The U.S. Supreme Court will decide if the town of Pender in northeast Nebraska is part of the Omaha Indian Reservation.
The outcome will determine if the tribe can levy a liquor tax in the town.
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson says the issue is whether the Omahas’ original territory was changed in the late 1800s due to authorized land sales to non-tribal members.
“There’s over 125 years of history as to how that boundary has been recognized both between the Omaha tribe and the Nebraska residents in Pender,” Peterson says.
The justices will hear oral arguments Wednesday morning.
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals found the 1882 Act that ratified the Omaha tribal land sale did not reduce the reservation’s boundaries.
However, Peterson says government records show it was no longer considered part of the reservation after that sale.
“This type of de facto history is important in the analysis. Obviously, we’re going to try to see the best side as to why the Court chose to take our appeal, because they rarely take these appeals.”
In 2009, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) passed a resolution urging its member tribes to support the Omahas with amicus briefs and funding for its legal defense. Last year, the NCAI listed this as a key case that will affect all tribes.