National Briefs: March 2015

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SENATE FAILS TO OVERRIDE KEYSTONE XL

VETO

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate

failed on March 4 to override President Barack Obama’s veto of

legislation approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, leaving the

controversial project to await an administration decision on whether

to permit or deny it.

The Senate

mustered just 62 votes in favor of overriding the veto, short of the

two-thirds needed. Thirty-seven senators voted to sustain Obama’s

veto. The Senate action means the House of Representatives will not

vote on override. Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said pipeline backers

will try again to force Obama’s hand, by attaching Keystone approval

to another bill this year.

The

proposed TransCanada pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels a day of

mostly Canadian oil sands crude through Montana and South Dakota to

Nebraska, en route to refineries and ports along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

It has been pending for more than six years over the objection of

tribes, landowners and environmental activists.

Republicans

support building the pipeline, saying it would create jobs. Obama

questioned Keystone XL’s employment impact and raised concerns about

its effects on climate change.

Obama last

month vetoed the bill authorizing the pipeline’s construction, saying

it had bypassed a final State Department assessment on whether the

project would benefit the United States. The department is handling

the approval process because the pipeline would cross the

U.S.-Canadian border.

Once that

State Department assessment is in, expected in the coming weeks or

months, Obama is expected to make a final decision on permitting for

the project.

OGLALA SIOUX TRIBE WANTS TOURNAMENT

MOVED OUT OF RAPID CITY

PINE RIDGE, S.D. – Leaders of the

Oglala Sioux Tribe are asking the Lakota Nation Invitational board of

directors to move the popular event out of Rapid City, S.D.

Tribal leaders are upset by an

incident, in which 57 students from the American Horse School on the

reservation were allegedly had beer poured on them and racial slurs

made about them by white patrons at a Rapid City Rush hockey game

last month. They also believe city authorities have not handled the

situation well, which resulted in only one misdemeanor of disorderly

conduct charge against one person.

Bryan Brewer, a former OST president,

founded LNI in 1977 and still sits on the board of directors, he

believes leaving Rapid City isn’t the right response to the

controversy.

But current tribal leaders say they

will encourage the tribe and its citizens to boycott LNI if it takes

place in Rapid City this December. The tournament, which injects $5

to $6 million into the city’s economy, is held at the Rushmore Plaza

Civic Center, the venue where the children were victimized.

SAGINAW CHIPPEWA TRIBE BANISHES TWO

WOMEN AFTER DRUG ARREST

MT. PLEASANT, MI – The Saginaw

Chippewa Tribe of Michigan banished two women after they were

arrested in the largest drug bust in local history.

Kristy Posthumus, 33, and Audrey

Shipman, 31, were found with 13 bindles of heroin and 12 bindles of

another unidentified drug. Both are being held on various tribal and

county charges.

“Today our people have shown that we

are no longer going to tolerate people who peddle unhealthy and life

destroying substances onto the reservation. Today we took necessary

steps to protect and uphold our members and their families against

this plague called addiction,” Chief Steve Pego said in a press

release.

The tribe described both women as

Native American and as non-tribal citizens. But only Posthumus is

being prosecuted in tribal court. Shipman is being prosecuted in

Isabella County.

Since Posthumus is Native, the tribe

is referring her to federal prosecutors for potential charges.

SUPREME COURT WILL NOT HEAR

STOCKBRIDGE-MUNSEE LAND CLAIM

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme

Court declined a petition in Stockbridge-Munsee Community v. New

York, a land claim case on March 2.

The Stockbridge-Munsee Community, now

based in Wisconsin, sued the state of New York to recover its

ancestral territory. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed

the claim, saying it was too "disruptive" to non-Indians.

"[I]t is now well‐established

that Indian land claims asserted generations after an alleged

dispossession are inherently disruptive of state and local governance

and the settled expectations of current landowners, and are subject

to dismissal on the basis of laches, acquiescence, and

impossibility," the court said in a June 20, 2014 decision.

After the Second Circuit declined to

rehear the case, the tribe asked the Supreme Court to review it. The

justices, without comment, denied the petition. The development marks

the latest loss for tribal land claims in the northeast. In addition

to the Stockbridge-Munsee Band, the Oneida Nation, the Cayuga Nation

and the Onondaga Nation have all seen their cases dismissed by the

Second Circuit.

