CN could receive millions via Supreme Court ruling

BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
06/22/2012 07:46 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation could get back approximately $40 million thanks to a June 18 U.S. Supreme Court ruling calling for the federal government to fully reimburse Native American tribes for monies spent on their respective federal programs.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled in Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter that the federal government did not honor its contractual promises to tribes and provided insufficient funding for contracts and contract support costs from self-governance agreements.

The federal government had initially agreed to fully fund those contracts, but Congress placed a cap on the money earmarked for payments.

The Ramah Navajo Chapter sued the Department of Interior and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver initially ruled the money must be fully reimbursed. The government appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled the Ramah Navajo Chapter and other Native American tribes must get their money back.

The ruling ends any claims that government agencies such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs are no longer liable for paying contracts if there is not enough money available.

Under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Act, tribes can contract to provide services that would otherwise be provided by the federal government, such as law enforcement, agricultural assistance and education.

As per the ruling, the federal government is now expected to reimburse tribes – including the Cherokee Nation – for tribal dollars used to make up that shortfall from 1994 to 2001.

Principal Chief Bill John Baker called the ruling a “tremendous victory for the Cherokee Nation.”

“We will be able to recover millions of dollars that has been denied our government through decades of underfunding,” Baker said. “This money will be used to support every facet of our government and will allow us to provide much-needed services to our people.”

The estimate of reimbursement for the tribe is approximately $35 to $40 million, Baker said, “mindful, that this includes IHS (Indian Health Service) claims that are involved in companion cases involving the same facts scenario.”

In 2005, the Supreme Court issued a similar ruling against IHS that resulted in several tribes collecting damages, including a $20 million payment to the Cherokee Nation.

Currently, the tribe is compiling documentation to show the total amount under recovery and to be sure that CN is made “whole from previous years.”

Baker said at this time there is not an expected date on reimbursement because of the many tribes involved, but a victory like this has been rare in the past.

“This was a long process and I appreciate the hard work our staff has committed to this project,” he added. “I also want to thank the council for their support of this and other matters, as we assert our rights.”

jami-custer@cherokee.org


918-453-5560

About the Author
Reporter

Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007.

She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. 

Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. 

She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. 

“My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.
jami-murphy@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Reporter Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007. She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. “My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.” Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
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BY STAFF REPORTS
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BY STAFF REPORTS
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WASHINGTON – On March 25, Principal Chief Bill John Baker delivered testimony before the U.S. House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee in Washington, D.C. Baker addressed the necessity for increased Indian Health Service funding and the significance of contract support costs. “Cherokee Nation and other tribes have successfully litigated three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. These cases established the federal government is legally obligated to fully fund BIA and IHS contract support costs,” Baker said. “Last year, we negotiated a $29.5 million settlement with IHS to collect nearly a decade’s worth of underpaid contract support costs. Unlike the IHS claims, resolution to BIA’s case has been slow. We request that the Subcommittee encourage BIA to work harder to reach a settlement with tribes. We also request that the Subcommittee support the president’s fiscal year 2016 proposal to fully fund IHS and BIA contract support costs.” Baker also discussed the CN’s commitment to invest its own $100 million for new and improved health facilities, but said IHS needs to pay its share for staffing doctors and nurses. “We have invested more than $100 million from our casino profits to build, expand and renovate our health care facilities. We are the largest tribal health provider, seeing more than 1 million patient visits in 2014. Last year, I testified before this Subcommittee and requested the IHS Joint Venture Construction Program be reopened,” he said. “We are deeply grateful to Rep. Cole, Ranking Member McCollum, and members of the Subcommittee for your efforts that resulted in IHS reopening the program in fiscal year 2014. Cherokee Nation was selected as a Joint Venture project, and the tribe will fund construction of a new health care facility. We request that the Subcommittee ensure IHS meets its obligation by funding the staffing and operations for our Joint Venture facility.” Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) chaired the hearing. He was joined by ranking members Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.).
BY STAFF REPORTS
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