A Win in Defending Tribal Sovereignty


Flag of Crown Nation

UPDATE March 11, 2022:

In a big win for the Tribe, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Crow tribal sovereignty in a March 11, 2022, decision in Big Horn County Electric Cooperative v. Alden Big Man, et al. From the decision , “In Big Horn County Electric Cooperative, Inc. v. Adams, 219 F.3d 944 (9th Cir. 2000), we determined that the BHCEC’s “voluntary provision of electrical services” on the Tribe’s reservation and its contracts with tribal members to provide electrical services created a consensual relationship, within the meaning of Montana. 219 F.3d at 951. … Put simply, the winter electric regulation conditions one aspect of the consensual relationship.”

February 8, 2022:

On Tuesday, the Crow Tribe, represented by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), defended its sovereignty in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The court heard online the oral arguments in Big Horn County Electric Cooperative v. Alden Big Man, et al.

Big Horn is the primary provider of electric energy and service to the Crow Reservation, located in southeastern Montana. In January 2012, the utility company disconnected service to Crow Tribal citizen Alden Big Man for non-payment on his account, allegedly without giving notice or obtaining approval as required by a Crow statute.

The Crow statute requires utility providers to give proper notice and obtain approval of the Crow Tribal Health Board before disconnecting service to elderly, indigent, and disabled residential customers during winter months. Like similar laws in place across the United States, the Crow Tribe’s statute seeks to protect vulnerable populations during the harsh winters. Big Horn argues that the Crow statute does not apply to its activities and conduct on the Reservation where it has operated for over 80 years.

“The Crow Tribe’s statute includes common and straightforward pre-disconnection provisions. The federal district court embraced the Tribe’s decision and right to apply the law to Big Horn, and we hope the court of appeals agrees,” said NARF Staff Attorney Melody McCoy.


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit archived the Feb. 8 live-online broadcast of the oral arguments in Big Horn County Electric Cooperative v. Alden Big Man, et al (above) at https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/video/?20220208/21-35223/.

Read More About Big Horn v. Big Man, et al

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