Law | National

Non-Indians refuse to pay rent to Colorado River Indian Tribes

A view of the reservation of the Colorado River Indian Tribes. Photo by Jessica Ledezma / Facebook

About 30 non-Indians refuse to pay the Colorado River Indian Tribes for using land that they say isn't a part of the reservation.

Bob Thweatt, one of the holdouts, hasn't paid rent on his tribal lease since 1996. He's grossing about $150,000 a year from a mobile home park he operates on the reservation but none of that is going to the the tribe.

"I will pack up and leave when someone takes me to court and gets a ruling for me to leave," The told The Los Angeles Times.

Roger French, another non-Indian holdout who refused to pay rent for 17 years, has received an eviction order that was upheld in the tribal court system. But rather than abide by it, he's suing tribal judges and tribal officials in federal court in hopes of excluding the disputed lands from the reservation.

"It's not tribal land, never has been," French told the paper.

French's stance has garnered support from the state of California. Attorney General Kamala Harris submitted an amicus brief that claims the disputed land isn't part of the reservation and doesn't fall under tribal jurisdiction.

The Interior Department has long contended that the western boundary lies at the high-water mark of the Colorado River as it existed in 1876. That would include the disputed lands.

French argues that the boundary is riparian in nature, meaning that it moves with the river. That would mean the disputed lands fall under California's jurisdiction.

"It's shockingly irresponsible for California to get involved in this case," Rebecca A. Loudbear, the tribe's acting attorney general, told the Times. "It is also hard to believe that a landlord-tenant dispute over a basic eviction has mushroomed into a federal court case that could have profound impacts on our way of life."

Get the Story:
Holdouts, tribes clash over border of Colorado River reservation (The Los Angeles Times 1/15)

Related Stories:
Colorado River Indian Tribes don't plan to remove 'illegal aliens' (1/12)
Petition asks CRIT to remove non-Indians from disputed territory (1/7)
California supports non-Indian man in reservation boundary case (12/16)

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