Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Struggle for Justice on Tribal Lands

...tribal governments now face a grave threat to this kind of partnership and to their very sovereignty. The danger comes from an action brought by the Dollar General Corporation. On Dec. 7, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a case regarding alleged sexual assaults by a Dollar General manager against a tribal minor, a 13-year-old who apprenticed in a store on Choctaw tribal lands in Mississippi. While working in partnership with non-Indians remains an important part of what tribal governments do, ensuring the welfare of tribal members is an essential function of their power. This case has the potential to undermine the authority of tribes to do both.

In keeping with the fraught legal and political relationship between Indians and the federal government, this case, Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, is deeply rooted in our shared history. And as its focus has expanded, it is no longer exclusively about the child who was originally at its center. is chilling that the Supreme Court has now agreed to hear Dollar General’s challenge to the sovereignty of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Initially, the minor and his parents — barred from bringing criminal charges through tribal court — secured the molestation suspect’s expulsion from the reservation. No criminal charges were ever filed by the United States attorney’s office. The family then sought compensatory, civil damages within the tribe’s court system. Tribal and lower federal courts all agree that the tribe has the jurisdiction to hear the case. Dollar General, however, does not.

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