Other news from around the country
In October 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case that will decide if race-based voting rights are constitutional. At issue are elections held for the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA). The agency controls a $300 million trust that benefits native Hawaiians and overseas a wide variety of economic, social, health and education programs that benefit the State's 200,000 residents of native Hawaiian blood. Under state law only residents who descend from those islanders living in Hawaii prior to 1778 can serve on the OHA board or vote in OHA elections. According to the suit filed, this violates the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause and the 15th Amendment's guarantee against racial discrimination. The Clinton Administration is backing the OHA.
The Leech Lake Band of Chippewa is telling some cabin owners on Leech, Cass and Boy lakes that the tribe may not be renewing their leases. The tribe says that they need the land for their members and their businesses. The tribe says it will pay a fair price for the cabins. they will be appraised and the price will be negotiated just like any other land deal.
White Earth Reservation officials continue to challenge State of Minnesota authority to regulate non-tribal members hunting on tribal and non-tribal land within the reservation boundaries. As of early December, the tribe had issued about 1,100 permits that allow non-members to hunt by tribal law not state regulations. The state Department of natural Resources maintains that all non-band members are required to by a state license and follow state law when hunting on the reservation. It is not known whether the state intends to initiate any special effort to stop the tribe from issuing the tribal permits called "green cards".
Among the 63 items approved as planks to the Reform Party of Minnesota platform at their convention in November was a much-needed plank related to civil rights on Indian reservations. The plank reads as follows; "Support the guarantee of all civil and constitutional rights and access to state and federal courts for all citizens living and/or doing business on Indian reservations." Last year similar planks were defeated in both the Republican and Democratic parties.
A federal judge ordered the State of Michigan and five Indian tribes to temporarily halt their legal battle over tribal fishing rights in Lake Michigan. He ordered the parties to sit down together for six weeks of mediation. The two sides are tying to develop a replacement for a tribal fishing policy that was adopted in 1985 but has expired.
State and federal negotiators are working on a deal that will leave ten Indian tribes in control of half the Colorado River water that flows through the Central Arizona Project Canal (CAP). The tribes are demanding the water to settle decades old claims against the federal government. The tribes say they would likely lease back some of their water to area farmers or thirsty cities, but what bothers some CAP users is the prospect of an open water market that would force farmers to compete with cities and even pit Arizona against other states. One has to wonder why the federal government would allow the Indian tribes to gain control of state water rights to settle ancient tribal claims against the federal government, when those claims are nullified by the Indian Claims Commission Act. If the tribes in fact had a claim against the government they should have been brought within the time frame allotted under the ICCA. If they were not, they are "forever barred". Could the federal government be using the tribes to steal Arizona's water?
San Felipe and Santo Domingo Pueblos are working on a land swap deal with the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that would give the Indians clear ownership of more than 18,000 acres that they consider sacred. The only problem is the Pueblos do not have any land to exchange. They have agreed to purchase lands desired by the BLM and use those in the exchange. The BLM's goal is to gain control of private land in the area. PERM wonders where the Pueblos will get the funds for the land deal. Will they come in the form of federal taxpayer grants? Is this another back door attempt by the feds to acquire more land? Who will actually hold title to the lands given to the Pueblos? Will it in fact be held in trust by the United States as all other reservation lands are, or will the pueblos have fee title to the land?
Lawyers representing residents fighting the claim to their property by the Oneida tribe may meet with a mediator to settle the dispute. Not all members of either side support mediation. Some people would rather have a judge make a decision in open court.
The Blackfoot Tribe is asking to meet with the federal Department of Interior to argue that much of eastern Glacier National Park is on their reservation. The tribe wants to collect o percentage of the entrance fees collected and a percentage of the park concessions contracts. The Blackfeet also want preference in hiring on all major construction projects in the park. They claim to be working with a Minnesota tribe that has contractors with expertise for the jobs.
Leaders of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe reached an historic agreement with the federal government. The deal grants the tribe significant control of water resources not even on their reservation. The agreement gives the tribe the lead role in scheduling releases of water from the Truckee river reservoirs to benefit endangered fish. According to Betsy Rieke with the federal Bureau of Reclamation it's the first time the government has voluntarily turned over water releases to a tribe when the water is located off their reservation. PERM wonders if the federal government has the right to turn over control of a public natural resource to a "sovereign nation." Will the tribe claim sovereign immunity if and when water releases cause harm to other stakeholders?
A state court judge in Idaho recently ruled to dismiss the claims by the Nez Perce Tribe to much of the water in the Lower Snake, Clearwater, Salmon and Weiser rivers. The judge also ruled that the tribe's reservation was diminished in an 1893 land-sale agreement. The tribe will likely appeal to the Idaho State Supreme Court.