Native News Network Staff in Native Currents. Discussion »
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA A United States Supreme Court decision could potentially add millions to the Cherokee Nation's budget.
US Supreme Court Victory
“This is a major victory, not only for the Cherokee Nation, but for all tribes,”
Principal Chief Bill John Baker said.
"We will be able to recover millions of dollars that has been denied our government through decades of underfunding. This money will be used to support every facet of our government and will allow us to provide much needed services to our people."
In a 5-4 decision Monday, the court ruled in Salazar v. Ramah Navajo that the federal government did not honor its contractual promises to tribes and provided insufficient funding for contracts and contract support costs from self governance agreements. The federal government had initially agreed to fully fund those contracts, but Congress placed a cap on the money earmarked for payments.
Monday's ruling ends any claims that government agencies such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs are no longer liable for paying contracts if there is not enough money available.
Under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Act, tribes can contract to provide services that would otherwise be provided by the federal government, such as law enforcement, agricultural assistance and education.
As per the ruling, the federal government is now expected to reimburse tribes - including the Cherokee Nation - for tribal dollars used to make up that shortfall from 1994 to 2001.
In 2005, the Supreme Court issued a similar ruling against Indian Health Services that resulted in several tribes collecting damages, including a $20 million payment to the Cherokee Nation.
“Indian Country has struggled in recent years in the US Supreme Court,”
Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree said.
“This decision marks a significant win for the Cherokee Nation.”
posted June 22, 2012 7:00 am edt