WASHINGTON, D.C. - A tribal leader from Washington state was denied access to a U.S. Supreme Court hearing Tuesday for wearing a traditional headdress.
The Yakama Nation reports that Chairman JoDe Goudy was denied entry to a Supreme Court hearing in a case involving the tribe unless he removed the headdress. Goudy refused to do so.
A live video posted to Goudy's Facebook page Tuesday shows Goudy talking to one of the security guards outside the hearing.
Tribal members said that in the video, the guard explains why the chairman cannot wear the headdress to the hearing, saying the court cannot be subject to outside influence.
The case, Washington State Department of Licensing vs. Cougar Den, concerns whether the Yakama Nation has the right to avoid state taxes on off-reservation commercial activities - including gasoline sales - that make use of public highways, under the Yakama Treaty of 1855.
The case has been working its way up through the courts since 2013, when the state Department of Licensing filed a lawsuit against the Cougar Den, a gas station in White Swan.
The department has claimed Kip Ramsey, who owns the store, brought out-of-state fuel onto the Yakama reservation without paying the state's fuel tax, then sold it for about 50 cents less than other nearby gas stations.
But the attorney for the Cougar Den argues that because of the1855 treaty, the Yakama Nation doesn’t have to pay gasoline taxes, because the treaty allows tribal members free travel. The state of Washington counters it isn’t a tax on travel, it’s a tax on product.
The case has divided tribal members, with some saying they shouldn't have to pay the state gasoline taxes and others saying it is their civic responsibility to pay the taxes.
"I don’t think they have any business telling any tribal members what to do. This is a sovereign nation and they live over there. We live over here," said Yakama Tribal member Russell K. Jim. He says that given all of the suffering his ancestors have gone through, the state needs to back off.
But tribal member Julius Dearte says that’s not fair.
"Being Native myself, I believe everyone should pay the tax, because those taxes are utilized to give them the roads that they are using and they may be taking for granted, or not knowing where those benefits come from," he said.
Goudy arrived at the Supreme Court hearing in traditional tribal regalia but was stopped by the security guard.
Goudy's Facebook post reads, "Denied access to view the Yakama Nation Supreme Court case .... it’s a beautiful day my relatives ... keep a prayer in your hearts for all of our Nations, Lands, Waters, Peoples, and Relations ... Atauwishamush."
Instead of removing his headdress, Goudy peacefully left the courtroom and went outside to pray, according to the news release.