Law | National

Yakama Nation reasserts authority after decades under PL280

Yakama Nation Chairman JoDe Goudy speaks at the National Congress of American Indians annual convention in San Diego, California, on October 19, 2015. Photo by Indianz.Com

The Yakama Nation of Washington celebrated on Monday after the Bureau of Indian Affairs officially ended decades of state jurisdiction on the reservation.

In 1963, the state assumed authority over tribal members under Public Law 280. The tribe long protested the incursion but it took decades of work at the tribal, state and federal level to overturn it.

"Termination-era policies like Public Law 280 should be rolled back," Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn, the head of the BIA, said at the National Congress of American Indians annual convention on Monday.

Tribal leaders came to NCAI's meeting in San Diego, California, to thank Washburn for approving the retrocession of the state's role on the 1.1 million-acre reservation. The tribe already doubled the size of its police force in preparation of handling more cases involving its people.

"We know that there's very hard work that's in front of us," Chairman JoDe Goudy said at the conference.

The tribe presented Washburn with an eagle feather and sang a prayer song for him after the announcement was made. Washburn was visibly moved and urged others in Indian Country who are "suffering under Public Law 280" to consider taking similar steps to remove state jurisdiction.

"The Yakama Nation is really leading the way," Washburn said.

The BIA's decision does not affect the tribe's jurisdiction over non-Indians on the reservation. It also does not disturb the state's authority over non-Indians either.

The retrocession will become effective on the Yakama Nation on April 19, 2016.

Federal Register Notice:
Acceptance of Retrocession of Jurisdiction for the Yakama Nation (October 20, 2015)

Relevant Documents:
Press Release: Assistant Secretary Washburn Accepts Washington State’s Retrocession of its Civil and Criminal Authority Over the Yakama Nation | Letter to Yakama Nation | Yakama Nation Statement

Additional Coverage:
Yakamas gain authority over some civil, criminal cases (The Yakima Herald-Republic 10/20)
Yakama Nation to have full authority over civil, criminal proceedings on tribal land (KIMA 10/19)

Related Stories:
National Congress of American Indians in California for big meet (10/19)

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