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Upstate Citizens for Equality, Inc. v. United States

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20177
Nos. Nos. 15-1688, -1726, (2d Cir., 11/09/2016)

The Second Circuit upheld the federal government's 2008 decision to take approximately 13,000 acres of land in central New York into trust on behalf of the Oneida Indian Nation of New York. The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 authorizes the federal government to take land into trust on behalf of Indian tribes. In this case, two towns, a civic organization, and several residents of central New York state challenged the government's decision, arguing that the land-into-trust procedures were unconstitutional. In the alternative, they argued that the government exceeded its authority under the statute. But a lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the federal government, and the appellate court affirmed. The entrustment procedures are constitutional and fall within the federal government's plenary authority over Indian affairs. That the entrustment deprives state government of certain aspects of jurisdiction over that land does not run afoul of general principles of state sovereignty, the Indian Commerce Clause, or the specific guarantees of the Enclave Clause. In addition, the Oneida Indian Nation of New York is eligible as a “tribe” under the statute and may be the beneficiary of such an entrustment.