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United States v. Uintah Valley Shoshone Tribe

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

January 9, 2020

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee/ Cross Appellant,
v.
UINTAH VALLEY SHOSHONE TRIBE; DORA VAN; RAMONA HARRIS; LEO LeBARON; and others who are in active concert with the foregoing, Defendants - Appellants/ Cross Appellees.

          APPEALS FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF UTAH (D.C. NO. 2:17-CV-01140-BSJ)

          Michael J. Rock, Michael J Rock, PLLC, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellants/Cross-Appellees.

          Jared C. Bennett, Assistant United States Attorney (John W. Huber, United States Attorney, with him on the briefs), Office of the United States Attorney, Salt Lake City, Utah, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

          Before TYMKOVICH, Chief Judge, MURPHY, and CARSON, Circuit Judges.

          TYMKOVICH, Chief Judge.

         The United States sought to enjoin the Uintah Valley Shoshone Tribe and several individual members from selling hunting and fishing licenses that authorized members to take wildlife from the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. The Uintah Valley Shoshone Tribe is not a federally recognized Indian tribe, but it nonetheless claims to have tribal rights, including hunting and fishing rights, related to the Reservation.

         The district court held the Uintah Valley Shoshone Tribe has no authority to issue licenses. The court, however, declined to issue a permanent injunction prohibiting the issuance of future licenses against both the individual defendants and the Tribe. We agree with the district court that the Uintah Valley Shoshone Tribe lacks authority to issue hunting and fishing licenses, and we find the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to issue a permanent injunction.

         I. Background

         The Uintah and Ouray Reservation is located in northeastern Utah and is the largest Indian reservation inhabited by members of the Ute Tribe. The Ute Indians were originally composed of many bands dwelling across the state, each with its own identity, and once occupied nearly half of the land comprising present-day Utah. Floyd A. O'Neil & Kathryn L. MacKay, A History of the Uintah-Ouray Ute Lands, 2 (1978). In 1861, President Lincoln established the Uintah Valley Reservation in the Territory of Utah, which became a permanent reservation in 1864, and the tribal bands were to be consolidated within the reservation.

         After the Uintah Valley Reservation was established, the United States attempted treaty negotiations with the various Indian bands living on the Reservation. Gustive O. Larson, Uintah Dream: The Ute Treaty-Spanish Fork, 1865, 14 BYU Stud. Q. 291, 363 (1974). The chiefs of the bands of Indians resisted the terms of the initial treaty draft in an effort to keep their land, but after a series of private negotiations, they relented. The Spanish Fork Treaty, which surrendered certain rights of Indians and reserved others, was sent to the Senate in 1866 where it waited for ratification. In 1869, the new Commissioner of Indian Affairs recommended the treaty not be ratified in hopes of making a better treaty. The Senate, therefore, adopted a resolution that it did not advise and consent to the treaty's ratification. But even without the ratification of the Spanish Fork Treaty, different bands of Indians settled on the Uintah Reservation and became known as the Uintah Indians. See Uintah and White River Band of Ute Indians v. United States, 152 F.Supp. 953, 954-55 (Ct. Cl. 1957).

         A presidential Executive Order of January 5, 1882, established the Uncompahgre Reservation for Uncompahgre Utes. After the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Uintah, White River, and Uncompahgre bands of the Ute Tribe reorganized to form the Ute Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation.

         In 1954, Congress passed legislation that significantly reorganized the Ute Tribe. In the Ute Partition and Termination Act of August 27, 1954, ch. 1009, 68 Stat. 868 (codified as amended at 25 U.S.C. §§ 677-677aa), Congress established how the members of the Tribe would be determined. The Act first distinguished between "full-blood" and "mixed-blood" Utes. "Full-blood" Utes are members who possess "one-half degree of Ute Indian blood and a total of Indian blood in excess of one-half, excepting those who become mixed-bloods by choice under the provisions of section 4 hereof." Id. By contrast, "mixed-blood" Utes are members who do "not possess sufficient Indian or Ute Indian blood to fall within the full-blood class as herein defined, and those who become mixed-bloods by choice under the provisions of section 4 hereof." Id. In 1956, the Secretary published final rolls that listed 1, 314 full-blood members and 490 mixed-blood members. Pursuant to the Termination Act, after publication of this list, "the tribe shall thereafter consist exclusively of full-blood members. Mixed-blood members shall have no interest therein except as otherwise provided in this Act." Thus, the Act terminated the membership of federal mixed-blood Ute Indians with limited rights surviving that determination.

         After the Termination Act ended their tribal membership, some of the mixed-blood Utes created an organization they called the Uintah Valley Shoshone Tribe. But the organization is not, and never was, federally recognized as a tribe. Rather, it is composed of mixed-blood Utes whose membership was terminated under the Termination Act and their descendants. The leadership of the organization currently includes individual defendants named in the complaint-Dora Van, chairwoman; Ramona Harris, director; and Leo LeBaron, director for wildlife.

         In 2016 and 2017, the Uintah Valley Shoshone Tribe sold hunting and fishing licenses to its members, authorizing the members to take wildlife from the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. The area within the Uintah and Ouray Reservation where the licenses were sold ...


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