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Omaha Tribe's effort to defend reservation boundary lawsuit gets support of national tribal organization

Village and bar owners' suit to diminish Omaha Reservation moves to federal court

PENDER, Neb., July 9, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Congress of American Indians recently met and passed a resolution urging its member tribes to support the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska with amicus briefs and monetary assistance to meet critical legal defense funding needs.  A lawsuit by the Village of Pender and local liquor establishment owners seeks to have the Omaha Reservation diminished so that Pender is excluded.  The case started when the Omaha Tribe sought to enforce its federally approved liquor ordinance against Pender liquor establishments. 

The Omaha Indian Reservation was established in 1854 by a treaty between the Omaha Tribe and the United States of America.  Its original boundaries included all of present-day Thurston County.  A later treaty in 1865 ceded the northern portion of the Reservation for the use of the Winnebago Tribe.  The plaintiffs claim an 1882 federal law changed the boundaries by authorizing allotments of land for individual tribal members and opening a portion of the Reservation for sale.

The lawsuit has been pending since 2007, when the federal case was put on hold awaiting a tribal court decision.  The tribal court issued its ruling in February, finding that the Reservation was not diminished.  The federal case is now being briefed to Judge Richard Kopf with the U.S. District Court.  Regardless of which way Judge Kopf rules, an appeal from that decision is anticipated. 

The Omaha Tribe has incurred over $500,000 in legal fees and expenses to date, with more anticipated with the federal court case.  The Village of Pender enacted a sales tax to fund its legal fees and has reportedly collected more than $600,000.  The Omaha Tribe has sought assistance from the federal government.  An account has been established at Charter West Bank in Walthill, Nebraska, to receive donations. 

The Omaha Tribe of Nebraska is a federally recognized treaty tribe with a government-to-government relationship with the United States of America.  The Tribe, consisting of nearly 6,000 Native American tribal members, is organized under a written constitution and bylaws adopted in 1936.

REFERENCE:  Smith et al. v. Parker et al., U.S. Dist. Ct. (D. Neb.), 4:07-cv-03101Pa-RGK-CRZ

SOURCE Omaha Tribe of Nebraska

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