810 F.2d 1471 (9th Cir. 1987), 86-3642, Cook Inlet Native Ass'n v. Bowen

Docket Nº:86-3642.
Citation:810 F.2d 1471
Party Name:COOK INLET NATIVE ASSOCIATION, Kenaitze Indian Tribe, and the Native Village of Tyonek, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Dr. Otis R. BOWEN, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donald P. Hodel, Secretary of the Interior, Cook Inlet Region, Inc., Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc., and Southcentral Foundation Inc., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:February 20, 1987
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
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Page 1471

810 F.2d 1471 (9th Cir. 1987)

COOK INLET NATIVE ASSOCIATION, Kenaitze Indian Tribe, and

the Native Village of Tyonek, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

Dr. Otis R. BOWEN, Secretary of Health and Human Services,

Donald P. Hodel, Secretary of the Interior, Cook Inlet

Region, Inc., Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc., and

Southcentral Foundation Inc., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 86-3642.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

February 20, 1987

Argued and Submitted Jan. 8, 1987.

Page 1472

Bertram E. Hirsch, Floral Park, N.Y., David S. Case, Anchorage, Alaska, for plaintiffs-appellants.

Robert L. Klarquist, Washington, D.C., Ruth E. Fischer, Los Angeles, Cal., for defendants-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Alaska.

Before WRIGHT, FARRIS and BEEZER, Circuit Judges.

EUGENE A. WRIGHT, Circuit Judge:

On appeal from a summary judgment this court is asked to determine the meaning of "Indian tribe" contained in the Indian Self-Determination Act. 1 Cook Inlet Native Association, Inc. (CINA) challenges the district court's judgment upholding the administrative interpretation of the definition. The agencies construe the term to include Alaska Native regional business corporations, but to exclude Native regional non-profit corporations such as CINA.

Interpretation of the term is critical to the administration of the Self-Determination Act. Upon request of an Indian tribe, the Secretaries of the Interior and of Health and Human Services are directed to contract with or make grants to a designated tribal organization for services that would otherwise be provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) or the Indian Health Service (IHS). 25 U.S.C. Secs. 450f(a), 450g(a), 450h(a).

The Self-Determination Act defines "Indian tribe" 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 [43 U.S.C.A. Sec. 1601, et seq.] 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. Sec. 450b(b). In interpreting the definition, the Secretaries have recognized the defendant/appellee, Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI) as a tribe, but not the plaintiff/appellant, CINA.

CINA is an Alaska non-profit corporation, established in 1965 to promote the physical, economic, and social well-being of Alaska natives in the Anchorage area. Prior to the passage of the Self-Determination

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Act, CINA had contracted with the BIA and IHS to provide health and education assistance programs. After the Self-Determination Act's enactment, the agencies determined that CINA was not a tribe within the definition in the Self-Determination Act. They contracted with CINA only as the designated tribal organization in the municipality.

CIRI is an Alaska regional profit corporation established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (Settlement Act), 43 U.S.C. Sec. 1601, et seq. Since 1976, CIRI has been recognized as an Indian tribe by the BIA and IHS for purposes of the Self-Determination Act. As such, it has designated the tribal organizations eligible to receive grants and to contract with the agencies.

For several years, CIRI directed the agencies to contract with CINA to provide for some programs. In 1983, CIRI informed CINA that it would no longer be designated as the tribal organization. CIRI formed two other non-profit corporations, Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc. (CITC) and South Central Foundation, Inc. (SCF). These were designated as tribal organizations and they contracted with the BIA and IHS.

CINA and other plaintiffs sued the Secretaries of the Interior and of Health and Human Services, CIRI, CITC, and SCF, alleging that CIRI is not an Indian tribe under the Self-Determination Act. The district court gave summary judgment for the defendants. On appeal, CINA contends that the court and the agencies interpreted the statute erroneously. It argues that Alaska native regional non-profit corporations, and not regional profit corporations, are "tribes." Alternatively, it maintains that both profit and non-profit corporations are "Indian tribes."

