Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee Statement on "Mixed-Bloods"

The Ute Indian Tribal Business Committee wishes to clarify certain misstatements contained in an August 21, 2017 “Notice of Policy” issued by a group of terminated “mixed-bloods” calling themselves the “Uintah Valley Shoshone Tribe of Affiliated Ute Citizens of the Uintah Valley and Ouray Reservation,” which was published in local media in the Uintah Basin.

The Ute Indian Tribe would like to clarify that this group of individuals are not members of the Ute Indian Tribe. Pursuant to the Ute Partition Act passed by the United States Congress in 1954, these individuals, identified in the Act as “mixed bloods” of Indian descent, voted to terminate their relationship with the Federal government and gave up their membership in the Ute Indian Tribe in exchange for a payout of their share of money and assets of the Ute Indian Tribe. 25 U.S.C. § 677. Today, they have no basis to assert claims against the property or resources of the Ute Indian Tribe and have no basis to claim sovereignty as an Indian nation because they chose to terminate their status as federally recognized Indians under the Partition Act.

To be able to issue a “Notice of Policy”, these individuals must first have a recognized organization or government, which, sadly, they have never had. This group has no distinct history or culture, they are not a federally recognized tribe of Indians and they have no legal relationship with the federal government or federally recognized political or legal existence as indigenous peoples. Dora Van, the self-professed Chairwoman of this group is in actuality a “mixed blood” whose name appears on page 11 of the roll of “mixed blood” published in the Federal register and whose status as an Indian was terminated pursuant to the Ute Partition Act.

The Federal District Court case of Maldonado v. Hodel, determined that Ms. Van and other Uintah Band of Shoshone Indians, as members of the mixed-blood group terminated under the Act, lost their status as federally recognized Indians. See 683 F. Supp. 1322, 1330 (D. Utah) 1988, aff’d, 977 F.2d 596 (10th Cir. 1990). Due to their lack of federal recognition, the claimed “Uintah Band of Shoshone Indians” and/or “Uinta Valley Shoshone Tribe” have no federally sanctioned authority to function as a distinct legal or political group, have no access or entitlement to participate in treaty obligated benefits provided by the federal government to Indian nations or their members, have no separate sovereignty or land base, have no protections from state jurisdiction and have no government to government relationship with the United States that other federally recognized Indian nations maintain.

Even though this point has been clearly decided by federal courts, this mixed blood group continues to represent that they are a recognized Indian tribe–they are not. The Ute Partition Act makes clear that members of this mixed blood group are no longer Indians and are under the jurisdiction of the State of Utah, by making clear that “such individual shall not be entitled to any of the services performed for Indians because of his status as an Indian. All statutes of the United States which affect Indians because of their status as Indians shall no longer be applicable to such member over which supervision has been terminated, and the laws of the several States shall apply to such member in the same manner as they apply to other citizens within their jurisdiction. 25 U.S.C. § 677 v.

Previous federal court decisions have also clarified that the status of this group does not change simply because these individuals are living within the Ute Indian Tribe’s homeland, the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. See Affiliated Ute Citizens of Utah v. U.S., 406 U.S. 128, 133-139 (1971); Hackford v. Babbitt, 14 F.3d 1457, 1458-1464 (10th Cir. 1994); U.S. v. Murdock, 919 F. Supp. 1534, 1535-1537 (D. Utah 1996).

In one of the representative cases dealing with this issue, Gardner v. Wilkins, the United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, responding to a claim that members of this group should still be considered to have federal recognition as Indians and thus not under the jurisdiction of the State of Utah, clarified that:

“Litigation regarding Gardner's Indian status is a road well-traveled. He does not claim to be a member of a federally recognized tribe. Rather, he claims only to be a descendant of a former member, as are many other Americans. Despite his best efforts in federal, state, and tribal court, this heritage does not entitle him to Indian status whether or not he lives and works on the reservation.” 535 F. App’x at 767 (10th Cir. 2013).

This position has been reaffirmed in numerous decisions from other state courts as well. See e.g. State v. Reber, , 171 P.3d 406 (2007 UT 36); State v. Gardner, 827 P.2d 980, 981 (Ut. Ct. App. 1992). And in a more recent decision from the Utah Federal District Court, Judge Jenkins, in reviewing a claim from a member of this group that he was not subject to state jurisdiction, found that “even if the site of the offense was in fact Indian Country according to federal law Mr. Hackford, despite his claim to be of Indian heritage, is not an Indian so as to be beyond the criminal jurisdiction of the State and/or Wasatch County.” Hackford v. Utah 2015 WL 4717639 (D. Utah 2015).

By enactment of Resolution No. 16-340, dated September 1, 2016, the Ute Indian Tribal Business Committee directed its law enforcement officers to take all actions necessary to prevent this group of mixed-bloods from continuing to disrupt the governmental activities of the Ute Indian Tribe and prevent them from trespassing on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. To the extent these mixed-bloods are found trespassing on the Reservation, the Ute Indian Tribe’s law enforcement will continue to coordinate with state law enforcement to ensure they are properly charged and prosecuted for their unlawful activities to the fullest extent permitted by law. 

Robert Lucero