JoDe Goudy, the Yakama Nation Tribal Council chairman, was turned away from his tribe’s hearing before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, with security telling him that he could not enter wearing the full tribal regalia.
In a video Goudy posted to his Facebook page, a security guard can be heard telling him that “the court is not to be subject to outside influence.” The guard also told him “the headdress itself will not be allowed inside the courtroom because it draws attention to you.” Goudy told Indianz.com that being asked to remove the headdress because it might draw attention felt “dehumanizing.”
In a statement to the Yakima Herald, Goudy said: “Yakama Nation treaty case is on trial at the Supreme Court today. I cannot wear my traditional regalia before the Supreme Court for the reasons that were stated, but I refuse to take off my traditional regalia.”
The Yakama Tribe is currently fighting a case first brought by the Washington state Department of Licensing in 2013. The department has argued that the owner of Cougar Den, a gas station on tribal lands, failed to pay state fuel taxes on fuel brought to the reservation from out-of-state. The tribe has countered by saying that the Yakama Treaty of 1855 allows tribal members to bypass these state taxes. Both the Yakima County Superior Court and the Washington Supreme Court ruled in favor of the tribe, so the state department took it to the nation’s highest court.
In the opening arguments on Tuesday, the Supreme Court Justices, including recently-appointed Brett Kavanaugh, pushed back against Noah Purcell, Washington’s solicitor general, on his argument that the tax is not exempted by the treaty. According to the court’s transcription record of the oral arguments:
JUSTICE KAVANAUGH: But they were told at the time of the treaty that you could go on the roads to take your things to market, as if you would be treated off-reservation, as if you were still on the reservation.
MR. PURCELL: The first part they were told, Your Honor. The second part they were not. That is a misquote that the other side is using from the—the— the-
JUSTICE KAVANAUGH: But the effect - the effect was that, in taking your goods to market, which was the promise, in exchange for a huge area of land, an area of land the size of the State of Maryland that was given up by the tribe, that you could take your goods to market. And this burdens, as Justice Kagan said, this burdens substantially their ability to take goods to market.
As part of the 1855 deal, the tribe ceded a portion of land larger than the size of Maryland in exchange for the ability to gain the right to access the open American market. In practice, this allowed them the opportunity to travel freely on public highways.
The arguments will continue tomorrow.