Monday, March 30, 2009

Saginaw Chippewa Reviewing Enrollment Records

The Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Council’s decision last week to review its tribal enrollment records has some members on edge over possible disenrollments, though a spokesperson for the council refused to comment on the issue. 

The Morning Sun reports that the Council adopted a motion with a vote of 6 to 5 to "disenroll on the basis of the 1939 roll, no roll, improper document," but no one would explain exactly what that meant.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

IRS Offers Inisght on Essential Government Function

In a recently released private letter ruling, the IRS loosens the definition of “essential government functions” to allow tribes to be treated as states for the purpose of issuing tax exempt bonds to finance utility projects if they provide all or a substantial amount of their services on tribal land. Read more about it at Native American Legal Update.

The letter, released March 13, offers this insight into how the IRS will determine if an activity is an “essential government function”:

1. There are numerous state and local governments with general taxing powers that have been conducting such activity and financing it with tax-exempt government bonds

2. State and local governments with general taxing powers have been conducting the activity and financing it with tax-exempt bonds for many years and

3. The activity is not a commercial or industrial activity.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dr. Yvette Roubideaux Nominated to Head Indian Health Service

President Obama has nominated Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family & Community Medicine at The University of Arizona College of Medicine, to head the  Indian Health Service.

If approved by the Senate, Roubideaux will oversee an IHS budget of more than $3 billion dollars plus $500 million from the stimulus package. She'll also have the opportunity to spearhead the passage of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, a bill she testified on nine years ago, but has yet to see enacted. 

Roubideaux previously worked in the Indian Health Service as a Medical Officer and Clinical Director on the San Carlos Indian Reservation and in the Gila River Indian Community.   She has conducted extensive research on American Indian health issues, with a focus on diabetes in American Indians/Alaska Natives and American Indian health policy.

Roubideaux, 46, is a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe. She received her MD from Harvard Medical School and her MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Roubideaux is not allowed to give interviews during the confirmation process, but you can gain some additional insight on her from this profile in the Changing the Face of Medicine online exhibit from the National Institutes of Health  and from her May 10, 2000, testimony before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on the Reauthorization of the Health Care Improvement Act.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Media Blueprint Projects Documenting Media Tech in Indian Country

Native Public Media, a resource and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and expanding Native American media capacity, has launched the Media Blueprint Project in an effort to document and expand the state of media technology in Indian Country.

Funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Benton Foundation, the project’s eventual goal is to build infrastructure that will enable tribal communities to utilize broadband technology. Read more at American Indian Report.

Conn. Smoking Ban vs. Sovereignty

A bill that would ban smoking at Indian-owned casinos in Connecticut is making its way through the state legislature, but will it be able to make it through the courts if the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes decide it smacks in the face of sovereignty? 

The bill prevent the state’s Department of Consumer Protection from issuing a tribally owned casino a liquor permit unless it has a written agreement with the state “concerning the reduction, removal and monitoring of secondhand smoke” in the casino. The goal is to phase in a smoking ban at the casinos – Foxwoods Resort Casino, MGM Grand at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun -- by October 1, 2011.

 You can read more here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Virginia Tribes Seek Recognition

The chiefs of the six Indian tribes in Virginia journeyed to Washington on Wednesday to ask Congress for federal recognition. This will the fifth time such legislation has been introduced in Congress. 

The tribes are bypassing the Bureau of Indian Affairs recognition process because state policies put into effect in the 1920s – all Indians were classified as “colored” in official documents, such as birth, death and marriage certificates -- make it impossible for the tribes to prove their continued existence for the past 100 years. Continued existence for at least a century is a required for recognition through the BIA.

Roughly 3,000 Indians make up the Chickahominy, Chickahominy Eastern Division, Upper Mattaponi, Rappahannock, Monacan and Nansemond tribes. Read more about it here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Florida Eying a New Deal on Seminole's Compact

The reports this week that the Florida legislature is ready to roll out a bill that would strip the Seminole Tribe of the right to offer card games – baccarat and blackjack -- at its casino. The tribe negotiated a compact with the state just two years ago and any tinkering with it could change the financial terms – the Seminoles had agreed to pay the state $100,000 a year for the next 25 years, based in part on the tribe’s ability to offer blackjack at its casino. 

Vote for Most Important SCOTUS Decision in Indian Country

What was the most important U.S. Supreme Court descision in Indian Law? Cast your vote this week in the Turtle Talk poll. 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Little River Band Fights NLRB and Teamsters

Turtle Talk reported this week that the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians is asking the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan to stop the National Labor Relations Board and the Teamsters from challenging the tribe’s Fair Employment Practices Code.

The band’s FEP governs a variety of employment issues, including the terms for collective bargaining – union activity – within tribal enterprises. The United Steelworkers agreed to comply with the band’s code, including an agreement that it obtain a license to engage in activity within the band’s jurisdiction. The Teamsters, however, are refusing to acknowledge the band’s authority to regulate collective bargaining activity and the union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. The complaint can be found here on Turtle Talk.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Crow Nation Enacts Tribal Workforce Protection Act

On January 28, the Crow Nation became the first tribe to enact a tribal workforce protection act, protecting the rights of all workers – native and non-native – working on the Crow reservation in Montana.

The law, which will take effect on April 1, will prohibit discrimination against workers based on race, color, gender, sexual preference, religion, national origin or tribal affiliation. Read more here.

Maybe someone would like to comment on how such laws work in conjunction with a Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance.

As the story points out, it seems as if the tribe is trying to avoid employment issues as it gears up for its big Many Stars Project – its partnership between the tribe and Australian-American Energy Co. to develop the first coal to liquid plant in the United States – which is expected to bring about 4,000 construction jobs to the reservation and 900 permanent positions. Enacting its own employment laws may make the federal courts less inclined to apply federal employment laws, such as the National Labor Relations Act or the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Wisconsin Lawmaker Calls Native Languages “Dead”

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle’s plan to set aside $250,000 a year for Native American language preservation is “goofy and crazy,” given the state’s current financial crisis, says Republican lawmaker Scott Suder. The governor should be focusing efforts on preserving jobs, not “dead languages,” Suder said. Read the story here

“Carcieri Fix” Might be a Tough Sell

Selling Congress on a fix for the Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar might not be easy, says Matthew Fletcher of Turtle Talk. Writing for Turtle Talk last week, Fletcher said a fix for Carcieri might be too political to get through Congress and that the pressure from state and local governments on lawmakers will halt any attempts to reverse the decision, which prohibits the Interior Department from taking land into trust for tribes not recognized by the federal government in 1934, when the Indian Reorganization Act was enacted.

Tribal Court Bans Reporting on Enrollment Requirements

A tribal court judge for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians is barring journalists from reporting on blood quantum and enrollment requirements of the tribe, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

 Judge Melissa Pope entered the injunction on February 19 in connection with a libel case against reporter Nancy Kelsey of Reznet and three other defendants. The libel complaint cited Kelsey’s e-mails, which were not part of a published story. Read more about it here.