Cayuga Nation v. Tanner

Citation6 F.4th 361
Decision Date27 July 2021
Docket NumberDocket No. 20-1310-cv,August Term, 2020
Parties CAYUGA NATION, Clint Halftown, Timothy Twoguns, Gary Wheeler, Donald Emerson, Michael Barringer, Richard Lynch, B.J. Radford, John Does 8-20, Plaintiffs-Counter-Defendants-Appellees, v. Howard TANNER, Village of Union Springs Code Enforcement Officer, in his official capacity, Bud Shattuck, Village of Union Springs Mayor, in his official capacity, Chad Hayden, Village of Union Springs Attorney, in his official capacity, Board of Trustees of the Village of Union Springs, New York, and The Village of Union Springs, New York, Defendants-Counter-Plaintiffs-Appellants.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)

David W. DeBruin (Zachary C. Schauf, on the brief), Jenner & Block LLP, New York, NY, for Plaintiffs-Counter-Defendants-Appellees.

David H. Tennant, The Law Office of David Tennant PLLC, Rochester, NY, for Defendants-Counter-Plaintiffs-Appellants.

Before: Kearse, Lynch, and Chin, Circuit Judges.

Gerard E. Lynch, Circuit Judge:

This case marks the latest installment of a decades-long dispute between the Cayuga Nation (the "Nation"), a federally recognized Indian tribe, and the Village of Union Springs, New York (the "Village"), concerning the Nation's ownership and use of a parcel of land located at 271 Cayuga Street (the "Parcel"), which sits within the bounds of both the Village and the Cayugas’ historic reservation. In 2003, the Nation sued the Village seeking declaratory and injunctive relief on the theory that the reunification of the Nation's aboriginal title to the Parcel with the fee title revived the Nation's sovereignty over it so as to preclude the Village's application of its laws to regulate construction occurring there. After initially obtaining a judgment in its favor and while the Village's appeal of that judgment was pending before this Court, the Nation opened a gambling parlor, Lakeside Entertainment ("Lakeside"), on the Parcel. Thereafter, however, we remanded the case to the district court in light of the Supreme Court's decision in City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation , 544 U.S. 197, 221, 125 S.Ct. 1478, 161 L.Ed.2d 386 (2005), which had been decided while the Village's appeal was pending. On remand, the district court vacated its prior judgment, entered judgment for the Village, and dismissed the Nation's complaint. Following that judgment, the Nation shuttered Lakeside.

At least for a time. In July 2013, much to the Village's chagrin (and in apparent violation of its gambling laws), Lakeside reopened for business, precipitating another round of litigation. Again, the Nation seeks to preclude the application of Village law, but on a different, and narrower, basis than before. Rather than claiming broad immunity based on its assertion of inherent sovereignty, the Nation now argues that Indian Gaming Regulatory Act ("IGRA") preempts the Village's anti-gambling laws. The Village contends that, in light of the prior litigation, preclusion doctrines bar the federal courts from considering the Nation's latest theory and that, in any case, IGRA does not apply to the Parcel because it does not qualify as "Indian lands," which IGRA defines as "all lands within the limits of any Indian reservation." 25 U.S.C. § 2703(4)(A).

After considering the partiescross-motions for summary judgment, the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York (David N. Hurd, J. ) agreed with the Nation. So do we. We therefore affirm the judgment of the district court.


The history of relations between and among the federal and state governments (and their respective predecessors) and the indigenous peoples of North America, and the changing legal regimes that have governed those relations, is far too complex and lengthy a topic to be described in detail within the confines of a single judicial opinion. Nevertheless, because it is difficult to understand the issues presented in this appeal without at least some appreciation of the context underlying the dispute, we begin with a brief, and necessarily incomplete, recitation of that history, drawing primarily from statutory history as well as prior decisions of the Supreme Court and of this Court. We then turn to the operative facts of this case, as established in the summary judgment record.

A. Historical Background

Prior to European settlement of North America, the Nation, one of the six tribes of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (also known as the Iroquois Nations),1 lived on lands now comprising, inter alia , central New York. In February 1789, weeks before government under the Constitution began, members of the Nation entered into a treaty with New York whereby the Nation ceded all of its land to the State save for approximately 64,000 acres (the "Cayuga Reservation"). See Cayuga Indian Nation of N.Y. v. Pataki , 413 F.3d 266, 268 (2d Cir. 2005). In 1794, amidst rising federal concern over the potential for rekindled hostilities between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and the young United States, the federal government and the Confederacy concluded the Treaty of Canandaigua; as is relevant here, that treaty formally recognized the Cayuga Reservation and provided that "the United States will never claim the same, nor disturb them or either of the Six Nations ... in the free use and enjoyment thereof." Acts of Nov. 11, 1794, art. II, 7 Stat. 44. The federal government today recognizes the Nation as the same entity with which it concluded the Treaty of Canandaigua.

