Sunday, October 11, 2009

Identity in Poospatuck

Gristede's Foods, Inc. v. Unkechauge Nation, -- F.Supp.2d --, 2009 WL 3235181 (E.D.N.Y.)

A relatively rare intersection of false advertising law and Indian law. Gristede's is suing various parties for violation of NY's cigarette tax laws. The Unkechauge Nation and its Chief moved for dismissal on sovereign immunity grounds. The court determined that, for purposes of sovereign immunity, the Unkechauge Nation was in fact a tribe ("a body of Indians of the same or a similar race, united in a community under one leadership or government, and inhabiting a particular though sometimes ill-defined territory," Montoya v. United States, 180 U.S. 261, 266 (1901)), and thus dismissed the tribe and its chief in his official capacity, but not the Poospatuck Smoke Shop and Trading Post or the chief in his individual capacity (in which he owned the Smoke Shop).

Reference: James Clifford, Identity in Mashpee, on the legal construction of Indian tribal identity.

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