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By Lou Marzeles
Editor 

Court rules Glenwood is under Yakama jurisdiction

 

September 4, 2019

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RESIDENTS OF THE RESERVATION: People living in the Glenwood valley are now under the jurisdiction of the Yakama Nation, according to a court decision last Wednesday.

A battle over jurisdiction rights in Klickitat County's Tract D-which includes the town of Glenwood-appears to be over.

Last Wednesday the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington issued an order in Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation v. Klickitat County et al., affirming the reservation status of 121,465 acres within the southwestern corner of the Yakama Reservation, including Mt. Adams and the Glenwood Valley. That means the Yakama Nation has sole criminal jurisdiction in that area over tribal members, irrespective of any crimes they commit, barring those that necessitate involvement by the FBI.

"We are thankful that the Court listened to our ancestors' words and confirmed our rights to the entirety of the Yakama Reservation reserved in our Treaty of 1855," said Yakama Nation Tribal Council Chairman JoDe Goudy in a statement after the ruling. "The Yakama People always knew these lands to be within our reservation, and after more than 150 years of fighting, our rights have once again been reaffirmed."

Klickitat County has a different reaction. In a statement Friday, county Prosecuting Attorney David Quesnel said, "Klickitat County is obviously disappointed in the ruling regarding the status of Tract D. We believe it ignores the historical record and the settled expectations of the community and risks the safety, security, and well-being of the Glenwood valley. We are evaluating our options moving forward."

Few options remain. The last possible stop for legal action appears to be the U.S. Supreme Court, and given the expense involved for the county to take the matter there, that step will get a long and careful look.

The Yakama Nation ceded certain rights to more than 10,000,000 acres of land for the rights reserved in the Treaty of 1855, including the right to the exclusive use and benefit of the 1.4 million-acre Yakama Reservation. The Treaty included a tract of land south of Mt. Adams known as Tract D within the Reservation boundaries, which the United States depicted on a Treaty Map in 1855, but the map was lost in government files until 1930. Klickitat County argued at trial that the reservation boundaries were changed by Congress in 1904 based on an erroneous survey referenced in a surplus lands act passed while the Treaty Map was misplaced.

The trial judge did not agree. "Applying the canons of treaty construction, the Yakama Nation would have naturally understood the Treaty of 1855 to include Tract D within the Yakama Reservation," said Chief Judge Thomas Rice in Wednesday's order. "The 1904 Act did not change the Treaty boundaries of the Yakama Reservation and did not effectuate a diminishment of the Reservation."

The tribe still has at least one issue still facing it. In Wednesday's decision, the court also reiterated that the State of Washington retains concurrent criminal jurisdiction over crimes committed by Indians against non-Indians on fee lands within the Yakama Reservation despite the state's retrocession of jurisdiction within the Yakama Reservation back to the United States. "The Yakama Nation is considering its legal options in response to this jurisdictional decision," a tribe spokesperson said Wednesday.

 

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