The Onondaga Nation does not ordinarilary seek justice in the United States court system. The Onondaga Nation has their own method of deciding matters. There are times, although, when the court decisions affect the Onondaga Nation. Some of these decisions are listed below:
1832 Worchester v. Georgia, 31 US 515,
Under the Supremacy Clause (US Const., Art. VI, cl. 2) treaties are superior to any conflicting state laws or constitutional provisions; therefore treaties made by the United States are the “supreme law of the land”.
1899 Jones vs. Meeham 175 US 1,
In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that in treaties between the United States and Natives who were non-lettered (unable to read), that the understanding of the non-lettered people about the treaty takes president over the written word. Therefore, how the Onondaga elders understood the treaty takes precedence.
1946 Indian Claims Commission Act (25 USC § 70):
The United States attempts to pay off treaty agreements between the United States and the Haudenosaunee in one lump sum. All of the nations refused. Stating that as long as the annuities remain, we know that the treaties are still in use.
1966 Pierce v. State Tax Commission, 52 Misc. 10 (Sup. Ct., Onon. Co.); affirmed 29 AD 2d 124 (4th Dept. 1968):
The New York State Tax Department tried to collect taxes on a store located on the Onondaga Nation. The Court ruled that the tax department’s actions were illegal, invalid and unconstitutional as applied to the Onondagas.
1971 Onondaga vs. New York State Department of Transportation
The NYSDOT offered to purchase more land from the Onondagas. The Onondaga Nation refused and the people began peaceful protests preventing construction to begin. Judge James O’Donnell aided in ending the standoff by ruling that the Transportation Department does not have Eminent Domain on the Onondaga Nation.
1973 McClanahan v. Arizona State Tax Commission, 411 US 164
The courts ruled that states generally lack jurisdiction to tax Indians on Indian country. Because of these court cases, the Federal government wrote a letter to the State of New York that they cannot collect income taxes on Haudenosaunee lands.
1975 Shenandoah vs. New York State Health Department
The State Department of Health wanted to stop the dumping of trash on the Onondaga Nation. The court rules that the Department of Health as an agent of the State of New York, has no jurisdiction on the Onondaga Nation and cannot stop the dumping. (note: the Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs exercised their powers as a sovereign nation and stopped the dumping)
1976 Bryan v. Itasca County, 426 US 373
The Supreme Court ruled that States cannot collect income tax on an Indian’s wages within Indian Country that Indians right to be free of state property taxation.