For Immediate Release: May 22, 2019
(Oneida Reservation)- The Oneida Nation filed an appeal today of Judge William Griesbach’s decision finding that the allotment of the Oneida Reservation and subsequent acquisition of Reservation land by non-Indians resulted in the diminishment of the Reservation. Judge Griesbach committed reversible errors of law, and the Oneida Nation is confident his decision will be overturned.
The Oneida Reservation was established pursuant to the 1838 Treaty with the Oneida. Under rules established by the United States Supreme Court, only the United States Congress can disestablish or diminish the Reservation, and Congress has never acted to do so. Judge Griesbach disregarded Supreme Court cases holding that an Indian reservation may only be diminished by an act of Congress and that allotment of an Indian reservation and the subsequent acquisition of reservation land by non-Indians does not diminish a reservation. Judge Griesbach also failed to apply the federal statutory definition of Indian country, which specifically acknowledges that all land within a reservation is Indian country “notwithstanding the issuance of any patent.”
Instead, Judge Griesbach expressed concern that the Nation might have authority over non-Indians and non-Indian land if he respected the boundaries of the Reservation. But the Nation did not assert authority over non-Indians in the lawsuit; it disputed the authority of the Village of Hobart to regulate the Nation. In addition, the Supreme Court has already established rules that limit the authority of tribal governments over non-members, and these rules have never been used to support diminishment of an Indian reservation.
If allowed to stand, Judge Griesbach’s decision could have highly disruptive and far-reaching impacts. The Nation has entered into numerous agreements with the federal government, the State of Wisconsin, and other governments based upon the common understanding that the Reservation has never been disestablished or diminished. Judge Griesbach’s decision threatens these long-standing and long-settled expectations, and the Nation will take all measures necessary to avert these harms.
Chairman Tehassi Tasi Hill stated, “The Nation remains dedicated to the principle that it and its members are subject to federal and tribal regulation within its undiminished Reservation, not regulation of local governments. The Nation will stand on that principle in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.”