Other news from around the country
Should the Navajo Indian Tribe be allowed to impose a tax on non-tribal businesses within its reservation borders? That question will be answered by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case called Atkinson Trading Co. v. Shirley. In 1992 the Navajo Tribal Council enacted an 8 percent hotel occupancy tax on guests staying at establishments within their reservation boundaries. New Mexico-based Atkinson Trading Co. operates the Cameron Trading Post, Hotel and Curio Shop on land it owns fee title to inside the exterior borders of the Navajo Reservation near the Grand Canyon. Atkinson Trading Co. challenged the tribe's authority to impose the tax. They were forced into tribal court where they lost, then the company went to federal court in New Mexico. The District Court ruled against the Company as did the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
On November 27, 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. According to attorneys for Atkinson Trading Co., the 10th Circuit Court's ruling "opens the floodgates to all manner of tribal taxation of non-Indians". Citizens across the country living on private land within the exterior borders of old or existing reservations will be watching this case closely. Here in Minnesota, PERM has been following the Keck Melby case at Grand Portage. There, as in the case of Atkinson Trading Co., the tribe is claiming the right to impose its regulations on non-tribal-members on private property.
At a recent meeting of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in Minneapolis, a plan was announced whereby Indian tribes would seek to place unelected representatives in state legislatures. Currently Maine is the only state that has such delegates. Legislation that would allow unelected tribal delegates has been announced in Wisconsin and South Dakota. It is likely that similar efforts will be announced in other states. Despite the fact that tribal members are allowed to vote for and run for all state and local elected positions, just as any other citizen, Indians feel they are not being represented well enough in many instances. Currently there are about 40 Indians that have been elected to state legislatures. Interestingly, though the tribes complain a lack representation and input on issues that affect them, often as is the case here in Minnesota, they are among the state's largest political contributors and spend millions of dollars on professional lobbyists to make sure their concerns are heard.
According to a report issued by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) the Department of Interior, headed by Bruce Babbitt, will soon propose a rule to be published in the Federal Register that will allow the Hopi Indian Tribe to collect golden eagles from Wupatki National Monument in Arizona. According to PEER, the proposed rule would open the door to fish and wildlife harvest in national parks by Indian tribes. According to PEER board member and former National Park Service manager Frank Buono, "the justification is so broad that it can be used to open other parks to Native American harvest one at a time. A 1999 survey by PEER discovered 16 requests by Native Americans to hunt in National Parks. According to an article in the December 2000 issue of Field & Stream by Brian McCrombie, the tribes clearly have an ally in Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt. He told the Los Angeles Times he favors Native Americans' taking wildlife on Department of Interior lands, if it is culturally significant and sustainable.
According to the Associated Press, on November 6, President Clinton ordered all federal agencies to work more closely with American Indian tribal governments and give tribes "the maximum administrative discretion possible" in enforcing federal law and regulations. The order also prohibits agencies from proposing legislation that would hurt tribal governments.
In a decision favorable to all private citizens who own property within Indian reservation boundaries, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a District Court ruling that allowed the Hoopa Valley Tribe to regulate timber harvest on fee-patented private property within the reservation boundary.
State officials from Michigan blame an oversight in the recent agreement with four Michigan tribes over treaty rights for the loop-hole that opened up Munising Bay to commercial tribal gill netting. The DNR has contacted the Sault Ste. Marie tribe in hopes of renegotiating the matter.
Alaska Natives go to the United Nations to seek support. On October 20th the Alaska Federation of Natives and the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council requested that the UN investigate the issue of subsistence rights for Native Alaskans. They are afraid that the state is trying to take away their rights.