Ninth Circuit Rejects Nonrecognized Kawaiisu Tribe’s Claim to Tejon Ranch

Here is the opinion in Robinson v. Jewell.

From the court’s summary:

The panel affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the claims of the Kawaiisu, a non-federally recognized Native American group, and its elected chairperson, David Laughing Horse Robinson, asserting title to the Tejon Ranch, one of the largest continuous expanses of private land in California.

The panel held that the district court properly determined that the Tribe had no ownership interest in the Tejon Ranch and that no reservation was established. Specifically, the panel held that the district court correctly concluded that the Tribe’s failure to present a claim to the Board of Commissioners created by the California Land Claims Act of 1851 extinguished its title; that the Treaty with the Utah did not convey land rights to the signatory tribes or recognize aboriginal title; and that Treaty D was never ratified and conveyed no rights. The panel rejected the Tribe’s complaints of alleged forgery and deception in obtaining patents for the four Mexican land grants comprising Tejon Ranch because all of the alleged acts occurred prior to the submission of the claims to the Board of Commissioners, and the Tribe could not challenge the validity of land patents after more than a century of time had passed.

The panel held that the claims against Kern County were subsumed into the Tejon Ranch ownership determination. The panel further held that the Tribe’s claims originally asserted against the Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, and Robinson’s individual claims, were waived for failure to assert them on appeal. The panel
declined to consider the Tribe’s new arguments on appeal.


Robinson Opening Brief

Kern County Brief

Tejon Mountain Village Answer Brief

US Answer Brief

Robinson Reply

Lower court materials.