Federal District Court affirms Yakama Reservation’s boundaries
On Wednesday, August 28, 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. 1:17-cv-03192, affirming the reservation status of 121,465 acres within the southwestern corner of the Yakama Reservation, including Mt. Adams and the Glenwood Valley.
“We are thankful that the Court listened to our ancestors’ words and confirmed our rights to the entirety of the Yakama Reservation reserved in our Treaty of 1855,” said Yakama Nation Tribal Council Chairman JoDe Goudy. “The Yakama People always knew these lands to be within our Reservation, and after more than 150 years of fighting our rights have once again been re- affirmed.”
The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation ceded certain rights to more than 10,000,000 acres of land for the rights reserved in the Treaty of 1855, including the right to the exclusive use and benefit of the 1.4 million-acre Yakama Reservation. The Treaty includes a tract of land south of Mt. Adams known as ‘Tract D’ within the Reservation boundaries, which the United States depicted on a Treaty Map in 1855, but the map was lost in government files until 1930. Klickitat County argued at trial that the Reservation Boundaries were changed by Congress in 1904 based on an erroneous survey referenced in a surplus lands act passed while the Treaty Map was misplaced.
“Applying the canons of treaty construction, the Yakama Nation would have naturally understood the Treaty of 1855 to include Tract D within the Yakama Reservation,” said Chief Judge Thomas Rice in today’s Order. “The 1904 Act did not change the Treaty boundaries of the Yakama Reservation and did not effectuate a diminishment of the Reservation.”
Consistent with a recent decision in Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation v. City of Toppenish et al., No. 1:18-CV-03190 (Feb. 22, 2019), the Court also reiterated that the State of Washington retains concurrent criminal jurisdiction over crimes committed by Indians against non-Indians on fee lands within the Yakama Reservation despite the State’s retrocession of jurisdiction within the Yakama Reservation back to the United States. The Yakama Nation is considering its legal options in response to this jurisdictional decisions.