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Ute Indian Tribe Sues State of Utah and Local Counties for Violations of Tribal Jurisdiction

On April 17, 2013, the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, through the elected Tribal Business Committee filed a Complaint against the State Of Utah, Uintah and Duchesne Counties and the Cities of Roosevelt, Myton and Duchesne to reopen the federal court suit titled Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation, Utah v. State of Utah, Duchesne, County, Roosevelt City, Duchesne City, and Uintah County. The case is in the United States District Court for the State of Utah, case number 75-cv-00408. The Tribe had originally filed the case in 1975, asking the federal courts to determine the boundaries of the Tribe’s Reservations. After a complex, and costly twenty-five year court battle (including two appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and two petitions asking the United States Supreme Court to hear the matter), the federal courts had resolved all of the major issues involved in the case, and after the parties then agreed to resolution of remaining minor issues, the case was dismissed in 2000.

The Tribe’s filings on April 17, 2013 include a motion to reopen the 1975 case, a new suit against the state and surrounding reservation counties and cities, and motions for injunctions against further violations of the federal court orders by the State, counties, and cities.

Weighing heavily on the Tribe’s decision to ask the federal court to again look at the matter was the fact that once before, in the early 1980s, after the federal court had resolved all of the Reservation boundary issues in favor of the Tribe and consistent with the Tribe’s understanding of its treaties and federal law, the State used the same tactic of going into its own State courts to attempt to overturn the federal court decisions. The initial federal court decision in favor of the Tribe is found at 716 F.2d 1298 (10th Cir. 1983), and that decision became final when the United States Supreme Court denied a petition for certiorari filed by the State. It was then that the State went into its own courts, and federal courts later determined that the Tribe had waited too long before the Tribe asked the federal courts to stop the State court suit. The result was a devastating decision taking part of the Tribe’s Reservation. 114 F.3d 1513, 10th Cir. 1997). “We are not going to let the State pull the same trick on us twice” Chairwoman Cuch stated. “This time we are ready for them, and we fully expect that the federal court will very quickly order the State to comply with the existing federal court orders.”

In explaining the Tribe’s decision to file the lawsuit, the Ute Tribal Business Committee issued the following statement: “From almost the moment they signed the final agreements in our case in 2000, the State and counties have been challenging the federal court’s decisions In the past few years, the State and particularly the local counties have escalated these ongoing violations of federal law, sending their police onto our Reservation to harass and unlawfully arrest and detain our Tribal members, demonstrating that the State and counties do not respect the federal court decision or the Tribe’s sovereign rights, and there are numerous affidavits and other documents which the Tribe has now submitted to the federal courts demonstrating this. When the Tribe’s Business Committee found out that the counties had filed documents in their own court arguing that their courts should ignore the results of the federal court litigation, we felt we were left with no other choice but to file a lawsuit against them—we had to go back to the federal courts and make the State and counties adhere to Federal law. Although the Tribe was extremely disappointed by parts of the prior federal courts’ rulings, it has abided by the federal court decisions. The Tribe expected the State and counties to do the same, even if it did not like some of the other parts of the federal court’s decisions. The State of Utah’s actions in these cases demonstrate a manifest disregard and disrespect for both the jurisdictional authority of the Tribe as well as our sovereign authority, they are trying to disestablish our Reservation and take away our homeland, which we have maintained since time immemorial. Moreover, their filing is consistent with the State’s routine practice of attempting to flaunt and disregard the Federal law of our Nation. The Tribe has called upon the United States to intervene in this case, pursuant to its trust responsibility, to protect the Federal and Tribal interests at stake.

About the Ute Indian Tribe-The Ute Indian Tribe resides on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in northeastern Utah. Three bands of Utes comprise the Ute Indian Tribe: the Whiteriver Band, the Uncompahgre Band and the Uintah Band. The Tribe has a membership of more than three thousand individuals, with over half living on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. The Ute Indian Tribe operates its own tribal government and oversees approximately 1.3 million acres of trust land which contains significant oil and gas deposits. The Tribal Business Committee is the governing council of the Tribe.


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Editor: The Ute Indian Tribe is a d/b/a Federal Corporation, it is not a Tribe as a tribe is defined. The entity bringing this Suit is an organization of Ute allottees operating under Section 16 of the IRA. The Section 17 Tribe is Shoshone Indians of Utah aka Uinta Band that was seperated from the Northern Ute Tribe of allottes in 1954 and holds the treaty rights to the Uinta Valley & Ouray Reservations ... the subject of this case. Contact me if you want to know the entire story.