USET hosts national strategy session on Carcieri

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MARKSVILLE, La. – The United South and Eastern Tribes will host a strategy session to discuss the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Carcieri v. Salazar.

The meeting will take place Tuesday, May 12 at 9 a.m. at the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe’s Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville, La. during USET’s semi-annual meeting.

USET President Brian Patterson said tribal leaders from across the country are invited to attend the round table discussion with Interior Department officials. USET is a nonprofit, inter-tribal organization that represents its 25 federally recognized member tribes at the regional and national levels, providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and information among tribes, agencies and governments.

He said the goal of this session is to relay to the department a strong, unified and comprehensive approach to addressing the potentially harmful consequences of the Carcieri decision.

“The session is an effort to strategize our own strong approach, a best approach, a legislative fix for Carcieri. USET is aggressive in its response to this judicial ruling since a good portion of our tribes are potentially affected by that decision. Members of the National Indian Gaming Association, the National Congress of American Indians and all other inter-tribal organizations – everyone is invited,” Patterson said. “We want to assure that in dealing with this issue, Indian country speaks with a strong, unified voice.”

In the Carcieri decision, the high court ruled that the interior secretary does not have the authority to take 31 acres of land into trust for the Narragansett Tribe, because the tribe wasn’t “under federal jurisdiction” in 1934 when the Indian Reorganization Act was passed. The decision raised alarms about the status of lands taken into trust for the hundreds of tribes recognized since 1934 as well as the future of trust lands.

Ironically, the high court’s ruling could undo the provisions of the IRA that were intended to reverse the devastating Indian land-grab consequences of the 1887 Dawes Act and restore some measure of self-government to tribes.

On March 11, just two weeks after the Supreme Court decision, USET passed a resolution seeking a remedy to the Carcieri ruling.

“The Supreme Court has invoked a discriminatory and subjective reading of a few sentences in the IRA to establish different classes of tribes. … By calling into question which federally recognized tribes are or are not eligible for the IRA’s provisions, the court’s ruling in Carcieri threatens the validity and stability of tribal business organizations, subsequent contracts and loans, tribal reservations and lands, and could affect jurisdiction, public safety and provision of services on reservations across the country,” the resolution says.

The resolution calls in part for a legislative “fix” that will “unequivocally state that the secretary of the interior is empowered with the authority to place lands into trust on behalf of the federally recognized Indian tribes, for both governmental services and economic development purposes.”

The strategy session is not a consultation, Patterson said. He anticipates an all day session, and has set aside time the next morning for USET members to follow up.

He thanked Tunica-Biloxi Tribal Chairman Earl J. Barbary for hosting the event at the tribe’s facility.

For more information contact Michael Cook, USET executive director, at (615) 872-7900 or by e-mail mcook@usetinc.org.