Federal District Court Declares Klickitat County Cannot Regulate Yakama Nation Fireworks Sales

Publsiehd April 25, 2019

YAKAMA NATION AGENCY, YAKAMA RESERVATION — On Wednesday, April 24, 2019, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington issued an order in Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation v. Klickitat County et al., No. 1:18-cv-03110, declaring that Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer unlawfully issued cease and desist notices against Yakama Nation-licensed and Yakama Member-owned firework stands in 2018.

“Today the Court upheld the Yakama Nation’s inherent sovereign rights reserved by our ancestors in the Treaty of 1855,” said Yakama Nation Tribal Council Chairman JoDe Goudy. “The Yakama Nation has safely regulated our Member-owned firework stands for decades without state intrusion, and with today’s Order we can look forward to another safe and successful fireworks season this Summer.”

The United States holds land outside the Yakama Reservation within Klickitat County in trust for the benefit of the Yakama Nation and its enrolled Members. These off-reservation trust allotments are considered ‘Indian Country’ for jurisdictional purposes, within which the State cannot exercise civil regulatory authority over enrolled Yakama Members. The Yakama Nation exercises its authority by licensing and regulating Yakama Members who operate firework stands on off-reservation trust allotments. On June 26, 2018, Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer issued cease and desist notices under Washington State fireworks laws to five Yakama Member owned firework stands operating under Yakama Nation licenses within off-reservation trust allotments. The Yakama Nation sued Sheriff Songer and Klickitat County in federal court challenging this unlawful assertion of civil regulatory jurisdiction, and obtained a temporary restraining order before seeking a final judgment.

In ruling for the Yakama Nation, the Court held that Klickitat County “may not enforce Washington’s fireworks laws against Yakama Members on the Yakama Reservation and Yakama Trust Allotments through its criminal Public Law 280 jurisdiction.”

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