Jason Salsman/Multimedia Producer
Group seeking citizenship recognition follows up to MCN, DOI filings
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In late October, attorneys representing the Muscogee Creek Indian Freedmen Band, Inc. filed oppositions to motions to dismiss their case for Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizenship, filed earlier in the month by counsel for MCN Principal Chief James Floyd and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.
The Floyd party had asserted that the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where the case is filed lacks personal jurisdiction over Floyd because he has not had any contacts with the court since he has only had limited specific business in D.C.
The response states Floyd has contact with the jurisdiction including efforts in D.C. to exclude the Freedmen from Muscogee (Creek) citizenship and that MCIFB have alleged significant events that have occurred in the jurisdiction, which make the court an appropriate venue.
The Floyd party asserted in their motion that the Ex Parte Young U.S. Supreme Court precedent applies to where he does not have authority over MCN constitutional matters such as citizenship.
The response states the MCN Constitution vests Floyd with the ultimate responsibility to enforce MCN law.
The Floyd party had also stated that MCIFB failed to show facts to support their claims that they have been denied enrollment in MCN, and made the conclusion applying would be futile because two alleged Freedmen were denied citizenship a decade ago.
The response states exhaustion of tribal options is not required because the case also involves claims against the U.S. DOI secretary who does not fall under the jurisdiction of tribal courts.
It also states even if exhaustion applied, MCIFB have proven that seeking a remedy through the MCN would be futile based on past efforts at citizenship through the MCN Citizenship Board and MCN court system.
The Zinke party’s principal argument in their motion to dismiss centers on the federal statute of limitations for a civil complaint, which is six years and states the complaint centers on citizenship determinations made in current MCN Constitution approved by U.S. DOI in 1979.
Their response to Zinke states the federal defendants seek ‘to avoid an uncomfortable truth,’ the plaintiffs argue, that the Treaty of 1866 is still binding federal law between the U.S. and MCN.
The plaintiffs’ 25-page document outlining an argument of opposition to dismissal centers on two key points: that the 2015 election of Floyd was illegal, as was the 2016 disbursement of federal funds to the MCN knowing they would not inure to the benefit of the Creek Freedmen.
The MCIFB contends that the election was an illegal action that violated the Treaty of 1866, and thus federal law, because it was conducted and approved with the Creek Freedmen barred from participating.
The plaintiffs also allege that the federal defendants have disbursed federal funds to MCN with knowledge that Creek Freedmen will be excluded from said funds.
They argue that under Seminole Nation v. United States, the federal defendants are liable for a breach of trust where it distributes funds to a tribe in full knowledge that those funds will be misappropriated.
The opposition concludes that the federal defendants have an obligation to ensure that a tribe governing itself has the right to do so but ‘within the limits on its authority set by treaty, statute and the U.S. and tribal constitutions.’
They conclude that because the defendants failed to do so in 2015 with the election, and again in 2016 with the disbursement of federal funds, that both actions fall well within the six-year statute of limitations, giving the U.S. District Court jurisdiction over the plaintiffs claims and necessitating a denial of the motion to dismiss.