State of Utah Seeks to Intervene in Suit Between The Ute Tribe and Federal Government--AGAINST THE TRIBE

For Immediate Release


Ft. Duchesne, UT June 19, 2018

On March 9, 2018, the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation filed suits against the United States of America for the United States’ blatant mismanagement of the Tribe’s Uncompahgre Reservation lands. The Tribe has filed two federal complaints—one in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and one in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The former complaint primarily seeks significant monetary relief to compensate the Tribe for the United States’ sale and use of its Uncompahgre Reservation lands, while the latter complaint seeks quiet title to the lands of the Uncompahgre Reservation, among other things. Both cases are titled Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation v. United States of America.

The Tribe’s claims in the two cases are solely against the United States. The Tribe’s claims are based upon one of the core obligations which the United States made with the Ute Tribe when the United States took from Tribe most of the Tribe’s lands in Utah, Colorado, and adjoining states. That core obligation was that in exchange for taking most of the Tribe’s lands, the United States solemnly promised to permanently protect and preserve the Tribe’s Reservation. The Tribe’s suit seeks to enforce that federal legal obligation to the Tribe.

Although the State has not even contacted the Tribe, the State has now informed the local media that it is going to ask the federal court for permission to intervene in the Tribe’s suit. [Under applicable court rules, the State is required to contact the Tribe to confer in good faith before it can file a motion to intervene, and to discuss why it would be seeking to intervene on claims between the United States and the Tribe.]

The Tribe will strongly oppose any motion by the State to intervene in the Tribe’s claim against the United States. There is no lawful basis for the State to intervene in a dispute between the United States and the Tribe, stemming from promises the United States made before Utah was a state. The Tribe’s expectation is that the State of Utah is going to attempt to use this suit, in which it has no interest, to continue with its never-ending attempt to overturn federal law which respects tribal sovereignty and to attempt to get the federal courts to break the promise that the United States made to the Tribe in exchange for the land on which most of the people in Utah live. The Tribe will vehemently fight any motion by the State to intervene, and any further attempts by the State to disrespect the Tribe.

About the Ute Indian Tribe-The Ute Indian Tribe resides on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in northeastern Utah. Three bands of Utes comprise the Ute Indian Tribe: the Whiteriver Band, the Uncompahgre Band and the Uintah Band. The Tribe has a membership of more than three thousand individuals, with over half living on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. The Ute Indian Tribe operates its own tribal government and oversees approximately 1.3 million acres of trust land which contains significant oil and gas deposits. The Tribal Business Committee is the governing council of the Tribe. 

Robert Lucero