Reclaiming Tribal Lands: Tribal Legal professional Assists with Pueblo of Jemez v. United States
Tuesday, July 12, 2022
By Latoya Lonelodge
Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Tribune
Newly enrolled Cheyenne and Arapaho citizen Christina West, an lawyer and accomplice with the Barnhouse and Keegan Solimon and West Indian Regulation agency, has devoted a lot of her life to working with tribes throughout the nation.
Based mostly out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, West’s regulation agency has been devoted to serving Native individuals, tribes and companies via the US addressing varied Indian regulation points. Since becoming a member of the regulation agency of Barnhouse and Keegan Solimon and West in 2016, West has been actively representing and been concerned within the case of the Pueblo of Jemez v. United States.
The case involving the Pueblo of Jemez, plaintiff, v. United States of America, defendant, and New Mexico Gasoline Firm, defendant in intervention, is searching for to get well title of conventional lands, a primary ever effort made by a tribe to get well land that has made it to trial. The case of Pueblo of Jemez v. United States is on enchantment to the Tenth Circuit Court docket of Appeals for the second time, with the primary enchantment to the Tenth Circuit ensuing within the resolution reported at 790 F.3d 1143 (tenth Cir. 2015).
The Pueblo, a federally acknowledged tribe situated 50 miles northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico, first filed go well with in 2012 in federal district courtroom beneath the Quiet Title Act (QTA) to hunt quiet title to some 95,000 acres, topic to a Spanish land grant known as the Baca Location No. 1 that’s situated throughout the lands of the Valles Caldera Nationwide Protect in New Mexico. The federal government filed a movement to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, concluding the Jemez Pueblo’s declare accrued previous to 1946 and was subsequently barred by the Indian Claims Fee’s (ICC) five-year statute of limitations.
The district courtroom granted the federal government’s movement to dismiss, concluding that it lacked material jurisdiction. It held the Jemez Pueblo had a declare towards the US that accrued as a matter of regulation earlier than 1946 for the taking of the lands, and with the district courtroom having discovered the Indian Claims Fee Act supplied treatment for the Pueblo’s declare, dismissed the claims as a result of the actions weren’t well timed filed and the US was immune from the go well with.
The Tenth Circuit concluded if the Pueblo holds extinguished aboriginal title to the lands, then no declare wanted to be offered to the ICC and the Pueblo can pursue its aboriginal title claims beneath the Quiet Title Act.
“I feel it’ll be fascinating, an vital half for different tribes throughout the nation is that it was a considerably novel declare and that it was land beforehand privately owned, arguably with out the Pueblo’s information after which the U.S. bought it to attempt to create a protect, which allowed the Pueblo to convey the declare beneath what they name a Quiet Title Act,” West stated.
West stated most tribes couldn’t convey land claims towards the U.S. due to the Indian Claims Fee being created.
“It supplied a slim time by which tribes might solely make so many harm claims however due to the historical past of this case passing to non-public house owners in the US, it allowed the tribe to convey this declare to attempt to really reclaim land,” West stated.
That authorized idea, West stated, was affirmed by the Tenth Circuit in 2016 that the tribe might pursue its declare.
“That’s type of breaking regulation just a little bit, if a tribe had been in an analogous state of affairs the place it was privately owned and the federal government purchases it for some motive, I feel tribes then have the power to convey a declare and attempt to really get again their land beneath the circumstances,” West stated.
The Jemez Pueblo’s ancestral aboriginal title allegedly included the Rio Jemez drainage and the Valles Caldera, by which the realm is thought to the Pueblo Jemez because the western Jemez homeland. The homeland contains land acknowledged within the case throughout the Valles Caldera Nationwide Protect and covers greater than 1,100 sq. miles in and across the Jemez Mountains.
In searching for their ancestral lands, the Jemez individuals have used and occupied the lands of the Valles Caldera Nationwide Protect and surrounding areas within the Jemez Mountains since 1200 CE. Descendants of the Jemez date again greater than 800 years to have been predominant occupants of the land of the Jemez Mountains, together with the Valles Caldera Nationwide Protect and the Rio Jemez watershed.
When the Tenth Circuit affirmed the case, West’s involvement with the case started shortly after becoming a member of the agency of Barnhouse and Keegan Solimon and West.
“I used to be introduced on the case to assist put together it for trial and lead the trial workforce, we had a 21-day trial that was extraordinarily lengthy with tons of witnesses again in 2018,” West stated.
“I primarily dealt with the consultants within the case at trial after which the district courtroom as I prefer to say, we needed to win 10 points to win the land again and we received 9 out of 10,” West stated.
West stated the case was within the lower-level tribal courtroom and when the US instantly appealed with out having any trial to ask whether or not they might get the Tribe to convey its declare in a sure method, it took a number of years earlier than the Tenth Circuit affirmed. The case was despatched again all the way down to tribal courtroom to be tried in 2016, across the identical time West began on the agency.
“The difficulty we misplaced on was that the trial courtroom choose discovered that in an effort to show our declare, we needed to show that the tribe has repeatedly and solely used the land for a very long time and the courtroom questioned whether or not we solely used it. And that was the one situation we misplaced on,” West stated.
The difficulty regarding unique use of the land, amongst just a few others, has been the first situation on enchantment. In the course of the lengthy briefing, West just lately supplied verbal arguments earlier than the Tenth Circuit.
“The Tenth Circuit we hope will situation a call perhaps in two months after which its fairly doable that both aspect will resolve to enchantment it to the US Supreme Court docket,” West stated.
The case relying on the ultimate resolution might affect tribes throughout the U.S. in reclaiming ancestral lands. West stated it offers tribes one other avenue to attempt to get well conventional lands which is vital.
“I feel the opposite piece of this litigation and its most likely just like different aboriginal title claims is the nationwide parks usually contain land that is essential and has utmost ceremonial functions to tribes, it accommodates their most sacred areas,” West stated.
The Pueblo of Jemez, West stated shouldn’t be a rich tribe and has restricted sources.
“I actually respect the Jemez individuals and deciding to pursue this declare, there’s many prayers and ideas which have gone into this case so to me its only a rallying cry for the tribes, a time to reclaim their sacred lands,” West stated.
“If the Pueblo had been to lose, I might hope there can be additional respect and management given to tribes over their conventional makes use of of those sacred lands,” West stated.
In actively engaged on the case all through the years, West stated it’s been an honor to work with the individuals of Jemez.
“I respect them, they’ve their points too and in working collectively, total I feel I implicated their sincerity and their intent to honor and worth their traditions and this land,” West stated.
Christina’s Cheyenne identify is Hoy’eh Yoy’eh Yūh’. She is the daughter of Jim and Elaine West, who presently reside in Tijeras, N.M., and her sister is Karin Weekes. Christina’s father Jim West is a member of the Cheyenne Package Fox Society. She is the granddaughter of W. Richard West Sr., a widely known Cheyenne artist who taught artwork for a few years at Bacone School in Muskogee, Okla., the place her father grew up. She is the great-granddaughter of Rena Flying Coyote and the great-great granddaughter of Thunder Bull and Large Stomach Lady. Christina’s uncle is W. Richard West Jr., who’s a member of the Cheyenne Chiefs Society and was the founding director of the Nationwide Museum of American Indian.
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