Opinion in Pueblo of Jemez v. United States

Here is the opinion:

404 DCT Opinion

An excerpt:

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the bench trial held on October 29-November 20, 2018; November 29-November 30, 2018; December 3, 2018; December 5, 2018; and December 13, 2018. The primary issue is whether Plaintiff Pueblo of Jemez has the exclusive right to use, occupy, and possess the lands of the Valles Caldera National Preserve (“Valles Caldera”) pursuant to its allegedly unextinguished and continuing aboriginal title to those lands. The Court concludes that Jemez Pueblo has not established aboriginal title to the Valles Caldera. Although the evidence proves that Jemez Pueblo has actually and continuously used and occupied the Valles Caldera for a long time, the evidence also shows that many Pueblos and Tribes also used the Valles Caldera in ways that defeat Jemez Pueblo’s aboriginal title claim.

Earlier posts here.

Jemez Pueblo Loses Claim to Valles Caldera National Preserve

Here are (some of) the materials in Pueblo of Jemez v. United States (D. N.M.):

387 Jemez Trial Brief

399 DCT Judgment

An excerpt:

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the Court’s Sealed Memorandum Opinion, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order, filed August 31, 2019 (Doc. 398). In the Sealed Memorandum Opinion, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order, the Court: (i) concludes that Plaintiff Pueblo of Jemez does not have the exclusive right to use, occupy, and possess the lands that encompass the Valles Caldera National Preserve; (ii) quiets title to the Valles Caldera National Preserve in Defendant United States of America; (iii) dismisses the case with prejudice; and (iv) directs the parties to D.N.M.LR-Civ. 54, should they seek to recover any attorney’s fees and costs. See Sealed Memorandum Opinion, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order at 498. Having disposed of all claims and parties before the Court in this case, the Court now enters Final Judgment. [emphasis added]

Our extensive prior posts are here.

Federal Court Decision on the Use of Native Oral History to Establish Aboriginal Title

Here is the order in Pueblo of Jemez v. United States (D. N.M.):

326-mmo opinion order re oral traditional evidence testimon 11518

Prior posts here.

Federal Court Issues Protective Order re: Sacred Sites in Pueblo of Jemez Land Claim against US

Here are the materials in Pueblo of Jemez v. United States (D.N.M.):

105 Pueblo Motion for Protective Order

108 US Response and Cross Motion

110 Pueblo Reply

113 US Reply

114 DCT Order

This case is on remand from the Tenth Circuit, which allowed the Pueblo’s aboriginal title claims to proceed.

Ninth Circuit Briefs in Agua Caliente Band Water Rights Case

Here are the briefs in Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Coachella Valley Water District:

Water Districts Opening Brief

Agua Caliente Brief

US Briefpdf

2016-02-18 – Dkt 035-1 – Brief Amicus Curiae of the SCA Tribal Chairmen’s Association, et al. in Support of Appellees

2016-02-18 – Dkt 036 – Brief of Amici Curiae Law Professors in Support of Appellee


Lower court materials here, here, and here.

Update in Agua Caliente Band v. Coachella Valley Water District

Briefs filed by the Tribe and the United States to obtain summary judgment on the water districts’ equitable defenses asserted in response to the Tribe’s claim for a declaration of its federally reserved rights to groundwater.


2015-09-18 – Dkt 137 – US Notice and Motion for Partial Summary Judgment…

2015-09-18 – Dkt 138 – ACBCI Notice and Motion for Partial Summary Judgm…

Prior materials here.

Guest Post by Bill Wood: Commentary on the Ninth Circuit (Opinion in Robinson v. Jewell) and Aboriginal Title in California (Revised)

Commentary on the Ninth Circuit (Opinion in Robinson v. Jewell) and Aboriginal Title in California

A few people emailed and texted me about this opinion and suggested I write something about it. So I’ve sketched out below some initial thoughts on certain of the court’s statements concerning the laws applicable to Indian lands and aboriginal title in California generally—which reflect and perpetuate legal and historical misunderstandings that permeate federal Indian law in California—and regarding the history of the Tejon Ranch and the Tejon Reservation (the lands at issue in the case, hereinafter “Tejon” for convenience). I’m not commenting here on the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims or the lawyering (I haven’t read the briefs or the district court’s opinion). And I didn’t intend to write something this long. But I felt like I needed to provide enough detail to support my points (there are some footnotes, mostly citing historical sources, that aren’t included in this post due to technological limitations), while hopefully not getting bogged down in the particulars of the statutes and cases addressing aboriginal title in California or the histories of the military reservations established here in the 1850s and 1860s. My apologies for where I fall short in that regard or otherwise, including where things may be oversimplified.

The court notes (slip op. at 10) that the lands at issue were the subject of four different Mexican land grants that were confirmed by a commission established under an 1851 law to determine the validity of Mexican (and Spanish) land grants: the Act to Ascertain and Settle the Private Land Claims in the State of California. Pub. L. No. 31-41, 9 Stat. 631 (1851) (emphasis added). (The court calls it the California Land Claims Act of 1851, or simply the Act of 1851, conveniently omitting and ignoring the “Private Land Claims” language in the law’s title.) As the court explains (slip op. at 12; see also at 5), this 1851 Act required that “each and every person claiming lands by virtue of any right derived from the Spanish or Mexican government” (my emphasis) to present that claim to the commission by March 3, 1853, when lands for which grants were not confirmed would go into the public domain. And the court, reinforcing a jurisprudential misunderstanding dating back to the late nineteenth century, stated that “the Tribe’s failure to present a claim to the Commission pursuant to the [1851 Act] extinguished its title” (slip op. at 12), because “the Act . . . fully extinguished any existing aboriginal title or unregistered land grants” (slip op. at 16).

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