NCAI Urges Nomination of Supreme Court Justice who Respects Tribal Governments

Published on Mar 04, 2016

NCAI Urges President to Nominate, and Senate to Consider, Supreme Court Justice who Respects the Tribal Governments under U.S. Constitution

The President and the United States Senate are facing important decisions in filling the Supreme Court vacancy following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Last week, the National Congress of American Indians adopted a resolution urging both the President and the Senate to move forward to nominate and consider a replacement. NCAI is the nation’s oldest and largest organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments, and the NCAI resolution #ECWS-16-004 reflects the consensus position of NCAI’s member tribes. NCAI President Brian Cladoosby urged action: “We see no reason to delay consideration and further politicize the Supreme Court. Instead, this opportunity should be seized to confirm a Justice who is familiar with western issues and respects the role of tribal governments under the Constitution, and treaties with the United States.”

The current makeup of the Supreme Court has become somewhat homogenous. Every Justice graduated from either Harvard or Yale and spent their careers in the elite legal institutions of the eastern corridor. But, the Supreme Court must interpret the law for the entire country, including the west and rural areas. Native Americans are affected by the federal courts to a greater degree than almost any other group in the country. Many issues of daily life on Native reservations are matters of federal statutes and federal common law.

As an example, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was very important to tribes because she is a westerner and on the bench she took federal Indian law seriously. She was pragmatic and restrained in her decisions regarding tribes, because she knows tribal governments and tribal citizens are not abstract legal principles. Tribes are functioning governments, recognized in the U.S. Constitution and are governing real people in important places. Many of the eastern Justices also lack experience and interest in public lands and natural resource issues that are critically important to the western United States. The NCAI resolution strongly encourages consideration of nominees with experience or interest in federal Indian law and who respect the role of tribal governments under the U.S. Constitution and treaties with the United States.


About The National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information visit 

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