

Cash flows to Osage Nation from oil lease auction

Higher gas prices raised the stakes at the Osage Nation’s auction of oil and gas leases Wednesday, according to the Tulsa World. Thirty-six leases, totaling more than 5,000 acres, brought in $643,900 -- roughly three times the amount the Nation made at a similar auction in March. The Osage Nation began live auctions again this year after a hiatus of several years in which leases were negotiated, reverting to a system that brought millions into the tribe during Oklahoma's oil boom in the 1920s.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tesuque Pueblo Police Department: Totally Wireless

Photo courtesy of the Tesuque Police DepartmentIt is a little unexpected, a small, traditional New Mexico pueblo with a police department as technologically advanced, maybe more so, than those of some major metropolitan areas. But that describes the Tesuque Pueblo Police Department.

The pueblo, consisting of 17,000 acres, is located in a very rural area of Santa Fe Country and has less than 1,000 residents, with 570 individuals living there tribal members. It is this rural setting that drove the Tesuque Police Department to technology. Chief Robert Frenier is known within his 11-officer force as being proactive, not reactive. He said he made developing the department a priority “so it could stand on its own.”

Before 2005, an officer taking a call in a remote area on the reservation could expect a lag in getting a response to an inquiry from dispatch. In some real remote spots, officers could not communicate via phone or radio at all. Fortunately, no officer was ever injured due to a lag or lack of communication. Read more about how Tesuque applied technology to address some serious and dangerous problems faced by police officers in Indian Country.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tribal Leaders Hopeful about a New Administration

American Indian leaders are optimistic about their relationship with a new Administration, no matter who wins in the presidential election this fall. Both Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain and Illinois Democratic Sen. Barack Obama are courting the Indian Country vote, and both have made more promises to Indian tribes than any other candidate in history, tribal leaders say. Read more about it here.

Gas Prices Force Cutbacks in Tribal Services

Tribal governments are feeling the pain of higher fuel costs because of the transportation services they offer to members and departments. Many tribes are reassessing driving practices, reallocating funding, or making cutbacks ontransportation services for tribal members. Read more about it here.

Monday, June 16, 2008

NARF AND ACLU Ask Federal Court To Stop Disenfranchisement of Alaska Natives Who Need Language Assistance

On behalf of four Alaska Natives and four tribal governments, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion in federal court today ordering state and local elections officials to provide effective oral language assistance and voting materials to citizens who speak Yup’ik, the primary language of a majority of voters in the Bethel region of Alaska. The motion comes in a lawsuit filed in 2007 charging state and local elections officials with ongoing violations of the federal Voting Rights Act.

Federal agencies coordinate clean up of Navajo uranium mines

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with the Department of Energy, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Indian Health Service and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, recently finalized a five-year plan for cleaning up the legacy of abandoned uranium mining on the Navajo Nation.

The plan, titled, "Health and Environmental Impacts of Uranium Contamination in the Navajo Nation, Five-Year Plan," is the first coordinated approach created by the five federal agencies. This landmark plan details the strategy and timeline for cleanup over the next five years.

NIGC Warns Soboba about Violence at Casino

The National Indian Gaming Commission has warned the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians in California to control the violence at its Soboba Casino or face closure. The Soboba Tribe has been locked in a battle with Riverside Sheriff’s Deputies for weeks over jurisdiction on the reservation, which includes the casino. Read more about it here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

CRIT Reduces Casino Staff; Cites Economy

The Colorado River Indian Tribes' BlueWater Resort & Casino laid off about 70 employees in May, according to the Parker Pioneer. A prepared statement handed out to the newly laid off employees stated the "staff reduction ... is necessary due to the declining economy and reduced patron counts at the BlueWater." The statement also said, "some departments will close, others will reduce staff." The employees were given one week's severance pay and were directed to the Re-Employment and Pre-Layoff Assistance Center.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

In Canada, Former Students of Native Residential Schools Get an Apology

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood in the House of Commons yesterday and apologized to the former students of government funded native residential schools. There were about 130 such schools in Canada, the last of which closed in 1996.

Speaking to an overflow crowd of aboriginal leaders and former students, some of whom wept when he spoke, Harper called the treatment of children in Indian residential schools “a sad chapter” in Canadian history.

"Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country," he said to applause.

More than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were removed from their communities and forced to attend the schools, where many were subjected to physical and sexual abuse.

The apology is the latest in a series of actions the government has taken to make up for its assimilation policy. In September, the government formalized a $1.9-billion compensation plan for victims. The government has also established a truth and reconciliation commission to examine the legacy of the residential schools.

Read more about it here. Hear about it on the CBC’s “As it Happens.”

