Yakama Nation Reaches Settlement with DOJ/FBI re: 2011 Reservation Raid

YAKAMA NATION STRIKES HISTORIC AGREEMENT WITH DOJ, FBI TO SETTLE LITIGATION OVER 2011 RESERVATION RAID (FBI RECITALS AGREEMENT PRESS RELEASE PDF)

FBI AGREES TO COMMUNICATE WITH YAKAMA POLICE BEFORE ENTERING YAKAMA INDIAN COUNTRY

Toppenish, WA– The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation have reached an unprecedented, out-of-court settlement with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), principally the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). 

The settlement fully and finally resolves Yakama’s lawsuit against the FBI and several of its sister law enforcement agencies, as well as various county and municipal police agencies from Washington State, Mississippi and Virginia.  That suit arose from a federal task force raid of Yakama Reservation trust lands that commenced at dawn on February 16, 2011.  Upon reported word of the settlement on August 15, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Rosanna Peterson closed the case.

“Today is historic.  The United States has agreed to honor the law enforcement protocols set forth in the Yakama Treaty of 1855.  That is unprecedented.” said Yakama Nation Tribal Council Chairman and former police chief Harry Smiskin.  “From today forward the FBI will communicate with Tribal Police before they enter Yakama Indian Country.  I am confident that the resulting cooperation between federal and tribal cops will greatly improve public safety throughout our territories.”

Through Article II of the Yakama Treaty of 1855, the Yakama Reservation was set apart for the exclusive use and benefit of the Yakama Nation.  To that end, the Yakama Treaty makes clear that no “white man” shall be permitted to reside upon Yakama Indian Country without permission from the Yakama Nation.  Federal Treaty negotiators explained to the Yakama that Article II meant that no one – not even United States agents, with the lone exception of today’s Bureau of Indian Affairs agents – would be permitted to step onto Yakama Reservation lands without the Yakamas’ consent.   

Also, in Article VIII of the Yakama Treaty, the United States and Yakama Nation set forth a process for delivering Yakama criminals or suspects who are in Yakama Indian Country to federal authorities.  Federal Treaty negotiators also explained to the Yakama that Article VIII meant there would be a consultation process between the Head Chief or all of the Yakama Chiefs, and the United States, relative to any Yakama alleged to have committed a wrong, before they might be delivered up to federal authorities. 

The settlement agreement between Yakama and DOJ is called, “Recitals of Joint Law Enforcement Goals.”  It recites that:

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Yakama Settles Federal Suit with Counties and Out-of-State Jurisdictions over Unauthorized Raid on Tribal Lands

Here is the press release:

YAKAMA-COUNTIES SETTLEMENT PRESS RELEASE

News coverage, where county attorney says “we’re sorry.”

Text from the Yakama press release:

The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation have reached out-of-court settlements with Yakima County, Benton County, and local governments from Virginia and Mississippi, to resolve the Nation’s lawsuit against those governments for a February 16, 2011, dawn raid of Yakama Reservation trust lands.  Upon the first of two joint dismissal requests filed with the U.S. District Court, Judge Rosanna Peterson has already dismissed most of the claims between the parties.

“We are pleased and proud that governments from here in the Yakima Valley and Columbia River Basin, to as far away as the east coast, have all agreed to honor the Yakama Treaty of 1855,” said Yakama Nation Tribal Council Chairman Harry Smiskin.  “Each of them will seek our blessing before every again returning to Yakama lands.  They will also cooperate with our Tribal Police, Tribal Jail and Tribal Court to improve public safety on our reservation.”

Through Article II of the Yakama Treaty of 1855, the Yakama Reservation was set apart for the exclusive use and benefit of the Yakama Nation.  To that end, the Yakama Treaty makes clear that no “white man” shall be permitted to reside upon Yakama Indian Country without permission from the Yakama Nation.  The federal Treaty negotiators explained to the Yakama that Article II meant that no one would be permitted to step onto Yakama Reservation lands without the Yakamas’ consent. 

In Article VIII of the Yakama Treaty, the United States and Yakama Nation set forth a process for delivering Yakama criminals or suspects who are in Yakama Indian Country to federal authorities.  Federal Treaty negotiators explained to the Yakama that Article VIII meant there would be a consultation process between the Head Chief or all of the Yakama Chiefs, and the United States relative to any Yakama alleged to have committed a wrong, before they might be delivered up to federal authorities.

In March 2011, the Yakama Nation sued federal law enforcement agencies and several local governments for violating these federal Treaty provisions when raiding a Yakama member-owned business on Yakama trust lands without providing any advance notice to Yakama authorities, and in turn barring Yakama Nation cops who arrived at the scene of the raid to help keep the peace. 

Since the spring of 2012, all of the parties to the litigation have engaged in a multi-track mediation process.  The Yakama Nation and Department of Justice defendants remain in settlement negotiations.

Suit materials are here, here, here, and here.

 

Briefs in Yakama v. Holder

Here are the briefs relating to last week’s opinion posted here:

237 FILED – Memorandum in support of motion for TRO and PI

244 FILED – federal opposition to motion for tro

248 FILED – County Opposition to TRO

255 FILED – Reply in support of TRO (county)

256 FILED – Reply in support of TRO (fed)

Denial of TRO in Yakama Nation v. Holder

Order

As the Court declines to enter a preliminary injunction on the grounds that unclear legal precedent preclude a finding of a likelihood of success on the merits and that public policy counsels against injunction, the Court does not reach the issues of irreparable harm and the balance of the equities. The Court notes, however, that this decision should not be seen as a comment on the ultimate merits of this case. Policies that counsel against the extraordinary remedy of a preliminary injunction may have no relevance to the ultimate questions of tribal and state sovereignty which are at issue in this case.

Additionally, the Court’s unwillingness to enter an injunction should not be construed as an invitation to the County to ignore the jurisdictional concerns raised by the Nation in the materials supporting this motion. It appears that the parties have the capacity to resolve many of their concerns by finding common ground through their shared interest in investigating and punishing crime. To that end, an agreement or memorandum of understanding respecting the jurisdictional authority of both parties could clarify what the County refers to as a “jurisdictional maze.”