Montana Supreme Court Affirms Tribal Authority Over Probate of Reservation Fee Lands

The Great Falls Tribune reports: "Supreme Court ruling strengthens sovereignty in Indian Country."

The Montana Supreme Court has overturned a nearly 40-year-old precedent that has long been used by lower courts to determine jurisdiction in cases that stem from within tribal reservation borders.

In a 36-page ruling issued last month, the high court ruled unanimously that tribal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over the probate of 'fee lands'owned by tribal members within the boundaries of reservations.

Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Plains Commerce did not dictate a different result, namely state court authority over the probate of tribal member-owned fee lands within reservation boundaries.

Gabriel "Gabe" Galanda is a partner at Galanda Broadman PLLC, of Seattle, an American Indian majority-owned law firm.  He is an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Covelo, California.  He can be reached at 206.691.3631 or, or via