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tax Free Cigarette Sales to Non-Indians Supporting Terrorist Groups

The sales of tax free cigarettes to non-Indians have led to a surge in tobacco smuggling and a consistent cash flow for global terrorist groups, according to a recently released congressional report.

The Committee on Homeland Security report states that "recent law enforcement investigations ... have directly linked those involved in illicit tobacco trade to infamous terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and al Qaeda."

The illegal trade hinges on evasion of tobacco excise and sales taxes, the report says, with "the smuggling networks [relying] primarily on access to the Native American Indian reservations for tax-free cigarettes - for obvious financial reasons."

Read more about his here.

Arrest warrant issued for Mashantucket chairman in custody dispute

A family court in New York has ordered the arrest of Michael Thomas, the chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation of Connecticut, according to the Norwich Bulletin. The warrant was issued in a custody dispute between Thomas and Vanessa Hyman. Thomas and Hyman have a 4-year-old daughter together. Thomas says he was awarded custody through the tribal court system. But Hyman claims the girl is not Indian and not subject to the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Listen and Learn: Multiple Indirect Cost Rates

May issue of the American Indian Report
In the May issue of American Indian Report, Falmouth CEO Richard Phelps offers a brief overview of multiple indirect cost rates.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Clarification on Ramah Indirect Cost Settlement Post

We got this clarification of yesterday's blog from Michael Gross, attorney for the tribes in the Ramah Indirect Cost class action suit. Gross writes:

I'd like to correct a misstatement about the Third Ramah Settlement in your latest Blog:
The latest blog says: "In order to benefit from the settlement, tribes of all sizes will need to prepare multiple indirect cost rate proposals." This is not correct. No one will have to prepare multiple indirect cost rate proposals to benefit from the settlement. They will merely have to opt for a special ISDA self-determination rate or rates (one for BIA and one for IHS). The option is their choice; no one will be forced to use it.
Only if tribes want to use a variant of the special rates - a so-called hybrid rate - will some additional paper work be required. The hybrid will allow certain indirect costs to be shifted to the special ISDA rate(s) if justification to show disproportionate benefits exists. Otherwise, the special rates will operate by dividing the single indirect cost pool as presently negotiated into allocations for special and non-ISDA rates based on programs' proportions in the base. Carryforwards for each rate will then be instituted which will, we expect, gradually increase special ISDA rates. Otherwise, special rates add virtually no new requirements to the present system.
Moreover, for those using fixed with carryforward rates, there are benefits from the settlement regardless whether a class member opts for special rates or not. These are explained on the Class Website: www.RNCSETTLEMENT.COM.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Latest Indirect Cost Settlement Means Multiple IDC Rates for Tribal Governments

The latest partial settlement agreement (PSA) in the Ramah Navajo class action suit related to indirect-cost (IDC) recovery, is perhaps the most complicated IDC settlement that has yet been reached between the Department of Interior and tribal governments. The agreement allows tribes to establish separate rates for self-determination programs through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, another rate for self-determination programs with the Indian Health Service and an additional rate for other federal programs not subject to the Indian Self-Determination Act. There is also a new methodology for calculating the carry-forward (over recovery) amounts.

In order to benefit from this settlement, tribes of all sizes will need to prepare multiple indirect cost proposals. Though the process is quite complex, it is similar to a tribe having multiple rates in accordance with OMB A- 87. Ultimately, based on our initial analysis, this is more beneficial to tribes than the current method of accepting one indirect cost rate for all federal programs. This is a fairer and more equitable way of allocating overhead costs. This week we will be reviewing the settlement more closely and we will write more here on this topic, letting you know how we think this might play out for tribes.

A copy of the settlement is available here through the settlement administrator REDW. The second document on the list is PSA III.

Friday, June 6, 2008

NIGC Withdraws Bingo Machine Regs

Under pressure from Indian tribes, the National Indian Gaming Commission announced Thursday they will "put aside the controversial proposals," that would have regulated tribal bingo machines to make sure they do not mimic slot machines. Tribes complained that such measures could have dire economic impacts.

NIGC Chair Phil Hogen issued the statement after making the announcement to the Oklahoma Sovereignty Symposium in Oklahoma City. His move underscored the federal government's struggles in trying to regulate the $25 billion-a-year tribal gambling industry, which has grown explosively. Read more about it here.

Dorgan Says Tribes Missing Out on Energy Development Because of BIA Incompetence

Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota says "incompetence" at the Bureau of Indian Affairs is stalling energy development on tribal lands in his state. Dorgan, chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, says the Fort Berthold reservation is missing out on an oil boom that's benefiting other parts of the state. Read more about it here.

