Big Lagoon Rancheria v. State of California

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Indian Law
  • Date Filed: 01-21-2014
  • Case #: 10-17803; 10-17878
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: District Judge Block for the Court; Circuit Judge Trott; Dissent by Circuit Judge Rawlinson
  • Full Text Opinion

A tribe may compel a State to enter into negotiation under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act if it is a federally recognized tribe with jurisdiction over “Indian lands.”

The State of California appealed from a district court order that compelled it to enter into negotiations with the Big Lagoon tribe. The two parties had been in long disagreement regarding Big Lagoon’s plans to build a casino on an eleven acre site. The casino was to be built on land that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (“BIA”) bought in trust for the Big Lagoon tribe in 1994. The Ninth Circuit held that Big Lagoon tribe was not under federal jurisdiction in 1934. The panel pointed out that the land had only been bought by the BIA in 1994, and that the Big Lagoon Tribe was not on the relevant pre-1994 BIA list of federally recognized tribes. Because the Big Lagoon tribe was not under federal jurisdiction in 1934, the land at issue was not “Indian land.” The panel held that Big Lagoon did not have the right to demand negotiations regarding its plan to build a gaming facility because it was not “Indian land,” nor could Big Lagoon sue to compel the State of California to negotiate. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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