Navajos Can Prosecute Means

A court has ruled that Russell Means, former candidate for the Libertarian Presidential nomination and frequent candidate for other posts, can in fact be prosecuted by the Navajo Nation for an incident that occurred on their lands. Means himself is not a Navajo, which seems to be the cause for all of the controversy.

Affirming the sovereign powers of American Indian tribes, a U.S. appeals court on Tuesday ruled the Navajo tribe may prosecute American Indian activist Russell Means even though he is not one of its members.

Means, a member of the Oglala-Sioux Tribe of Indians and one the best known American Indian activists, had sought to prevent the Navajo Nation from criminally prosecuting him for an incident on the Navajo Reservation.

The Navajo Nation wants to press misdemeanor charges against Means for allegedly threatening and battering his then-father-in-law and allegedly threatening a Navajo Indian at its reservation, which covers 25,000 square miles (64,750 km sq) in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.

Means challenged the authority of a Navajo tribal court, saying it did not have jurisdiction over him because he is not a member of the Navajo Nation.

Means also said his rights as a U.S. citizen would be threatened if he were prosecuted by a tribe that discriminated against him by barring him from joining it because of his ancestry.

The San Francisco-based U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said it found Means’ equal-protection argument forceful. But writing for a three-judge panel, Judge Andrew Kleinfeld held that Congress by amending the Indian Civil Rights Act in 1990 allowed tribes to “exercise inherent sovereign judicial power in criminal cases against nonmember Indians for crimes committed on the tribe’s reservation.”

Means’ lawyer, John Trebon of Flagstaff, Arizona, said he is inclined to request the full appeals court reconsider the case.

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