The promises in the Treaty of Canandaigua were backed up, at least in theory, by the provisions of the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act, commonly referred to as the Nonintercourse Act. Passed in 1790 pursuant to Congress's authority under the Indian Commerce Clause of the Constitution, the Nonintercourse Act provided that "no sale of lands made by any Indians, or any nation or tribe of Indians within the United States, shall be valid to any person or persons, or to any state ... unless the same shall be made and duly executed at some public treaty, held under the authority of the United States." Acts of July 22, 1790, ch. 33, § 4, 1 Stat. 137, 138.2 Despite these statutory protections for native lands, however, New York purchased the entirety of the Cayuga Reservation in two transactions conducted in 1795 and 1807. See Pataki , 413 F.3d at 269. The United States neither ratified nor interfered with these transactions. See id. As is important for present purposes, however, the Village concedes that no Act of Congress has disestablished the Cayuga Reservation in the intervening centuries. See, e.g. , McGirt v. Oklahoma , ––– U.S. ––––, 140 S. Ct. 2452, 2462, 207 L.Ed.2d 985 (2020) ("To determine whether a tribe continues to hold a reservation, there is only one place we may look: the Acts of Congress.").

The Nonintercourse Act and the Treaty of Canandaigua were representative of federal Indian policy in the early days of the United States, commonly referred to as the "treaty era." In broad terms, the treaty era was characterized by the establishment of treaties whereby a tribe would cede much of its territory while retaining a small reservation over which the tribe would, at least in theory, be permitted to exercise sovereignty without state interference. See generally F. Cohen, Handbook of Federal Indian Law § 1.03 (2012) ("Handbook").3 That policy persisted until the latter half of the 19th century and formally came to an end with the passage of the Indian Appropriations Act of 1871. Acts of Mar. 3, 1871, ch. 120, 16 Stat. 544. That act, though affirming then-existing treaty obligations, provided that "[n]o Indian nation or tribe within the territory of the United States shall be acknowledged or recognized as an independent nation, tribe, or power with whom the United States may contract by treaty." Id. at 566, codified at 25 U.S.C. § 71.

The conclusion of the treaty era marked the beginning of the allotment era, which saw a shift in federal policy from forced segregation to forced assimilation of Native Americans, culminating in the passage of the General Allotment Act of 1887, commonly referred to as the Dawes Act after its sponsor, then-Senator Henry Dawes of Massachusetts. Acts of Feb. 8, 1887, ch. 119, 24 Stat. 388; see also Handbook § 1.04. The Dawes Act was intended to facilitate "the eventual assimilation of the Indian population and the gradual extinction of Indian reservations and Indian titles." Montana v. United States , 450 U.S. 544, 559 n.9, 101 S.Ct. 1245, 67 L.Ed.2d 493 (1981) (cleaned up). To that end, the Dawes Act authorized the President to divide existing reservation lands into "allotments" for individual tribal members, "whenever in his opinion any reservation or any part thereof of such Indians is advantageous for agricultural and grazing purposes." Dawes Act § 1, 24 Stat. at 388. The allotments were to be held in trust for allottees by the United States for 25 years, after which alienable title would be conveyed to the allottees in fee simple. Dawes Act § 5, 24 Stat. at 389; see also United States v. Pelican , 232 U.S. 442, 446, 34 S.Ct. 396, 58 L.Ed. 676 (1914). The Dawes Act also permitted reservation land not allotted to tribal members to be sold to the federal government, which, in turn would sell the land to non-Indian settlers. Dawes Act § 5, 24 Stat. 389-90.

In 1906, Congress amended the Dawes Act to permit the Secretary of the Interior to "at any time ... cause to be issued to [an] allottee a patent in fee simple, and thereafter all restrictions as to sale, incumbrance, or taxation of said land shall be removed." Acts of May 8, 1906, ch. 2348, 34 Stat. 183. Thereafter, Congress passed a series of acts concerning the allotment and division of surplus lands on individual reservations. See, e.g. , Solem v. Bartlett , 465 U.S. 463, 469-70 n.10, 104 S.Ct. 1161, 79 L.Ed.2d 443 (1984) (discussing specific surplus lands acts). The net effect of these efforts was to...

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