Federal District Court Affirms State’s Unlawful Seizure of Concurrent Jurisdiction within Yakama Land

Yakama Naiton Tribal Council Chairman JoDe Goudy. Native News Online photo by Levi Rickert

Published February 27, 2019

YAKAMA, AGENCY, YAKAMA RESERVATION — On Friday, February 22, 2019, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington issued an order denying the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation’s (“Yakama Nation”) request for a permanent injunction in Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation v. City of Toppenish, et al., No. 1:18-cv-03190. The decision considered the scope of the State of Washington’s criminal jurisdiction within the Yakama Reservation following the United States’ resumption of such jurisdiction in 2016. If the order stands, the State of Washington will maintain concurrent criminal jurisdiction over crimes committed by Indians against non-Indians on fee lands within the Yakama Reservation.

“While the decision does not change the Yakama Nation’s jurisdiction in any way, we are disappointed that the United States is endorsing the State’s unilateral seizure of concurrent jurisdiction within Yakama lands without the Yakama Nation’s free, prior, and informed consent,” said Yakama Nation Tribal Council Chairman JoDe Goudy. “We have the most complicated jurisdictional framework in the United States within our Treaty-reserved lands, and this decision makes it all the more complex.”

The Yakama Nation exercises criminal jurisdiction over Native Peoples within the Yakama Reservation pursuant to its inherent sovereign rights reserved in the Treaty of 1855, 12 Stat. 951. In 1963, the State of Washington acted under Public Law 83-280 to assume certain forms of federal civil and criminal jurisdiction over Native Peoples within Yakama lands, over the Yakama Nation’s strong objections and an unsuccessful challenge to the United States Supreme Court. In 2014, Governor Jay Inslee issued Proclamation 14-01 returning most of this Public Law 83-280 jurisdiction back to the United States, but shortly thereafter Governor Inslee sent the United States a letter asking for jurisdiction over Yakama Members on fee lands within the Yakama Reservation for crimes against non-Indians. The Obama Administration rejected Governor Inslee’s request, but the Trump Administration is attempting to undermine that decision.

“We are considering our legal options, but in the meantime we will continue working with federal, state, and local law enforcement in the interest of public safety throughout our lands and territory,” said Chairman JoDe Goudy.



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  1. Helen Nowlin 11 months ago
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