Nevada Sisters in Land Dispute Move Horses

By Tom Gardner, Associated Press Writer
January 17, 2003

RENO, Nev. – Two sisters locked in a battle with the federal government over land and tribal rights were rounding up their horses Thursday before state and federal agencies could impound the animals.

The government contends the sisters, members of the Western Shoshone tribe, are overgrazing the sparse forage around their remote spread in central northern Nevada and have failed to obtain grazing permits.

Spokeswoman Julie Fishel said they had hoped to move up to 300 animals. “It’s very complex, but the sooner we move them the less traumatic it is for the horses,” she said.

The sisters, Mary and Carrie Dann, planned to keep about 100 horses and pregnant mares at their ranch in Crescent Valley, the spokeswoman said. The rest, Fishel said, would be relocated to an undisclosed “safe haven” outside Nevada.

The Danns have been at odds with the government for decades. They and other members of the Western Shoshone Nation say much of Nevada belongs to the Indians under the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley.

The government says the land issue was settled by the courts years ago and that the Danns’ livestock are trespassing on land to which other ranchers are entitled.

“Our objective is to improve the condition of the land out there and any action they are taking to remove the excessive animals from the range will be helpful toward that goal,” said Jo Simpson, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management (news – web sites).

In September, the BLM confiscated 227 cattle from the land surrounding the Dann ranch and sold them at auction. Late last month, the agency notified the Danns to remove any remaining cattle and horses or the livestock would be impounded.

An aerial survey by the BLM earlier this month counted about 800 horses and 80 cattle, Simpson said.

Fishel, also an attorney for the Western Shoshone Defense Project, said the Danns still hope for a favorable outcome in their dispute so the horses could be returned to what they believe is tribal land. The preserve where the horses are being taken is not Indian-owned.

“Most Indian people don’t have enough land to run horses like this,” she said.

Nevada Challenges Tribal Authority

Justices to decide whether state officials can be sued in Fallon Paiute-Shoshone’s court
By Christine Dorsey, Donrey Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — For nearly a decade, Floyd Hicks has been waiting for his day in court. On Wednesday, the nation’s highest court will consider whether he’ll finally get it.

Hicks, a member of the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe in Northern Nevada, was subjected to two property searches in 1991 and 1992 by Nevada game warden Michael Spencer, who suspected Hicks was poaching bighorn sheep outside the tribal reservation.

Hicks was later cleared, but the searches resulted in damage to some mounted sheep heads that were taken as evidence. Hicks sued Spencer, former Nevada Division of Wildlife director William Molini and two other wardens.

That lawsuit is pending while a larger legal question gets resolved: whether state officials can be subject to legal actions in tribal court for activities they conduct on a reservation.

Attorneys say Nevada v. Hicks could have ramifications for tribes nationwide.

“From the point of view of the tribes, the worst thing the court could do is find for Nevada on the basis that tribal authority over trust lands is limited,” said Judith Royster, a professor at the University of Tulsa College of Law who is co-director of the Native American Law Center.

“Nevada is arguing for a substantial cutback of tribal sovereign authority,” Royster added. “The law in this case going in really does seem to be on the tribe’s side. But the Supreme Court record in recent years in Indian law cases has been that, in most of the cases they take, they decide against the tribes.”

Joanne Chase, director of the National Congress of American Indians, noted that a 1978 Supreme Court decision took away tribal court jurisdiction of criminal cases involving non-Indians. Since then, she said, the court has chipped away at tribal sovereignty in judgments against tribes involving land disputes, sacred sites, taxation and religious freedom.

In the case involving Hicks, a Nevada court issued search warrants on two separate occasions. Both times the court noted that the tribe had jurisdiction of the reservation and sent the game wardens to the tribal court in Fallon for approval.

Tribal judge Rebecca Harold granted permission to search Hicks’ property, and tribal police escorted the game wardens.

When Hicks sued, the wardens sought immunity in federal district court, arguing that states and state officials are not subject to legal actions in tribal court.

The federal district court in Nevada, and later the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, found in favor of the tribe, holding that state immunity is limited, and Hicks had a right to pursue his case against them in tribal court.

In the fall, the state of Nevada petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, and justices agreed to hear the case.

Attorneys for Nevada declined comment. In a statement in October when the high court agreed to hear the case, Nevada Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa said the tribe’s challenge of state immunity is unprecedented.

“No court has ever suggested tribal courts have power to award judgments against state officials for doing state business,” Del Papa said. “This case is obviously going to create new law significant to all the states that deal with tribes. The basis for the state’s argument is the fundamental nature of states as sovereigns.”

She added that if tribes gain the right to expose state officials to tribal court actions, it could hurt cooperation between states and tribes that conduct business together.

In court documents, lawyers for Nevada argued that state officials are protected from lawsuits in tribal court by state sovereign immunity. They argued that tribal or federal courts cannot override that protection, except in narrow circumstances that are not present in this case.

James Anaya, who represents Hicks, said the tribal court has jurisdiction of any actions that occur on trust lands, property the federal government has “in trust” but established by statute for Indian tribes.

“A tribal court should be treated like any other court,” Anaya said.

“It’s like comparing it with Mexico,” said Fallon Paiute-Shoshone acting chairwoman Marie Loper. “We can’t go in there and do whatever we feel like. Or Canada — we need permission of their law enforcement to go in and out of there.”

John Fredericks, an attorney for the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, wrote a brief supporting the Fallon tribe.

The Confederated Tribes of Colville Reservation in Washington State, the Thlopthlocco Tribal Town and Sac and Fox Nations of Oklahoma also filed briefs in favor of the Paiute-Shoshone Tribe.

