Federal Court Rules U.S. Owes Native Americans 17 Years of Unpaid Funding
Saturday, June 04, 2011
A federal appeals court has sided with a group of Native American tribes who claim they have been shortchanged by the U.S. government for nearly two decades over money designated to support reservation life.
Under the 1975 Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, the government is supposed to provide yearly funding for the operation of programs or services that provide law enforcement, economic development, natural resource management and other functions. But representatives of Navajo, Sioux, Zuni and other tribes say Congress has not fully funded these monies since 1994, forcing the plaintiffs to sue in federal court.
The tribes lost their case in district court, and then appealed to the Tenth Circuit, which reversed the lower court’s ruling. The Interior Department claimed it had the right to limit funding because of a phrase in the law: “subject to the availability of appropriations.” However, the appeals court rejected this interpretation by a vote of 2-1, with Justice Harris L. Hartz submitting a 42-page dissent.
Feds Must Fund Native American Services (by Jonny Bonner, Courthouse News Service)
Ramah Navajo Chapter et al. v. Ken Salazar (Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals) (pdf)
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