Mackinac Tribe v. Jewell, No. 15-5118 (D.C. Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
The Mackinac Tribe filed suit to compel the Secretary of the Interior to convene an election allowing the Tribe to organize under the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA), 25 U.S.C. 476(a). Although the Mackinac Tribe does not appear on the Secretary’s list of federally acknowledged tribes and has not been acknowledged through the Secretary’s Part 83 process, see 25 C.F.R. pt. 83, the group alleges it is federally recognized for IRA purposes because it is the historical successor to a tribe the federal government previously recognized via treaty. The district court found that the Mackinac Tribe failed to exhaust its administrative remedies by first seeking acknowledgment through the Part 83 process. As the district court did, the court reserved the question whether a group must be recognized to be eligible to organize under the IRA and whether that recognition must be marked by the group’s appearance on the Secretary’s list of federally recognized tribes. The court read the Tribe's complaint as seeking a writ of mandamus. The court declined the requested mandamus because review will be possible after the Mackinac Tribe has completed the Part 83 procedure. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment.