Ute Indian Tribe Successfully Restores Over 40 Acres of Land at Ute Plaza to Trust Status

Ute Plaza Supermarket is an anchor store on the property recently put into trust.

FT. DUCHESNE, Utah — On March 21, 2019, the Acting Superintendent, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior (“BIA”), issued a notice of determination to approve the fee-to-trust application to acquire real property in trust for the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation (“Tribe”), Fort Duchesne, Utah. The property is known as the Ute Plaza Property and is located within the exterior boundaries of the Reservation. The property is a former Indian allotment (the mineral estate is in federal trust), located at 7526/7548 East Highway 40, Fort Duchesne, Utah 84026, and contains 40.00 acres, more or less.

Pursuant to 25 C.F.R. § 151.12(b), the BIA provided copies of this decision to all parties that were notified of (or commented on) the application, with notice of their administrative appeal rights. In accordance with the regulations set forth in 43 C.F.R. § 4.310-4.340, any appeals of the BIA decision to approve the proposed acquisition had to be made thirty (30) days following the notice of decision, which ended on April 24, 2019. No appeals were received and therefore, the BIA will take such land into trust.

The Tribe historically resided in an area which included parts of present day Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. Due to pressures from settlers in Utah and Colorado, the Uintah, White River and Uncompahgre (Tabequache) bands of Utes were removed to lands reserved by the United States for the Utes under the treaties of December 30, 1849, 9 Stat. 984; October 7, 1863, 13 Stat. 637; and March 2, 1868, 15 Stat. 619; and an Act of Congress on June 15, 1880, 21 Stat. 199. On October 3, 1861 President Lincoln issued an executive order formally setting apart and reserving the Uintah Valley Reservation. Congress ratified the creation of the Uintah Valley Reservation, by Act of Congress on May 5, 1864, 13 Stat. 63. On January 5, 1882, President Arthur issued an executive order establishing the Uncompahgre Reservation in Utah pursuant to the Act of Congress on June 15, 1880, 21 Stat. 199, after determining that there were no suitable agricultural lands available in Colorado. Following the passage of the allotment act, lands previously set aside for the Tribe were allotted and opened for homesteading. This created checkerboard ownership and jurisdiction on and near the Reservation. The Business Committee is committed to correcting this wrong and currently has several fee-to-trust applications pending before BIA. With the approval of the Ute Plaza Property, the Business Committee plans to fully pursue the restoration of lands previously set aside for the Tribe to trust status.

The Tribe plans to continue utilizing the Ute Plaza Property to promote its economic endeavors. The Ute Plaza Property is currently developed as a retail commercial center which includes the Ute Plaza Supermarket, the Ute Petroleum C-Store and the Kahpeeh Kah-ah Ute Coffee House; the center has been in operation for 18 years and is considered a “centerpiece” of the Tribe’s economic development. The Business Committee issued the following statement with respect to the successful fee-to-trust application: “The transfer of the Ute Plaza Property into trust will ensure the Tribe’s full governmental control and regulation of its economic commercial ‘hotspot’ for generations to come. This in turn promotes the Tribe’s economic self-sufficiency, a primary purpose of the Indian Reorganization Act.” The Business Committee expressly thanks the BIA Uintah and Ouray Agency Acting Superintendent Antonio Pingree and Office staff, including Pamela Martin-Cuch, Michael Johnson, John Gates and Stan Webb, for their assistance, support and diligence in processing and approving the first ever fee-to-trust application for the Tribe for the Ute Plaza Property.

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