857 F.3d 1101 (10th Cir. 2017), 16-2050, Public Service Company of New Mexico v. Barboan
|Citation:||857 F.3d 1101|
|Opinion Judge:||PHILLIPS, Circuit Judge.|
|Party Name:||PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY OF NEW MEXICO, a New Mexico corporation, Plaintiff - Appellant, v. LORRAINE BARBOAN, a/k/a, Larene H. Barboan; BENJAMIN HOUSE, also known as, BENNIE HOUSE; ANNIE H. SORRELL, also known as, ANNA H. SORRELL; MARY ROSE HOUSE, also known as, MARY R. HOUSE; DOROTHY HOUSE, also known as, DOROTHY W. HOUSE; LAURA H. LAWRENCE,...|
|Attorney:||Kirk R. Allen (Stephen B. Waller, with him on the briefs), Miller Stratvert P.A., Albuquerque, New Mexico, for Plaintiff-Appellant. Paul Spruhan, Assistant Attorney General (Ethel Branch, Attorney General, with him on the brief), Navajo Nation Department of Justice, Window Rock, Arizona, for Nava...|
|Judge Panel:||Before BACHARACH, PHILLIPS, and McHUGH, Circuit Judges.|
|Case Date:||May 26, 2017|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit|
Unable to win the consent of all necessary landowners, a public utility company contended it had a statutory right to condemn a right-of-way on two parcels of land in New Mexico. Because federal law did not permit condemnation of tribal land, the Navajo Nation’s ownership of undivided fractional interests in the parcels presented a problem for the company. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district... (see full summary)
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Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico. (D.C. No. 1:15-CV-00501-JAP-CG).
Kirk R. Allen (Stephen B. Waller, with him on the briefs), Miller Stratvert P.A., Albuquerque, New Mexico, for Plaintiff-Appellant.
Paul Spruhan, Assistant Attorney General (Ethel Branch, Attorney General, with him on the brief), Navajo Nation Department of Justice, Window Rock, Arizona, for Navajo Nation, Defendant-Appellee.
Jeffrey S. Beelaert (John C. Cruden, Assistant Attorney General, James C. Kilbourne, William B. Lazarus, and Mary Gabrielle Sprague, Attorneys, with him on the brief), U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for the United States, Defendant-Appellee.
Zackeree S. Kelin (Michael M. Mulder, The Law Offices of Michael M. Mulder, Evanston, Illinois, with him on the brief), Davis Kelin Law Firm LLC, Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the Individual Allottees, Defendants-Appellees.
Clint Russell and Stratton Taylor, Taylor, Foster, Mallett, Downs Ramsey & Russell, Claremore, Oklahoma, filed an amicus brief for GPA Midstream Association, in support of Plaintiff-Appellant.
Jennifer H. Weddle, Troy A. Eid, Harriet McConnell, and Laura E. Jones, Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Denver, Colorado, for Ute Mountain Ute Tribe; John Dossett, National Congress of American Indians, Embassy of Trial Nations, Washington, D.C.; Dan Rey-Bear, Rey-Bear McLaughlin, LLP, Spokane, Washington, for Pueblo of Laguna; Naomi Stacy and Dan Hester, for Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Pendleton, Oregon, Amici Curiae.
Deana M. Bennett and Emil J. Kiehne, Modrall Sperling Roehl Harris & Sisk, PA, Albuquerque, New Mexico, filed an amicus brief for Transwestern Pipeline Company, LLC, in support of Plaintiff-Appellant.
Before BACHARACH, PHILLIPS, and McHUGH, Circuit Judges.
PHILLIPS, Circuit Judge.
Unable to win the consent of all necessary landowners, a public utility company now contends that it has a statutory right to condemn a right-of-way on two parcels of land in New Mexico. Because federal law does not permit condemnation of tribal land, the Navajo Nation's ownership of undivided fractional interests in the parcels presents a problem for the company. We affirm the district court's dismissal of the condemnation action against the two land parcels in which the Navajo Nation holds an interest.
No one can feign surprise to learn that the United States government's treatment of the original inhabitants of this country has not been a model of justice. The government spent much of the nineteenth century emptying the eastern part of the country of Indians and sending them west. See Choctaw Nation v. Oklahoma, 397 U.S. 620, 623-26, 90 S.Ct. 1328, 25 L.Ed.2d 615 (1970). Then, when settlers caught up with the tribes in the west, the government sought to confine those tribes, and other tribes native to the west, ever more tightly onto reservations. See, e.g., Williams v. Lee, 358 U.S. 217, 221-23, 79 S.Ct. 269, 3 L.Ed.2d 251 (1959). Much tragedy and bloodshed ensued.
In the late nineteenth century, after the government had largely segregated Indians from the rest of society, Congress changed course. But the new course still harmed Indian tribes and their members. Instead of excluding tribal members from American society while permitting them some autonomy on the reservations, Congress tried to force tribes to assimilate into American society, minus much of their autonomy. Congress carved reservations into allotments and assigned the land parcels to tribal members--surplus lands were made available to white settlers. So began the Allotment Era. " The objectives of allotment were simple and clear cut: to extinguish tribal sovereignty, erase reservation boundaries, and force the assimilation of Indians into the society at large." Cty. of Yakima v. Confederated Tribes & Bands of Yakima Indian Nation, 502 U.S. 251, 254, 112 S.Ct. 683, 116 L.Ed.2d 687 (1992). The Allotment Era " was fueled in part by the belief that individualized farming would speed the Indians' assimilation into American society and in part by the continuing demand for new lands for the waves of homesteaders moving West." Solem v. Bartlett, 465 U.S. 463, 466, 104 S.Ct. 1161, 79 L.Ed.2d 443 (1984).
Congress began allotting land one tribe at a time and allowed Indians to sell the land as soon as they received it. Cty. of Yakima, 502 U.S. at 254. Tribal members began to lose their allotted lands in hasty and even fraudulent transactions. Id. In 1887, Congress passed the General Allotment Act, commonly known as the Dawes Act, which allowed the President to apply the allotment process to most tribal lands across the country, without tribal consent. Id. But as a check against the rapid post-allotment loss of Indian land, Congress also mandated that the federal government would hold Indian-allotted land in trust for twenty-five years, after which time it would issue a fee patent to the allottee or his heirs. Id.
Despite this attempted protection, " [t]he policy of allotment of Indian lands quickly
proved disastrous for the Indians." Hodel v. Irving, 481 U.S. 704, 707, 107 S.Ct. 2076, 95 L.Ed.2d 668 (1987). As allotments spread throughout the country, Indians continued to lose land--by the time the Allotment Era ended in 1934, as much as two-thirds of allotted lands had passed out of Indian ownership. Felix S. Cohen, Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law § 1.04 (Nell Jessup Newton, et al. eds., 2012 ed.). Even the twenty-five-year trust protection did serious harm: " parcels became splintered into multiple undivided interests in land, with some parcels having hundreds . . . of owners. Because the land was held in trust and often could not be alienated or...
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