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Utah court blocks state jurisdiction on hunting

The state of Utah doesn't have jurisdiction over hunting crimes in Indian Country, the Utah Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday.

In a case involving two mixed-blood Utes who were accused of violating state hunting laws, the court said the Ute Tribe has exclusive jurisdiction. "We conclude that the crimes occurred in Indian Country governed by the Ute Tribe. Because the Ute Tribe is the victim, the State does not have jurisdiction," the unanimous decision stated.

In finding that the Ute Tribe was the victim, the court skipped over the question of whether Rick Reber, 53, and his son Colton, 16, are legally Indian. Both are descendants of the Uintah Band, whose federal status was terminated in the 1950s.

Along with the Uintahs, the Whiteriver Bands and Uncompahgre Band also lost their federal status but the court held that Congress has never terminated their reservations. The Rebers' alleged crime occurred on Uncompahgre land.

"The original Uncompahgre Reservation is therefore considered Indian Country, which falls under the Ute Tribe's civil and criminal jurisdiction," the decision stated.

Get the Story:
Appeals court overturns ruling of poaching in 'Indian Country' (The Salt Lake Tribune 11/11)

Get the Decision:
State v. Reber (November 10, 2005)

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Court to hear terminated Ute hunting rights case (09/08)
Federal courts try to decide who is legally Indian (08/24)
Unrecognized tribe loses aboriginal rights case (1/27)
Termination policy still affects Utah tribes (8/7)
Non-recognized tribe wins round in suit (4/16)
Utah says tribe not real (11/8)