Yellen v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation
Are Alaska Native regional and village corporations established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act “Indian Tribes” for purposes of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act?Advocates
- Matthew Guarnieri, for the Petitioner
- Paul D. Clement, for the Petitioners
- Jeffrey S. Rasmussen, for the Respondents
The question presented is whether Alaska Native corporations (ANCs) qualify as “Indian tribes” under Title V of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), making them eligible for funding designated for tribal governments to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. A unanimous panel of the D.C. Circuit concluded that no ANC has been federally recognized, and thus no ANC qualifies for Title V funding. If the petitioners prevail, the decision would permit entities other than recognized tribes to direct the federal government to engage with them in programs whose very purpose is to foster tribal self-government.
Title V of the CARES Act borrows the definition of “Indian tribe” from the Indian Self-Determination and Education Act of 1975 (ISDA), which the ISDA defines as:
any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act [ANCSA], which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.
25 U.S.C. 5304(e) (citation omitted).
The D.C. Circuit held that the ANCs do not satisfy the recognition clause. Congress explicitly declared tribes eligible for the special programs and services provided to Indians according them federal recognition and declared them no longer eligible when divesting them of that status. No ANC is presently federally recognized.Yellen v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation on Oyez: https://www.oyez.org/cases/2020/20-543