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American Indian law

American Indians Killed at Higher Rate Than Anyone Else in USA--But No One Talks About It

In These Times' Stephanie Woodard had a piece earlier this month about how American Indians are killed by police at a rate higher than any other group in the United States. American Indians are 3.1 times more likely to be killed by police than whites.

The next group that is most likely to be killed by police are blacks. But the amount of media coverage is much higher for blacks killed by police than for American Indians, Woodard reports, even though blacks and American Indians both experience violence and discrimination: "Native Americans’ experiences of violence and discrimination in the United States often parallel those of African Americans. Federal investigations have found that on the borders of reservations, Native Americans are treated as second-class citizens by police and public agencies in ways that echo the experience of black Americans in towns like Ferguson, Mo."



Law Protecting American Indian Remains Marks 25-Year Anniversary

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act has celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, Indian Country Today Media Network's Rick Kearns reports. The law allows American Indians to repatriate ancestral remains, burial objects and other sacred ceremonial objects from the archives of museums.

There may be as many as one million indigenous ancestral remains and cultural objects internationally, the director of the Association on American Indian Affairs’ (AAIA) International Repatriation Project estimates. The right to ancestral remains and cultural objects also has been recognized by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Federal Government to Pay Long-Overdue $940 Million to American Indians

President Barack Obama's administration has agreed to pay $940 million for failing to compensate American Indian tribes for public services like law enforcement that tribes carried out, NPR's Laura Wagner reports. The services are provided by the tribes under the Indian Self Determination Act, but the federal government pays for them. Sometimes the appropriations were not enough.

Redskins' Trademarks Canceled

A federal judge has ordered the Washington Redskins football teams' federal trademark registrations canceled, The Washington Post's Ian Shapira reports. U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee upheld a ruling by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, which found that the team's name is offensive to American Indians and may disparage people. The win was at the summary judgment stage.

Lee reasoned that the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that Texas didn't violate the First Amendment when it banned specialty license plates bearing the Confederate flag means that the government is exempt from First Amendment scrutiny. As a result, the judge ruled that the Lanham Act's ban on disparaging trademarks doesn't violate the First Amendment.

Seventh Circuit Rules State Can't Ban Tribal Video Poker

The U.S. Court of Appeals of the Seventh Circuit has ruled that Wisconsin must criminalize video poker before it can ban an American Indian tribe from engaging in it, the Associated Press reports. As a result, the Ho-Chunk Nation can offer video poker at its Madison casino because video poker is only a civil offense when establishments that serve alcohol possess them.

Appeals Court Rules Navajo Inmate Entitled to Religious Ceremony

A Navajo inmate incarcerated in Wisconsin can wear a tribal headband and celebrate a tribal feast with wild venison following a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit last week, the Associated Press reports. Judge Frank Easterbrook ruled that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act requires prisons to accomodate religious practices.

FOIA Suit Seeks DOJ 'Confession of Error' in Supreme Court American Indian Cases

The California Indian Law Association has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to get more information about an alleged "confession of error" by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katya that his office made misrepresentations to the U.S. Supreme Court in American Indian law cases, The Legal Times' Tony Mauro reports. Katyal made his remarks in a video for the Federal Bar Association's annual Indian law conference in 2011.

According to the association's complaint, Katyal made a "'confession of error' for the solicitor general's role in two Supreme Court cases that were setbacks for tribal sovereignty: United States v. Sandoval, a 1913 decision that limited tribal property rights in New Mexico, and the 1955 ruling in Tee-Hit-Ton Indians v. United States, which rejected an Alaskan tribe's Fifth Amendment claim seeking compensation for timber taken on tribal lands," Mauro reports.

A confession of error could undermine those precedents, which have been cited hundreds of times in federal court, Mauro also reports.

Judge Rules American Indian Parental Rights Violated in Family Court System

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Viken of South Dakota has ruled that the state Department of Social Services has been violating the rights of American Indian parents when removing their children into the foster-care system, NPR's Laura Sullivan reports. Hearings over the termination of parental rights and custody rights have been short as a minute, parents have not been allowed to speak during some hearings, and Native children have been placed largely in the homes of whites. 

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of the Oglala Sioux and Rosebud Sioux tribes.

Tribe Sues Over Efforts to Halt Payday Loans

The Otoe-Missouria Tribal Nation is suing the Connecticut Department of Banking over the agency's efforts to curb the payday loans the tribe offers over the Internet, The Connecticut Law Tribune's Jay Stapleton reports. The tribe argues Connecticut's administrative enforcement action to stop its payday-loan businesses violates its tribal sovereignty. The tribe's lending companies charge up to 700 percent.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled against tribal immunity in a similar lawsuit.

Progress Slow for Law on Tribal Remains, Sacred Objects

The Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act was a landmark human rights law when it was enacted 25 years ago: mandating that federal agencies return American Indian remains and sacred objects collected during a long history of colonialism and mistreatment of American Indians. But the law has been "stymied by poorly curated collections, long-lost records and limited operating budgets," E&E Publishing's Dyland Brown reports. NAGPRA was enacted without funding, and "limited budgets, legal expertise and access to land for reburial create a gulf between the number of items available for repatriation and those physically returned." The Government Accountability Office has found that there is poor compliance with NAGPRA, including poor curation practices by federal agencies and federally funded museums and poor documentation of American Indian remains and sacred objects.


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