The movement started after the Supreme

Court issued its decision in Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New

York in 2005. Although the case had nothing to do with land claims –

it arose out of a dispute over the Oneida Nation’s attempts to assert

sovereignty within its ancestral territory – the Second Circuit

used it to keep tribes from trying to recover land that was stolen by

the state of New York.

TLINGIT AND HAIDA TRIBES ENACT MARRIAGE

EQUALITY LAWS

JUNEAUA, AK – The Tlingit and Haida

Tribes in Alaska are the latest to join the marriage equality

movement in Indian Country.

The tribe’s seven-member executive

council adopted a new statute that recognizes marriages as a union

between two persons, regardless of gender. The vote in favor of the

law was unanimous.

“The impetus for the new tribal code

on marriage came from two places; exercising our self-determination

and sovereign authority and making sure that we provide for equal

treatment of our tribal citizens,” President Richard Peterson said

in a press release. “All of our tribal citizens should be provided

the same rights. It’s an important statement for the tribe to make

and one that was not difficult for our executive council to stand

behind.”

At least 21 tribes have adopted

same-sex marriage laws or equality laws. The Tlingit and Haida Tribes

appear to be the first in Alaska to do so. "We are pleased to

expand our tribal court to meet the needs of our tribal citizens,"

Chief Justice Debra O’Gara said. "Our court can now be

utilized by tribal citizens for the happy occasion of marriage

without discrimination and regardless of gender.”

NAVAJO NATION ACTIVISTS STILL WORKING

TOWARD MARRIAGE

TOHATCHI, N.M. – The Coalition for

Navajo Equality is still working to bring marriage equality to the

Navajo Nation.

Same-sex marriages are recognized in

three states that border the reservation — Arizona, New Mexico and

Utah. But tribal citizens are being left out because the Dine

Marriage Act bars unions between persons of the same sex.

"These states surrounding the

Navajo Nation are taking big steps forward — steps for equality,”

Alray Nelson, the lead organizer of the Coalition for Navajo

Equality, told The New York Times. “The Navajo Nation is not.”

Nelson is an aide to Joe Shirley Jr.,

who vetoed the Dine Marriage Act when he was president of the tribe.

The Navajo Nation Council overrode him and the bill became law.

“Our culture dictates acceptance,”

Shirley, who is running again for president, told the Times. “They

are part of our family, they are our children, and we don’t need to

be partial.”

Shirley’s successor, President Ben

Shelly, supports repeal of the Dine Marriage Act. Shelly remains in

office despite losing his re-election bid.

A repeal, however, doesn’t seem to be

on the council’s agenda. One delegate, Otto Tso, told the Times he

doesn’t support same-sex marriage.

“It’s not for us,” Tso told the

paper. “We have to look at our culture, our society, where we come

from, talk to our elders.”

OVERTURNING NEBRASKA MARRIAGE BAN

IMPACTS OMAHA CITIZEN

OMAHA, NE – U.S. District Judge

Joseph Bataillon ruled that Nebraska’s ban on marriage for gays and

lesbians was unconstitutional on March 2, saying county clerks will

be permitted to begin issuing gay marriage licenses on March 9.

One citizen of the Omaha Tribe hopes

to be the first Native person in line when it becomes legal. Brandon

Stabler grew up on the reservation feeling ostracized. When he turned

21, he moved to Florida but he has since returned home. "All my

life, I was told that being gay was wrong, especially at the

reservation," Stabler, now 32, told The Lincoln Journal Star.

"I felt like nobody liked gay people."

After learning about same-sex

traditions within his tribe, Stabler said he feels more welcome. The

Omaha word for a two-spirit person is "mexoga." "Maybe

I wouldn’t have felt left out and lost. I’m very happy and proud for

those tribes who still believe in it," Stabler told the paper.

The Nebraska constitution defines

marriage as a union between one man and one woman. A legal challenge

failed in federal court but a series of cases before the U.S. Supreme

Court will likely affect the dwindling number of states where

same-sex marriages aren’t recognized.

PAIUTE TRIBE REPORTS INCIDENT AT YOUTH

FACILITY

YERINGTON, NV – The Yerington Paiute

Tribe of Nevada called in law enforcement agencies to investigate a

disturbance at a youth facility on the reservation.

