Washington D.C. – On February 24, 2009, the Supreme Court issued an extraordinarilytroubling decision, limiting the authority of the Secretary of the Interior under the provisions of the Indian Reorganization Act (“IRA”). This case involved a challenge by the State of Rhode Island to the authority of the Secretary to take land in to trust for the Narragansett Tribe under the IRA. The Court has invoked a strained and circular reading of a few sentences in the Indian Reorganization Act to create different “classes” of tribes. Given the fundamental purpose of the IRA was to organize tribal governments and restore land bases for tribes that had been torn apart by prior federal policies, the Court’s ruling is an affront to the most basic policies underlying the IRA.
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