Ute Tribe calls on state to end 'constant attacks' on its sovereignty

Veterans at the Northern Ute Tribe 4th of July Celebration. Photo from Ute Bulletin

The Ute Tribe is hoping a new federal court ruling will finally put an end to the "constant attacks' on its people and its sovereignty.

The tribe filed a lawsuit in 1975 in order to prevent authorities in Utah from unlawfully prosecuting its members. The complaint spawned a long-running battle in which the state claimed the Uintah and Ouray Reservation had been diminished by Congress.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded otherwise in an 18-page decision issued on Tuesday. But that wasn't the first time that's happened -- the state has been repeatedly told that it lacks jurisdiction in Indian Country throughout the course of the litigation.

"After 40 years of unnecessary litigation, the time has come for the state of Utah and counties and cities within the Uintah Basin to end these constant attacks upon the Ute Indian Tribe and we hope they will no longer seek to bypass or disregard federal law and our rights as a people to govern ourselves and maintain our jurisdiction over our own lands," the tribal business committee said in a statement after the court decision.

Despite the victory, the tribe reiterated its desire to work with authorities on a "government-to- government basis." To that end, agreements were signed with the state and two counties in June that address mutual aid, referrals of tribal members to tribal court for misdemeanor infractions and other jurisdictional matters.

“What the tribe is seeking is to continue to live in peace as a tribe on its lands," Chairman Shaun Chapoose said in the June 17 issue of the Ute Bulletin. "The tribe will never give in on this issue, which has then led to this costly and combative litigation between the tribe and the state."

But a statement in the August 12 Ute Bulletin notes that two counties have not joined the agreements. And the tribe pointed out that the agreements won't take effect until a consent decree can be entered in court that prevents the state parties "from ever again challenging the Ute Indian Tribe’s jurisdiction and reservation boundaries or from prosecuting Tribal members in State Court for on-reservation criminal offenses."

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Ute Tribe v. Myton.

10th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Ute Tribe v. Myton (August 9, 2016)

Earlier 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Ute Tribe v. Utah (June 16, 2015)

U.S. Supreme Court Decision:
Nebraska v. Parker (March 22, 2016)

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