9th Circuit issues rulings on sacred site, compacts
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today released two rulings in Indian cases.

In Navajo Nation v. US Forest Service, an en banc panel of the court ruled that the U.S. Forest Service did not violate the religious rights of tribes by allowing the use of reclaimed wastewater to make snow in the sacred San Francisco Peaks of Arizona. A three-judge panel had previously ruled in favor of the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe and other tribes in the Southwest that use the site for ceremonies and other purposes.

The vote on the case was 8-3. The dissenting judges said the majority has effectively excluded American Indians from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In Cachil Dene Band of Wintun Indians v. California, the court ruled that the Cachil Dehe Band of Wintun Indians can sue the state over a gaming machine dispute. The decision allows the tribe's lawsuit to proceed without involving other tribes who signed Class III gaming compacts in 1999.

The decision will affect other cases in which tribes have challenged the state's attempt to limit the number of slot machines. The 1999 compact theoretically promises each tribe 2,000 machines but the state has imposed a cap that prevents them from reaching that limit.

Related Stories:
Appeals court rehears San Francisco Peaks case (12/12)
Bush administration appeals sacred site case (6/4)
9th Circuit blocks snowmaking at sacred peaks (3/12)
Tribes hopeful after court hears sacred site case (09/19)
Southwest tribes go to court for sacred site (9/6)