Indian Country nearly locked out of U.S. Supreme Court hearing
Infighting among tribal attorneys led to game of chance
April 20, 2021
A long-running dispute over COVID-19 relief for tribal governments is finally before the nation's highest court but Indian Country almost lost out on the chance to present their side due to infighting among attorneys involved in the case.
With the coronavirus still having disproportionate impacts on American Indians and Alaska Natives, tribes remain united on the central issue in the matter. They contend that $8 billion from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act was intended for sovereign Indian nations, rather than for-profit Alaska Native corporations (ANCs).
Yet on the eve of oral arguments in Yellen v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation and Alaska Native Village Corporation Association v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, attorneys representing the dozen-plus tribal plaintiffs were still at odds over who was going to present the case. The disagreement became so bitter that one tribal leader warned that the U.S. Supreme Court was going to hear arguments on Monday morning without even bothering to let Indian Country have its say.