Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

Indian Country nearly locked out of U.S. Supreme Court hearing

Infighting among tribal attorneys led to game of chance


April 20, 2021

President Jonathan Nez of the Navajo Nation, seated, takes part in a gaming compact signing ceremony in Phoenix, Arizona, on April 15, 2021. The Navajo Nation is part of CARES Act litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo: Navajo Nation Office of President and Vice President

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.


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