The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians maintains an office in North Fork, California. Photo: North Fork Rancheria

North Fork Rancheria secures confirmation of win in homelands case

The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians has scored another win in a long-running fight to restore its homelands in northern California.

The tribe won a major court victory in January, when the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected challenges to its land-into-trust application. But opponent weren't about to give up so they filed a request for a rehearing.

On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit denied the request. Barring an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is entirely possible though the odds of success are low, the legal status of the tribe's 305-acre reservation remains solid.

The tribe was one of the many victims of the federal government's disastrous termination policy. Despite being restored to recognition through a court settlement, the tribe has lacked a substantial land base to build its future.

The 305-acre site in Madera County is supposed to change that. Plans call for a gaming facility there but litigation has kept the tribe in limbo since December 2012, when the land was placed in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In the lawsuit, opponents claimed the tribe was not legitimate and could not follow the land-into-trust process. The unanimous decision from the D.C. Circuit rejected that premise.

"Enough is enough!" Judge David S. Tatel wrote in the 26-page ruling, one in a series of recent court decisions that have upheld the ability of tribes to restore their homelands.

D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Stand Up for California! v. U.S. Department of the Interior (January 11, 2018)

Recent Appeals Court Decisions in Tribal Homelands Cases:
Amador County v. Department of the Interior (November 27, 2017)
County of Amador v. Department of the Interior (October 6, 2017)
No Casino in Plymouth v. Zinke (October 6, 2017)
Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon v. Jewell (July 29, 2016)

Bureau of Indian Affairs Documents for North Fork Rancheria:
Press Release | Fact Sheet | Section 20 Determination

Federal Register Notices:
Indian Gaming (October 22, 2013)
Land Acquisitions; North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California (December 3, 2012)

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