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Chemehuevi Indian Tribe v. Jewell

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20212
Nos. 12-56836, (9th Cir., 09/17/2014)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower court decision dismissing a Native American tribe's claim that DOI violated the APA in refusing to approve the tribe’s assignments of land to certain of its members. The tribe submitted the land assignment deeds to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for approval under 25 U.S.C. §81, which requires DOI to reject agreements that violate federal law. Because Congress had not approved the transaction at issue in this case, BIA denied approval because doing so would violate 25 U.S.C. §177, which prohibits the conveyance of land from an Indian tribe unless approved by Congress. The appellate court agreed. Based on its review of the plain language of the statutes, the court concluded that Congress did not intend for the Secretary of the Interior to approve agreements under §81 that would otherwise be prohibited by §177.