Mnuchin, Sec'y of Treasury v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Indian Law
  • Date Filed: January 8, 2021
  • Case #: 20-543
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 976 F.3d 15 (D.C. Cir. 2020)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether Alaska Native regional and village corporations (ANCs) established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act are “Indian Tribe[s]” for purposes of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), 42 U.S.C. 801(g)(1).

This case is consolidated with case no. 20-544, AK Native Village Corp. v. Confederated Tribes. During the public-health and economic crises brought about by COVID-19, Congress allocated aid for “Tribal governments” in the amount of $8 billion. For this purpose, Congress defined “Tribal government” as the “recognized governing body of an Indian Tribe” given the meaning found in the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDA). 42 U.S.C. 801(g)(1), (5). Under that definition, the federal government accepted that ANCs qualified as Indian tribes for nearly 45 years. Several Indian tribes attempted to prevent funds from being distributed to ANCs. The district court consolidated pending challenges, and multiple ANCs intervened as defendants. The district court found in favor of the ANCs, but the court of appeals reversed holding that the definition of “Indian tribe” excludes ANCs, and therefore ineligible to receive aid under the CARES Act. Petitioner argues that the court below erred in concluding that ANCs do not qualify as “Indian tribes” given that the term is found within the ISDA definition, which Congress integrated into the CARES Act. Petitioner argues that Congress deliberately included ANCs in the ISDA definition. Petitioner also contends that the decision below conflicts with the longstanding interpretation that ANCs qualify as “Indian Tribes” under the ISDA definition and could harm the status of ANCs under other federal statutes.

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