Articles Posted in Native American Law

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After discovering methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia in the home of Mother, Mother’s three children were removed from the home. The State initiated abuse and neglect proceedings against Mother, an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe (Tribe). More than one year later, the Tribe and Mother submitted motions to transfer the proceedings to the Tribe’s jurisdiction. The circuit court denied the motions. Following a final dispositional hearing, the court terminated Mother’s parental rights. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Mother was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on the question of whether good cause existed to deny the motions to transfer jurisdiction to the Tribe, and therefore, the circuit court abused its discretion by denying the motions. View "In re Interest of A.O." on Justia Law

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Before he died, the Decedent transferred two quarter sections of Indian trust land located in Tripp County, South Dakota, to his son. The Decedent’s estate (the Estate) filed this action arguing that the Decedent lacked the requisite mental capacity or was unduly influenced by his son when he transferred the land. Specifically, the Estate requested that the court compel the Decedent’s son to make application to the Secretary of the Interior for the transfer of the Indian trust property to the Estate. The circuit court denied the Estate’s request and dismissed the action, determining that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the parcels held in trust by the United States. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not have jurisdiction over the subject matter of this case. View "Ducheneaux v. Ducheneaux" on Justia Law

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In 1967, Raymond and Margaret Becker's eight child inherited an undivided one-eighth interest in patented fee land located within the boundaries of the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation. None of the Beckers were Indians. In 2006, one of the Becker children sold her interest to Patrick and Carletta Aberle. Patrick was a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and Carletta was a non-Indian. Due to certain conveyances, Patrick and Carletta each owned an undivided one-sixteenth interest in the property. The Becker children later commenced this action seeking a sale of the entire property. The Aberles counterclaimed for partition. Patrick also contended that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the dispute because he was a member of the Tribe, which had jurisdiction. The circuit court ordered a sale of the entire property, concluding that state jurisdiction did not infringe upon tribal sovereignty. In considering the state-tribal jurisdiction issue, the Supreme Court noted that a determination of the disputed land's alienability was necessary. The Court then remanded the matter to the circuit court to reconsider the jurisdiction question after further development of a factual record and consideration of land alienation cases. View "McGuire v. Aberle" on Justia Law

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The district court granted temporary custody of three Native American children to the department of social services. Citing the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (Tribe) contested the custody order by challenging the oldest child's temporary placement and questioning the lack of adherence to relative placement preferences under the ICWA. The court advised that ICWA placement preferences were not yet applicable. The Tribe filed an application for a writ of mandamus or prohibition from the Supreme Court to compel a new temporary custody hearing. The Supreme Court dismissed the Tribe's application for an extraordinary writ, holding that the trial court was not obligated to follow ICWA at temporary or emergency custody proceedings under state law, and therefore, the trial court appropriately rejected the Tribe's invocation of ICWA and requests for a new temporary custody hearing conducted in full accord with ICWA. View "Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe v. Judicial Court (Davis)" on Justia Law

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M.A.S. (Father) appealed the termination of his parental rights to P.S.E. At the time P.S.E. was removed from Mother’s care, Father lived in California and did not know he had a child in South Dakota. The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) applied to these proceedings because P.S.E. was an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Sioux Tribe. Father argued on appeal that the Department of Social Services (DSS) did not make active efforts to reunite the Indian family and that any efforts made were successful. Because the evidence presented shows that DSS provided active and reasonable, though abbreviated, efforts to place P.S.E. with Father, and those efforts were unsuccessful, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's order terminating Father's parental rights. View "In the interest of P.S.E." on Justia Law

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After a hearing, the circuit court terminated Mother's parental rights to Child. Mother was Native American and eligible to be enrolled in the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, but because she was not actually enrolled, an Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) specialist for the Tribe concluded that Child was not eligible for enrollment. Since Child was not enrolled or eligible for enrollment, the court found ICWA inapplicable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err (1) in finding ICWA inapplicable, as Mother failed to show that Child was an Indian child within the meaning of ICWA; and (2) in finding that termination of Mother's parental rights was the least restrictive alternative available. View "In re L.S." on Justia Law

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Maternal grandparents petitioned for permanent guardianship of a minor Indian child in the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe tribal court. After receiving the guardianship, they sought to have it recognized in a South Dakota circuit court, which had been exercising jurisdiction over the child and his deceased mother since 2007. The circuit court concluded that the tribal court did not have jurisdiction and, consequently, denied the grandparents' motion to recognize the tribal court order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the minor child did not reside on the Mille Lacs Reservation for purposes of exclusive jurisdiction under the Indian Child Welfare Act; and (2) because the tribal court did not have exclusive jurisdiction over the grandparents' guardianship petition, the circuit court did not err in denying the grandparents' petition to recognize the tribal court order. View "Merrill v. Altman" on Justia Law