A fight and two fires broke out at the

Silver State Academy on Feb. 28. According to witnesses, more than 40

fire fighters and officers from various jurisdictions responded to

the incident, the third of its kind in the last three months.

"Another riot broke out with two

structure fires and 10 escapees. I do not know the riot’s root

cause," Lyon County Sheriff Al McNeil said on Facebook. All 10

youth were located and returned to the facility, which provides

residential treatment services to at-risk male youth. It’s not

technically a detention center.

CHIPPEWA CREE TRIBAL LEADER OUSTED FOR

THIRD TIME

BOX ELDER, MT – Ken St. Marks

continues to win elections at the Chippewa Cree Tribe in Montana but

his fellow leaders keep removing him office.

The tribal council claims St. Marks

engaged in "gross misconduct" and "neglected his

duty," according to news reports. The decision marks the third

time in less than two years that he’s been ousted.

"They just keep on making up

lies, they keep on saying I stole money and I keep on telling them

the same thing – ‘Go get me indicted,’" St. Marks told media.

Despite the allegations against him,

St. Marks has never been charged with any crimes in tribal or federal

court. However, 18 other tribal leaders, officials and their

associates have been convicted in connection with a wide-ranging

corruption investigation on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation.

The Guardians Project, as it is known

in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montana, has put the state on top of

a nationwide list of judicial districts with the most government

corruption prosecutions.

WASHINGTON TRIBES HEAD TO TRIAL OVER

FISHING GROUNDS

TACOMA, WA – A federal judge has

scheduled a trial to resolve a dispute over the "usual and

accustomed fishing grounds" of three treaty tribes in

Washington.

The Makah Nation accused the Quileute

Nation and the Quinault Nation of fishing beyond their boundaries.

The two tribes countered by claiming the Makahs waited too long to

assert their rights and by raising other defenses that have

previously have never been allowed in treaty cases.

For that reason, Judge Ricardo

Martinez rejected the attempt by the Quileute and Quinault tribes to

dismiss the Makah Nation’s complaint. He noted that the Makah were

trying to resolve the dispute amicably out of court and shouldn’t be

penalized for doing so.

The dispute is a sub-proceeding in the

long-running U.S. v Washington treaty rights case. In 1974, the late

Judge George Hugo Boldt held that tribes in the state were entitled

to half of the entire catch. Since then, several tribes litigated the

areas where they can and cannot fish. Martinez set a March 2 trial to

resolve this particular dispute.

CHEROKEE NATION PROMOTES CITIZEN TO

MANAGER OF $80 MILLION CASINO

TAHLEQUAH, OK – The Cherokee Nation

named one of its own as the general manager of a new $80 million

casino in Roland, Oklahoma.

Chad McReynolds started off as a card

dealer at the Cherokee Casino in Roland back in 2003. He was a

cashier and poker manager before being named operations manager in

2011.

Now that the tribe is getting closer

to opening an entirely new facility, McReynolds is running the show.

The 170,000-square-foot casino is set to open in May. The facility

was the site of the tribe’s first bingo operation.

TRIBES SHARE NEARLY $16 MILLION IN

GAMING REVENUES WITH NEW MEXICO

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Tribes shared

nearly $16 million in gaming revenues with the state of New Mexico in

the last quarter of 2014.

Under their Class III gaming compacts,

tribes share a percentage of their net win with the state. Sandia

Pueblo – whose casino is the closest to Albuquerque, the state’s

largest city – had the largest net win, according to the New Mexico

Gaming Control Board. For the entire year, tribes shared about $66

million with the state.

Compacts with a handful of tribes are

expiring this summer so lawmakers have been considering an updated

agreement that includes a new revenue sharing provision. The

Committee on Compacts held a hearing on Feb. 24 to discuss the deal

and another on Feb. 28 to hear from the public.

MAN DIES AFTER BEING TASERED BY OSAGE

CASINO OFFICER

TULSA, OK – A man who had been banned

from an Osage Nation casino died after an altercation with tribal and

local law enforcement in Oklahoma on Feb. 20.

Terry Price, 41, initially fled the

Osage Million Dollar Elm Casino in Tulsa but later returned. He

scuffled with several officers and was struck with a stun gun by a

tribal officer.

Authorities were preparing to

transport Price to jail when he collapsed. He was reported dead at

the scene. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has opened an

inquiry.