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Blue Legs v. United States Bureau of Indian Affairs
United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
867 F.2d 1094 (1989)
The Oglala Sioux Tribe (the tribe) (defendant) operated several garbage dumps on its reservation. The United States Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) (defendant) and the Indian Health Service (IHS) (defendant) operated a hospital and other facilities on the reservation. Taylor Wallace Blue Legs (plaintiff) and Margaret Jenkins (plaintiff), who were members of the tribe and residents of the reservation, brought suit against the tribe, the BIA, the IHS, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in federal district court, alleging that the dump sites were not in compliance with federal environmental law. The court found that the dump sites were lacking in fencing, sanitary trenches, dirt coverings, and general supervision. The court also found that the BIA and IHS had transported waste to the dump sites. The court held that the tribe, the BIA, and the IHS were responsible for bringing the sites into compliance. (The EPA was dismissed from the action.) The tribe appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, arguing both that it was immune from suit and that Blue Legs and Jenkins were obligated to exhaust all legal remedies in tribal court before bringing the case to the federal court system. The tribe further contended that it was not responsible for the sites. The BIA and the IHS also appealed, asserting that the tribe was solely responsible for the sites.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Heaney, J.)
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