Supreme Court Unanimously Holds that Omaha Tribe's Reservation Not Diminished by 1882 Statute
On March 22, 2016, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Nebraska v. Parker. In this case, Nebraska challenged the Omaha Indian Tribe’s right to enforce a Department of Interior-approved liquor ordinance on parts of the Tribe’s Reservation. In a unanimous decision authored by Justice Thomas, the Court rejected Nebraska’s argument that the Reservation was diminished by an act of Congress or by the expectations of current non-Indian residents.
Starting in the 1860s, the Omaha Tribe conveyed land to the United States by treaty and other sale agreements. The Tribe also requested the United States’ assistance and permission to sell land to fund tribal functions. The Act of August 7, 1882 (“the 1882 Act”) was the result of such a request. The 1882 Act authorized the Interior Secretary to make the land available for sale, in lots of up to 160 acres, at the “appraised value” of the land or $2.50 per acre, whichever was greater. The net sale proceeds were to “be placed to the credit of said Indians in the Treasury of the United States” for their benefit. Parts of the land were sold and parts were allotted to Tribal members. The land includes the present day Town of Pender, Nebraska. The residents of Pender are mostly non-Indians, and the Omaha Tribe has generally not enforced its laws in Pender.