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The court's grant of summary judgment and its interpretation of the statute are reviewed de novo. Squaxin Island Tribe v. State of Washington, 781 F.2d 715, 718 (9th Cir.1986). If the intent of Congress as evidenced in the statute is clear, this court must give effect to that intent. Young v. Community Nutrition Institute, --- U.S. ----, 106 S.Ct. 2360, 2364, 90 L.Ed.2d 959 (1986); Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 842-43, 104 S.Ct. 2778, 2781-82, 81 L.Ed.2d 694, reh'g denied, 468 U.S. 1227, 105 S.Ct. 28, 82 L.Ed.2d 921 (1984).

The construction of the statute by the agency charged with its administration is entitled to substantial deference. Young, 106 S.Ct. at 2365; Aleknagik Natives Limited v. United States, 806 F.2d 924, 926-27 (9th Cir.1986). The court defers unless that interpretation is inconsistent with the statute or would frustrate Congressional policy. Chemical Manufacturers Association v. Natural Resources Defense Council, 470 U.S. 116, 125-26, 105 S.Ct. 1102, 1107-08, 84 L.Ed.2d 90 (1985). Regardless of whether it is the only or the better interpretation, a reasonable interpretation must be upheld. Young, 106 S.Ct. at 2365; Trinity County Public Utilities District v. Harrington, 781 F.2d 163, 165 (9th Cir.1986).

II. REGIONAL CORPORATIONS AS "TRIBES"

CINA argues that the Act should be construed to mean that CINA, not CIRI, is an Indian tribe. CINA asserts that CIRI cannot meet the eligibility requirement included in the definition of Indian tribe, 25 U.S.C. Sec. 450b(b). It also argues that recognizing CIRI as a tribe subverts the intent of Congress and the purposes and policies underlying the Self-Determination Act. These arguments fail.

A. Statutory Language

CINA does not dispute that CIRI was established pursuant to Settlement Act Sec. 1606. As such, CIRI is a "regional corporation" for purposes of Settlement Act Sec. 1602(g), 2 and is included in the Self-Determination

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Act definition of a tribe. 3 25 U.S.C. Sec. 450b(b).

In the Settlement Act CINA is described as a "Native association." 43 U.S.C. Sec. 1606(a)(6). However, the native associations are identified in the Settlement Act only to determine geographical areas in which regional corporations will be formed. The trial court correctly found that the reference in section 1606(a) does not establish CINA as a regional corporation for purposes of the Settlement Act or Self-Determination Act.

Regional corporations appear to be included specifically in the Self-Determination Act definition, yet CINA contends they are excluded by the eligibility clause. CINA asserts that the clause modifies "regional corporation" and therefore, to be a tribe, the corporation must "be 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. Sec. 450b(b). CIRI is not eligible for special programs because of its status.

However, the statute should not be interpreted to render one part inoperative, Mountain States Tel. and Tel. Co. v. Pueblo of Santa Ana, 472 U.S. 237, 105 S.Ct. 2587, 2595, 86 L.Ed.2d 168 (1985); United States v. Handy, 761 F.2d 1279, 1280 (9th Cir.1985), or to defy common sense. Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. American Guaranty Life Insurance Co., 722 F.2d 1498, 1500 (9th Cir.1984). The words of a statute should be harmonized internally and with each other to the extent possible. Weinberger v. Hynson, Westcott & Dunning, Inc., 412 U.S. 609, 631-33, 93 S.Ct. 2469, 2484-85, 37 L.Ed.2d 207 (1973). As Judge Holland noted, CINA illogically construes the language to mandate a result in one clause, only to preclude that result in the next clause.

  1. Agency Interpretation

In May of 1976, the Assistant Solicitor for Indian Affairs interpreted the statute for the BIA. Because regional profit corporations are expressly mentioned in the definition, he stated that customary rules of construction support their recognition as tribes under the Self-Determination Act. To avoid rendering their mention superfluous, he interpreted the eligibility language to modify only the words "any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community ..." Memorandum of Charles Soller, May 21, 1976. This interpretation was adopted by IHS. Letter of Duke McCloud, May 25, 1977.

The record indicates that the...

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