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By Phil Ferolito
Yakima Herald-Republic 

Tribe sues county over arrest

 

November 8, 2017



A dispute between the Yakama Nation and Klickitat County over who has criminal authority over tribal members in an unincorporated area northwest of Goldendale may finally be determined in federal court.

The Yakama Nation filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Friday seeking a permanent injunction against Klickitat County authorities, prohibiting them from arresting and prosecuting tribal members for crimes in the area known as Tract D southeast of Mount Adams.

The lawsuit stems from the arrest and conviction of a 17-year-old Yakama boy accused of second-degree rape of a child in the disputed area.

The teen was arrested near Glenwood on Sept. 27, and pleaded guilty to two counts of second-

degree rape of a child; he’s serving a sentence ranging from seven to 18 months in a juvenile prison on the west side of the state, said Klickitat County Prosecuting Attorney David Quesnel.

In the lawsuit, the tribe says the county lacks criminal authority over tribal members in the area and that the case should have been referred to tribal and federal authorities.

“We will not allow the county to exercise unlawful jurisdiction over Yakama members within the Yakama Reservation,” Tribal Council Vice Chairman Delano Saluskin said in a news release.

But Quesnel said the tribe didn’t intervene in the case during prosecution and says there’s little that can be done now that the case has concluded.

“The juvenile accepted our jurisdiction and I don’t see how the tribe can undo that now,” he said. “They were not part of the proceeding.”

Although the dispute over whether the 96,000-acre area is part of the reservation isn’t new, it came into sharper focus last year when the state and federal government returned to the Yakamas — a sovereign government — much civil and criminal authority over tribal members on the reservation, including three state incorporated cities there: Toppenish, Wapato and Harrah.

At that time, Klickitat County sued the U.S. Department of Interior, arguing that the area is not on the reservation and seeking the federal government to establish the reservation boundary as such.

But a federal judge dismissed the case, saying the county lacked standing to ask the federal government to make a boundary decision.

Quesnel said the ruling left the issue unsolved.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” he said.

Although the area is described as part of the reservation in the 1855 treaty, it was left out of later land surveys and became inhabited by white settlers as a result.

The lawsuit aims to establish tribal authority over tribal members in that area and accuses the county of violating the tribe’s sovereignty and treaty.

“Defendants do not have criminal jurisdiction over enrolled Yakama Members for actions arising within the Yakama Reservation, including but not limited to the jurisdiction to arrest, detain, prosecute, adjudicate, convict, and sentence, such enrolled Yakama members within the exterior boundaries of the Yakama Reservation, including Tract D,” the lawsuit said.

Quesnel said a case may arise in the future that would lead to a clearly defined boundary, but not this one.

“I’d be shocked if this is the vehicle to do that, but we’ll see,” he said. “I think they missed their opportunity on this case.”

 

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