U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Narragansett Case on November 3
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Carcieri v. Kempthorne, the case that is expected to settle, once and for all, the litigation between Rhode Island and the Narragansett Indian Tribe that began in 1975, when the Narragansett filed suit to recover tribal lands in Rhode Island.
The Court is expected to decide two key issues:
Can the Interior Secretary place in federal trust land that was privately purchased by Indian tribes recognized after the passage of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act (IRA), thereby removing the land from state control?
If the Congress passes an Act that terminates previous Indian claims to land, is the Secretary of the Interior precluded from creating additional territory?
At bottom, the case should resolve a split in interpretation concerning whether the IRA applies only to the tribes that were recognized at the time of the Act's passage in 1934, or whether it extends to tribes recognized after that date, or who are recognized in the future. Rhode Island has argued that since the Narragansett were federally recognized in 1983, the Interior Secretary does not have authority to take land into trust for the tribe, because the federal government's authority to take land into trust comes from Section 5 of the IRA, which was written to apply to tribes "now within Federal Jurisdiction" at the time of the Act's passage in 1934. It may seem like a legal technicality, but the outcome will greatly impact the ability of tribes recognized after 1934 to acquire land, and in turn, to exercise governmental authority.
The case is relevant to Indian gaming, because that's the boogeyman to states: if a tribe can get land, then it can get a casino, and that casino might be another Foxwoods (never mind, of course, the economic benefits tribal gaming has brought to the state of Connecticut).
Read more here.