Montana Politics

For Tribes, Important, and Interesting, SCOTUS Case

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The Supreme Court recently decided that, regardless of congresses fiscal concerns, the government must actually pay the tribes what they contractually owe them.

This is important because it gives all tribes, not just those involved in the lawsuit, some level of insurance that their contracts with the Federal government, at least those already fulfilled, will not fall by the wayside, even in the face of a potential Republican austerity regime.

It is interesting because of the way the court split. It was the usual 5-4, but the dissenters were Roberts, Alito, Breyer and Ginsburg. Sotomayor wrote the opinion of the court, and was joined by Scalia, Thomas, Kagan, and Kennedy, far from the classic split. Notable that Obama’s nominees were both in favor, Bush’s both on the opposite side. Perhaps presidents have gotten more efficient at vetting their candidates: fewer surprises with the justices chosen by the last two. Either way, very likely this result will have a positive impact on Montana, since we have some of the largest tribes and reservations in the country, who do extensive business with the federal government.

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The Polish Wolf

2 Comments

  • Positive impact?

    Dissect this news story, PW.

    S&K Aerospace, a wholly owned subsidiary of S&K Technologies, which is owned by the S&K Tribes gets a near billion dollar contract with the Air Force. Pretty cool, huh? Think of all those thousands of great high tech jobs on the rez, economic development along the 93 strip.

    Well, no:

    “[S&K Aerospace VP] Schaan said the contract could create 24 to 36 new jobs at S&K Aerospace, although most would be located outside Montana, nearer where the contract’s work is carried out. ”

    Huh, a couple dozen jobs created out of state. Maybe a bookkeeper or two in the tribe’s offices to track a billion dollar contract? Who’s profiting here? Something is seriously wrong.

    You like that the tribes are getting sucked into being nothing more than pass-through slush funders for the military-industrial complex??? Contracts and corruption like this are just another form of assimilation of native peoples and and attack on tribal sovereignty.

    And people wonder why there is a robust tribal sovereignty and cultural movements underway on the Flathead rez and elsewhere.

    • JC –

      1. Did you read any of the links? The contracts in question are for governing functions. I don’t know if this case would necessarily impact the contracts you’re talking about. Though I admit federal contracts that are passed through the tribes do not have ideal impacts, that’s not really what the case is about. The Navajo tribe was contracted to services normally carried out by the federal government – which I think we can agree empowers the tribe and defends their sovereignty. Montana tribes are now unlikely to face a similar situation in seeking payment of contracts signed by the Federal government.
      2. Even in a case like the one about which you speak, this is an important case. What happens if SK subcontracts out a major project, and then the Federal government cuts the funding, leaving the tribal corporation with a shortfall in revenue, but presumably with the same amount owed to their subcontractors?
      3. I like how you criticize SK tribes for going out and getting these contracts, while at the same time quoting from a news source funded (to the tune of nearly a hundred thousand dollars a year) by the SK tribe, which has received 14 million dollars from the S&K Aerospace, running contracts akin to this one.

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