WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court has ruled in Carcieri v. Salazar
that tribes not under federal jurisdiction as of 1934 cannot follow a
longstanding land into trust process administered by the U.S.
Department of the Interior. The ruling, which results from a suit
involving the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island, is at odds
with many tribal, federal and legal understandings of the Indian
and federal lawyers said the decision will likely lead to legal
questions over the validity of tribal lands taken into trust by the
interior for tribes since the IRA was passed in 1934. And tribes not
acknowledged until after 1934 with pending or future fee-to-trust
applications will now have to prove they were under federal
jurisdiction in 1934.
The decision could result in several
states filing lawsuits trying to gain lands that have been taken into
trust for dozens of tribes recognized after 1934. Such attempts would
likely prove unsuccessful, as lawyers have noted that the federal Quiet
Title Act does not allow challenges to federal land acquisitions after
the fact, except in limited circumstances that do not appear applicable
in this case.
In Carcieri, Rhode Island did not want
the Narragansett Tribe, recognized in 1983, to be able to utilize 31
acres of land placed into trust by the interior. The tribe said it
wanted to use the land to create a housing development, but state
officials expressed concern that it could pursue a casino in the future.