Native American Law Watch – Summer 2015
- Pueblo of Jemez v. United States: Tenth Circuit Resurrects Land Claim – Unique Circumstance or Cloudy Title on the Horizon?
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed a district court ruling that dismissed the Pueblo of Jemez’s claim seeking the return to the Pueblo ownership lands within a Spanish land grant recently acquired by the United States. The Court of Appeals’ reversal allows the Pueblo to present the merits of its claim that it retains aboriginal title to the lands. At stake is the certainty as to the status of title for lands claimed to be subject to aboriginal title. Continue Reading
- Southern Ute Sues to Bar Applying BLM’s Fracking Rule to Tribal Oil and Gas
The Southern Ute Indian Tribe (Tribe) filed suit on June 18, 2015 in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado against the Department of the Interior challenging the Department’s new hydraulic fracturing rule for federal and Indian lands. The suit alleges that the new rule conflicts with the Indian Mineral Leasing Act, the Indian Mineral Development Act, and Bureau of Indian Affairs regulations, and asks the court to vacate those parts of the rule that violate the law and frustrate the Tribe’s authority over its own lands. Continue Reading
- Dependent Indian Communities: Existential Determination Impacts State and Federal (and Tribal?) Jurisdiction
The New Mexico Supreme Court issued a decision that clarified the Indian country status of a certain parcel of land in New Mexico that had been the subject of conflicting state and federal court decisions, holding that the lands were not part of a “dependent Indian community” and are therefore subject to state jurisdiction. The decision clears the way for New Mexico to prosecute criminal offenses committed on Fort Wingate’s Parcel Three lands. While this case presented issues regarding criminal jurisdiction, the analysis may have implications in other areas, including whether certain lands are within federal delegations of regulatory powers to Native American groups. Continue Reading
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