Law | Trust

Judge upholds BIA decision on Oneida Nation land-into-trust bid

Tribal leaders and Bureau of Indian Affairs officials signed the land-into-trust documents in August 2014. Photo from Oneida Nation

The Bureau of Indian Affairs can place more than 13,000 acres in trust for the Oneida Nation of New York, a federal judge ruled today.

The tribe filed its land-into-trust application in 2005 following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Sherrill v. Oneida Nation. The ruling held that the tribe's fee properties weren't considered Indian Country.

After a lengthy review, the BIA published a record of decision in May 2008 to place the land in trust. That spawned a new round of litigation from the state of New York, local governments and other parties.

Intense negotiations led to a major settlement in which the state and local parties withdrew their challenges, including another case that was pending before the Supreme Court. The agreement was approved by Judge Lawrence Kahn in March 2014 and the BIA placed the land in trust in August of that year.

A separate case filed by an anti-Indian group remained. Kahn, however, put an end to it today with a 23-page ruling that rejected all of the challenges to the BIA's decision.

Among other issues, the plaintiffs claimed the Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar prevented the BIA from placing the land in trust for the tribe. But Kahn said it was clear that the Oneidas were "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934.

Kahn noted that the Treaty of Canandaigua of 1794 "created a federal reservation, which has never been disestablished by Congress." He said he is bound by a precedent from the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals that said the tribe's reservation "has not been disestablished."

Get the Story:
Judge rejects challenge to Oneidas' tax-exempt land (AP 3/26)

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BIA to place 13K acres in trust for Oneida Nation in New York (6/3)

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