Native American Issues

News & Analysis as of

FERC rules tribes exempt from some energy regulation

When a Native American tribe acquires a hydroelectric power plant licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, does the project become exempt from some federal regulations? Yes, according to a FERC order...more

Department of Justice Memorandum Regarding Legalization of Marijuana in Indian Country Raises More Questions Than Answers

On Thursday December 11, 2014, the press was abuzz about a just released Department of Justice memorandum titled “Policy Statement Regarding Marijuana Issues in Indian Country.” Some news outlets heralded the memorandum as a...more

Does The DBO’s Draft Tribal Consultation Policy Violate the Public Records Act?

Three years ago, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued Executive Order B-10-11. Among other things, Governor Brown ordered: that it is the policy of this Administration that every state agency and department...more

Michigan Court of Appeals Reverses Termination of Parental Rights; Cites Indian Child Welfare Act Standard

In any child custody proceeding involving Indian children, all parties should understand there are significant legal and procedural requirements that must be met before parental rights to Indian children may be terminated....more

Trademarks as a Barometer of Change: A Pop Quiz

Designed to appeal and speak to the customers of a specific time and place, trademarks can become hallmarks of a bygone era. The controversy surrounding the use of the REDSKINS trademark and logo shows just how much...more

CEQA Bill to Protect Native American Cultural Resources Creates New Challenges and Opportunities for Project Applicants

On September 25, 2014, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 52 ("AB 52"), which modifies the California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA") to add new protections for Native American cultural resources and enhances the role of...more

Second Federal Circuit Court Refuses To Enforce Arbitration By South Dakota Tribe

Using a different analysis, but reaching the same result as a recent decision from the Seventh Circuit, the Eleventh Circuit agreed that a defendant could not compel arbitration of consumer claims before the Cheyenne River...more

Seventh Circuit Uses Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(5) to Reopen 23-Year Old Judgment

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5) allows a party to move for relief from a final judgment on the ground that “it prospectively is no longer equitable.” Motions under Rule 60(b)(5) must be made “within a reasonable...more

Religious Institutions: October 2014

Timely Topics - Church splits and property disputes are not new, but they have certainly grown in number in recent years. In the seminal case on church property disputes, Watson v. Jones, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 679, 20 L....more

Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act: New Law Supersedes IRS Guidance - H.R. 3043 Allows Tribes More Latitude in Social Programs

On Sept. 26, 2014, President Obama signed into law a measure that excludes from taxable income various general welfare payments to members of Indian tribes. One of the last pieces of legislation agreed upon by the...more

Second Circuit Issues Decision in Payday-Loan Regulatory Case

In a clash of competing sovereigns’ interests, the Second Circuit recently upheld, for now, the authority of the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) to regulate online payday loans made by Indian tribal lenders to...more

Ninth Circuit Upholds TERO Requirements in Indian Country Mineral Leasing

Conducting commercial operations on tribal lands can pose significant challenges for non-Indian companies. Demonstrating sensitivity to the cultural nuances of Native American society and navigating the complex web of federal...more

Governor Signs Two New CEQA Bills

Governor Brown has signed two new bills amending the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). AB 52 establishes new consultation procedures with California Native American tribes, and provides that an adverse change to a...more

New Law Requires Formal Consultation with Native American Tribes During CEQA Process

Agencies Must, Upon Request, Consult With Tribes About “Tribal Cultural Resources” - Assembly Bill 52, signed yesterday by Gov. Jerry Brown, seeks to protect a new class of resources under CEQA: “tribal cultural...more

Seventh Circuit Finds Tribal Arbitration Is Unreasonable and Unconscionable

In a victory for advocates who worry that the odds are impossibly stacked against consumers in some arbitral fora, the Seventh Circuit found that a class of borrowers did not have to proceed with arbitration conducted by the...more

Indian Health Service Recovery Efforts Against Commercial Health Plans

Health plans across the country are increasingly receiving demands for payment from the Indian Health Service (“IHS”), tribal health programs (collectively “Indian Organizations”) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury for...more

Redskins Ruling is Consistent with TTAB Precedent

In Blackhorse v. Pro-Football Inc., the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office once again canceled various registrations for trademarks used by the Washington Redskins football team as being disparaging to Native Americans. While...more

Tribal Immunity at the Supreme Court: Impact on Payday Lenders?

Could a recent Supreme Court decision on tribal sovereignty as it applied to an Indian casino have an impact on payday lenders? The case itself, Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community, involved a casino built by the...more

Could Offensive Trademarks Find Refuge in Common Law?

The 177-page tome the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) just issued in Blackhorse v. Pro-Football Inc. is remarkable for its length and its subject matter, cancellation of the controversial REDSKINS mark as disparaging...more

A Football Team, by Any Other Name…: USPTO Decision Illustrates that Law is More than Hard & Fast Rules

At Meadowlawn Elementary in the 1960s, my West Michigan friends and I would boast about things that made us "better" than each other. It was the golden age of Superman comics and, while I didn't have super strength or x-ray...more

Beyond Disparaging: Five Important Clarifications Regarding Redskins Trademark Decision

Over the past year, debate regarding whether the National Football League’s Washington, D.C. franchise should continue to call itself the Redskins has risen to a fever pitch once again. So, naturally, it was big news when, on...more

The Redskins Decision: Much Ado About (Probably) Not Much

I’ve been having fun listening to commentators – most of whom appear to know little or nothing about trademark law – expound on last week’s decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to cancel six trademark...more

Redskins’ trademark decision ushers in more questions - Cancellation of trademark registration may not have impact some believe

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) most likely knew it was going to generate headlines Wednesday when it issued a monumental decision to cancel six registrations of the...more

A Rose By Any Other Name…

It is rare that items from the United States Patent and Trademark Office are “breaking news” or even make general news headlines. But it happened Wednesday (6/18/14) with the announcement that the Trademark Trial and Appeal...more

Redskins trademark case highlights value of linguistic analysis

The Washington Redskins trademark case, with its conclusion that REDSKINS trademark registrations should be cancelled, has sparked heated discussion among football fans, advocates of Native American interests, and foes of...more

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