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Judge backs Colorado River Indian Tribes in jurisdiction case

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

A non-Indian man is subject to the jurisdiction of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, a federal judge ruled last week.

Roger French leases land from the tribe but has refused to pay rent for 17 years. He claims the land in question is not within reservation boundaries.

But French agreed to the tribe's jurisdiction when he signed the lease in 1983 and when he paid the full amount of rent for the first 10 years, Judge John Tuchi ruled. The decision means the tribe's court can move forward with eviction proceedings.

"[T]he court concludes that plaintiff is precluded by the terms of the permit and by his conduct from asserting to this court in the instant federal action that the lot he leased from CRIT was not within the boundaries of the reservation to resist a determination that the tribal court had jurisdiction over the action brought by CRIT to evict plaintiff and for damages," Tuchi wrote in the 18-page decision.

Tuchi, however, did not reach the boundary question raised by French. Although he acknowledged that the Bureau of Indian Affairs appears to be acting lawfully by overseeing leases in the disputed area, he said the issue "remains unresolved."

For that reason, Tuchi refused to accept a brief from the state of California that attempted to argue that the disputed area lies outside of the reservation boundaries.

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.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, French v. Starr.

Get the Story:
Federal judge sides with Colorado River Indian Tribes over California boundary dispute (The Havasu News 2/17)

Related Stories:
Non-Indians refuse to pay rent to Colorado River Indian Tribes (01/15)
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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