Cause of Death Unknow for Three Teens Found on Wind River

Federal investigators and the Fremont County coroner say they haven't determined the cause of death of 3 teenage girls whose bodies were found on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming this week. Officials say the three girls, ages 13, 14 and 15, were found dead Wednesday morning at a tribal housing complex south of Riverton. Read about it here.

Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making us Sick

If you missed this when it was first aired on PBS, it's definitely worth a trip to the Web site to explore the information and resources there. You can by the DVD or view some clips from the series, which featured (in Hour 3) some poignant segments on diabetes among the Tohono O'odham Indians.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Suit Wants Michigan Indian Casinos to Buy Liquor Licenses

Will Michigan’s 19 Indian casinos be forced to purchase liquor licenses? They will if Patrick Devlin has his way. Devlin, an employee of the Michigan Gaming Control Board and former assistant attorney general is s suing Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox to force him to require the state’s Indian casinos to apply for a liquor license, according to the Detroit News.

Standing Rock to Get More Cops

The Bureau of Indian Affairs is assigning additional police officers to crack down on juvenile and drug-related crime on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, the Argus Leader reported today. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., has been pushing the BIA for months to beef up police protection on the reservation, which stretches for 100 miles along the South Dakota and North Dakota border. The agency employs nine officers to patrol the reservation’s 12 communities. The reservation once had 20 BIA police officers.

The FBI Investigates Three Deaths on Reservation

The bodies of three people were discovered on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming and the FBI is investigating the incident, a spokesman for the Northern Arapaho Tribe said. The three bodies were found in a home in the Beaver Creek housing development near U.S. Highway 789 just south of Riverton Wednesday morning, the Jackson Hole Star Tribune reported today.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Lumbee Use HUD Money for Trips

Ten Lumbee tribal council members attended an Indian education conference last October at the four-star Hilton hotel on Waikiki Beach – a junket that cost the tribe $4,000. Credit card statements provided, to WRAL News by a council member who asked to remain anonymous show that tribal officials also have traveled to Albuquerque, N.M., San Antonio, Texas, and Alaska in the past year. The television station reported today on its Web site that the charges include a limo service in Colorado and $500 for a hotel room in Florence, S.C., which is less than an hour's drive from the Lumbee community in Robeson County.

Council member Wendy Moore-Graham said the trips were paid for with money the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development gives to the tribe each year. This year's grant was $13 million, but HUD recently cut funding to the Lumbees by $1.7 million. The tribe shut down its housing rehabilitation program on Monday with more than 1,000 tribal members still on the waiting list for assistance.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Union warns members and public to avoid Indian casino

The Riverside County Sheriff's Assn., a union representing 3,700 employees, has warned its members and the public to stay away from the Soboba Indian casino near San Jacinto, Calif., because of recent violence. The group urged its members to visit other casinos until the situation at Soboba was "stabilized." The reservation was the scene of two shootouts last month between Riverside County sheriff's deputies and several tribe members who used rifles against officers, their vehicles and a helicopter. Three tribal members died in those gun battles.

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Greektown Casino Files for Chapter 11

Citing significant delays and cost overruns associated with its expansion, Greektown Casino in Detroit has asked a federal court for approval to reorganize its finances and continue business operations under the protection of Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians announced today.

“We are not closing. We are not bankrupt. We are a profitable company with a liquidity issue,” Greektown Casino spokesman Roger Martin told the Detroit Free Press.

Court of Appeals Upholds FLSA Ruling

In Lobo, Suarez v. Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld a district court ruling that the tribe was immune from suit for allegedly violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. The plaintiffs argued that the FLSA is a statute of general applicability that applies to Indian tribes.

The Court said that even though an Act may apply to tribes, a tribe is not subject to suit unless the tribe waives its immunity or Congress expressly abrogates it. Citing Florida Paraplegic Association Inc. v. Miccosukee Tribe, the court said that “whether or not a tribe may be subject to a statute and whether or not a tribe may be sued for violating the statute are two entirely different questions.” A copy of the case is available at Turtle Talk.

Foxwoods Employees Reject UAW

Race book employees at The Foxwoods Resort Casino voted 23-13 against organizing under the United Auto Workers Unions. They are the second group of employees to reject union representation. On May 1, operating engineers at the casino voted 215-67 against joining the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 30. Read the story here.

Dropout rates at Crisis Level in Northwest

Educators in Seattle, Washington, have been told that dropout rates for minority students, especially Native Americans, are at crisis levels in six Northwestern states, according to the Associate Press. The news was delivered at a one day conference of educators from Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.