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This week in Tribal Business News, Native attorneys weigh on the historic lack of Indigenous voices as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the Brackeen case, three Michigan tribes partner on a construction and real estate joint venture; and a gaming expert reflects on California’s recent vote in favor of sovereignty in tribal gaming. 

SOVEREIGNTY IN THE BALANCE: Lack of Native voices, little familiarity with ICWA law on display in Brackeen case
In a federal case that many advocates in Indian Country consider to be the most significant threat to sovereignty in modern times, not a single Native voice presented as part of oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. At issue is the fate of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a 43-year-old federal law designed to keep children who are tribal members with Native families. The law came about as a response to hundreds of years of tribes being decimated by the forced separation of children and families, in which children were often placed in residential boarding schools and subject to horrific and sometimes deadly abuse. 

Even in defeat, California sports betting proposals reflect power of tribal sovereignty, gaming expert says
California voters rebuffed a pair of ballot proposals in the November election that would have legalized sports betting and defined how it would be offered in the state, but even those losses marked progress on the issue for tribal operators. That’s according to Dr. Steven Light, professor and co-director of the University of North Dakota Institute for the Study of Tribal Gaming Law and Policy, who said the proceedings revealed the strength of tribal sovereignty as well as a nascent and growing appetite for sports betting in the state.

3 Michigan tribes form JV to pursue construction projects across Midwest 
Three tribal holding companies have partnered to create a new, jointly-owned real estate, construction, and property management company. The formation of Aki Construction LLC brings together Odawa Economic Affairs Holding Corporation, which manages non-gaming investments for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians; Mno-Bmadsen, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians’ non-gaming company; and Gun Lake Investments, the non-gaming investment arm of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, or Gun Lake Tribe. 

As well, the USDA recently announced a wave of partnerships and funding for food sovereignty projects; Native Voices Rising is giving $3.5 million to 114 Native-led advocacy groups; and the United Tribes of Michigan elects a new president

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