Eighteen states, led by Montana, filed a brief supporting Nevada. The U.S. Justice Department filed a brief in favor of the tribe.

Casino Operators Roll the Dice on Future

By Sarah Tippit
February 9, 2000

LAS VEGAS, Feb 9 (Reuters) РAs a glut of new casino megaresorts and the spread of Native American casinos make the U.S. gaming business more of a gamble,  scores of casino operators, analysts and regulators gathered in Las Vegas on Wednesday to see what the future holds for the industry.
“People are going to talk about the current conditions in Las Vegas, what a
strong year they had last year, and their expectations for the future,” said
Jason Ader, an analyst at Bear Stearns, which is one of the hosts of the
American Gaming Lodging and Leisure Summit which runs through Thursday.
Particularly, analysts said, attendees will discuss how Las Vegas plans to keep
itself interesting and exciting enough to fill the 20,000 new hotel rooms that
have been added to the city’s famed, neon-lit Strip in the last two years.
“Entertainment is the future of Las Vegas,” said Roger Gros, a vice president
and senior editor of Casino Journal, one of the sponsors of the conference.
“Right now you can gamble anywhere in the country,’ Gros said. ”A casino is
within 90 percent of the people who live in the U.S. Las Vegas has to offer a
different experience to remain competitive. That’s why now we have food as
entertainment with celebrity chefs opening up here. We have shopping as

So far, the new Las Vegas resorts have drawn curious crowds anxious to see art
exhibits, top-notch entertainers such as Barbra Streisand and Elton John, fine
restaurants and, of course, spacious, glitzy casinos.

The new resorts include Mirage Resorts Inc. (NYSE:MIR – news) Bellagio, Mandalay¬† Resort Group’s (NYSE:MBG – news) Mandalay Bay, Park Place Entertainment’s NYSE:PPE – news) Paris Las Vegas and The Venetian, built by billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s privately held Las Vegas Sands Inc.
Despite the best efforts by the big name casino companies, however, it remains
to be seen how fast the industry can continue to grow after the unprecedented
nationwide expansion over the last decade — most notably during the last three
years — and who the winners and losers will be.

Nevada casino operators also are particularly worried about a move to expand
gambling on California Indian reservations that comes on the heels of the most
expensive building boom Las Vegas has ever seen.
California voters are poised to approve Las Vegas-style gambling on Indian
reservations in the state on March 7 when they vote on an amendment to the state constitution. The amendment, known as Proposition 1A is widely expected to pass.That is expected to hurt Nevada casinos, which draw about 35 percent of their business from Californians who drive across the border to gamble, Ader said.“While new gaming jurisdictions have historically had minimal impact on Nevada operations, the potential expansion of gaming into California poses more of a threat to the continued growth of Las Vegas,” Ader said.The Las Vegas casinos are likely to feel the sting of the new competition even though several big operators, including Station Casinos Inc. (NYSE:STN – news) and Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (NYSE:HET – news) have management deals with some tribes, analysts said.

The passage of Proposition 1A could increase the number of slot machines in
California from 17,000 to 43,000 at more than 57 tribal casinos poised to open
or expand, Ader said.

A similar proposition passed overwhelmingly in 1998 but was declared
unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court in August, when the state’s top judges, voting 6-1, struck down Proposition 5, which would have allowed Indian tribes to offer video slot machines and card games.
As Nevada sighed with relief, California Indians vowed to turn again to voters
to win approval to run full-scale gambling palaces. At issue is tribes’ desire
to protect their sovereignty and bring their people the high revenues that
gambling provides to remote reservations.
The measure’s likely passage is expected to have minimum impact on Las Vegas Strip properties because they are so unique and over-the-top compared to other U.S. casinos. Tribal gaming, however, could hurt top casino operators that cater to Californians, such as Mandalay Resort Group, and MGM Grand Inc., (NYSE:MGG – news), which owns properties along the California-Nevada border.Mirage, which owns properties in Laughlin, and Boyd Gaming Inc., (NYSE:BYD – news) which operates casinos in downtown Las Vegas, also could feel a pinch.Downtown and North Las Vegas properties might see declines of about 23 percent and 10 percent in revenues respectively, Ader said, and the Reno/Lake Tahoe area might lose nearly 22 percent in gaming revenues.

Missouri Senator Opposes Tribal Smoke Shop

RENO, Nev.
June 8, 1999

Senate subcommittee chairman Christopher Bond (R-Mo.) claims a federal grant designated for an American Indian tribe’s discount smoke shop is an example of the Clinton administration’s undercutting efforts to curb teen smoking.

“These smoke shops, which are selling discounted cigarettes and other tobacco products, will, in all likelihood, encourage teen smoking,” Bond said.

Bond, chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee, addressed his concerns in a recent letter to Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo.

At issue is the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) 1997 $450,000 community development grant to the Reno Sparks Indian Colony. The tribe reportedly plans to build a smoke shop on reservation land in Verdi, Nev. that would sell primarily cigarettes and other tobacco products at tax-free, bargain prices.

Bond, chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees HUD’s budget, wants a list of all tribal smoke shops that have received federal money over the past five years.

He also wants the “rationale justifying” approval of the grants by HUD and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

“HUD-financed construction of smoke shops selling discounted cigarettes is, in my mind, completely at odds with the federal government’s efforts to discourage teen smoking by increasing the price of cigarettes,” Bond told Cuomo.

HUD spokesman Peter Ragone reportedly said the smoke shop falls within the provisions of the community development grant and a change in the law would be needed to block the funds from being used for a particular project.

“If any member of Congress has concerns with its functions, they have the authority to change the law,” Ragone said.