Rhode Island Seeks Supreme Court Review of Narragansett Land-Into-Trust Decision
Rhode Island's governor and attorney general have filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule lower court decisions upholding the Interior Secretary's determination to take land into trust for the Narragansett Indian Tribe.
In 1991, the Narragansetts purchased 31 acres across the road from their reservation near Charleston, RI. The tribe intended to use the land to build housing for elderly tribal members. After the housing project stalled due to state and local permit requirements, the tribe successfully sought trust status for the land from the Interior Secretary. Rhode Island and the town of Charleston challenged the Secretary's decision in federal court. In 2003, the federal district court ruled in favor of the Secretary, as did the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in 2005. The state sought en banc review, but again the First Circuit upheld the Secretary's decision.
Now, the state (joined by the town of Charleston) wants the Supreme Court to review and overturn the Secretary's decision.
The state's argument is that the Secretary's authority to take land into trust for the benefit of an Indian tribe is limited to the 258 tribes which were federally recognized in 1934, the date of the Indian Reorganization Act. Since the Narragansett Tribe was federally recognized in 1983, the state argues, the Secretary has no power to take land into trust for the benefit of the Narragansett.
As there are more than 560 federally recognized tribes today, the state's position would mean that the Secretary could not take land into trust for the hundreds of tribes recognized after 1934.
For more from the Providence Journal, click here.
Labels: Trust Lands