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Sherrill, N.Y., City of v. Oneida Indian Nation of N.Y.

Citation: 35 ELR 20065
No. No. 03-855, (U.S., 03/29/2005)

The U.S. Supreme Court held that a Native American tribe's reacquisition of historic reservation land does not prohibit the imposition of local property taxes. The tribe cannot unilaterally revive its ancient sovereignty over the parcels at issue. The tribe long ago relinquished governmental reins and cannot regain them through open-market purchases from current titleholders. When a party belatedly asserts a right to present and future sovereign control over territory, long-standing observances and settled expectations are prime considerations. Here, the unilateral reestablishment of present and future Indian sovereign control, even over land purchased at the market price, would have disruptive practical consequences. The area today is overwhelmingly populated by non-Indians, and a checkerboard of state and tribal jurisdiction—created unilaterally at the tribe's behest—would "seriously burde[n] the administration of state and local governments" and would adversely affect landowners neighboring the tribal patches. Ginsburg, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C.J., and O’Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, Thomas, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Souter, J., filed a concurring opinion. Stevens, J., filed a dissenting opinion.