Tribal Recognition Process Updated

June 29, 2015

A final rule issued by the Obama administration, will make it easier for some Indian tribes to obtain federal recognition. The new rule updates a 37-year-old process that has required tribes to produce mounds of paperwork and wait years for a response.

Kevin Washburn, an assistant secretary at the Department of Interior, is expected to announce the regulation today during a National Congress of American Indians conference in Minnesota.

Washburn told The Associated Press that the regulatory changes will greatly enhance transparency by letting the public see most of the documents submitted by the petitioning groups via the Internet. The changes will also give tribal groups facing rejection the chance to take their case to an administrative judge before a final determination is made.

Indian groups seeking recognition will no longer have to show that outside parties identified them as an Indian entity dating back to 1900. Some federally recognized tribes had urged that the requirement be kept. Petitioners will also have to show that their tribe has existed as a community and exercised political control over its members since 1900. Originally the threshold was first contact with European settlers, or as early as 1789. The proposed regulation had changed the threshold to 1934. After much pushback, the final rule sets the date at 1900. Under the current system, which began in 1978, the government has recognized 17 tribes and rejected the petitions of 34 other groups.

The Obama administration had originally envisioned giving groups who were denied federal recognition another opportunity to re-petition the government. That provision wasn’t included in the final rule.

Tips and Tricks: Affect and Effect

June 9, 2015

This one stumps even the most seasoned writer. Affect and effect are homonyms. Homonyms are words that sound similar, but have different meanings. Affect is most often used as a verb, it means to produce a change or influence something. Example: How does the unemployment rate affect the economy? Effect is most often used as a noun. It means the change that occurred. Example: The unemployment rate had a terrible effect on the economy. When you are talking about a result or an impact, then the word to use if effect.

In a medical or psychological context affect is sometimes used as noun to describe expression or emotion. For example: A depressed person often has flat affect.

Chickasaw Nation Protected by Treaty from NLRB

June 8, 2015

The Chickasaw Nation, as operator of the WinStar Casino, is not subject to the National Labor Relations Board jurisdiction. The NLRB said it could not assert jurisdiction over the Nation because it would abrogate the Chickasaw treaty rights.

Applying the test established by the Board in San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino, 341 NLRB 1055 (2004), enfd. 475 F.3d 1306 (D.C. Cir. 2007), the NLRB found that application of the Act would abrogate treaty rights, specific to the Nation, contained in the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. In that treaty, the Nation relinquished its land in Mississippi in exchange for land in Oklahoma and the promise that the Nation would be sovereign and not be subject to any laws except those passed by Congress.

A copy of the decision can be found on Turtle Talk. https://turtletalk.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/board-decision.pdf

Tips and Tricks: Social Media at Work

June 2, 2015

Some say it’s a productivity drain, but In a recent survey by Microsoft, 46 percent of workers say their productivity has increased because of social media use in the office. Workers who were surveyed said they used social media to communicate with colleagues, collaborate on projects and share documents. Even non-work related use of social media has been toted as a productivity boost. According to a study at University of California, Irvine, occasionally grazing on social media sites, such as Facebook, boosts morale and refreshes workers so they can return to their tasks more focused. The one problem, many workers sited, their bosses don’t buy it. Many are prohibited by their work place policies from installing social media tools on their computers. What’s your office policy regarding social media?

County liable for tribal officer’s actions when enforcing state laws

May 13, 2015

Police lights
A New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that Santa Fe County is liable for the actions of Pojoaque Pueblo tribal officer who was acting on the authority granted him by a sheriff’s office commission to enforce state laws.

The case centered on a 2009 incident in which Officer Glen Gutierrez pulled Jose Luis Loya over for alleged reckless driving. Loya was driving through Pojoaque on his way home from a fishing trip when, Loya charges, Gutierrez braked abruptly in front of him causing him to swerve. The lawsuit said that Gutierrez kicked  one of Loya’s legs out from under him and pinned him against his truck, aggravating an existing neck injury.

Loya named Gutierrez and the pueblo as defendants in his complaint, but lawyer’s for the pueblo’s insurance company argued that Santa Fe County was responsible for defending the officer because he was enforcing state law not tribal law. The county argued that it should not be legally liable for the actions of an officer it does not supervise, nor did it train.  The county argued that Gutierrez did not fit the definition of a county employee for the purposes of the state Tort Claims Act. Two lower state courts sided with the county, but the New Mexico Supreme Court did not, finding that Gutierrez was acting on behalf of the county and enforcing state law and that therefore, he did fit the definition of a state employee as defined in the New Mexico Tort Claims Act. See Loya v. Gutierrez, Supreme Court State of New Mexico, No. 34,447 (May 11, 2015)

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