Town of Parker officials have responded to a statement from Colorado River Indian Tribes’ Attorney General Rebecca Loudbear by asking everyone to follow the instructions to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic. They and Loudbear agreed the different entities in the area need to work together to get through the pandemic.
In a response to an e-mail from the Pioneer, the Tribes said they had no plans to exclude or evict non-Indians with valid tribal leases from Big River or Bluewater Lagoon, which are on tribal trust lands.
On April 1, the CRIT Tribal Council passed a resolution creating a “stay at home” order that was more restrictive than the one issued statewide by Gov. Doug Ducey. Among other things, the CRIT order mandated a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for all tribal members and others living on the reservation. It also banned all organized recreation activities, religious worship services and gatherings of more than six people if they weren’t in the same household.
The weekend of April 4-5, Parker Town Manager Lori Wedemeyer and Interim Police Chief Mike Bailey issued a statement stating the Town would follow the stay at home order issued by the Governor.
In her statement, which was released the evening of April 7. Loudbear said the Town’s statement was a “complete misstatement on the application of the law within the boundaries of the Colorado River Indian Reservation.”
Loudbear went on to state the courts had ruled the Town of Parker was in Indian Country, and only the Tribes, not the state, had any civil or criminal jurisdiction over Indians living in the Town of Parker. She said this was also the case with fee lots (i.e., privately-held land) within the Town of Parker. She added the Governor’s order did not apply to CRIT, as the Tribes are sovereign.
In her statement, Loudbear quoted the case of Montana v. U.S. which says tribes may regulate the conduct of non-members if that conduct has some direct effect on the political integrity, economic security, or the health and welfare of the tribe.
“A pandemic caused by a virus as contagious as coronavirus knows no boundaries,” Loudbear said. “As the Town of Parker is entirely surrounded by the Colorado River Indian Reservation, the conduct of residents, Indians and non-Indians alike, will have a direct effect on the health and welfare of the Colorado River Indian Tribes. Therefore, the Stay at Home Resolution applies to ALL residents within the Town of Parker.”
The Pioneer asked for a clarification on a statement referring to the Tribes’ authority to exclude non-Indians from their land for any conduct, whether of a criminal or civil nature. The Pioneer asked if there were plans to remove people from Big River, Bluewater Lagoon and the Town of Parker.
The Tribes’ replied in an e-mail, “Exclusion powers apply to trust lands, which include Big River and Bluewater Lagoon. Exclusion powers do not apply to fee lots in the Town of Parker.”
“There are no plans to remove non-Indians with valid tribal leases from Big River or Bluewater Lagoon,” the statement continued. “However, evictions and exclusion are remedies where conduct of an individual would pose a substantial risk to health and welfare of the Tribes.”
The Pioneer also asked about people passing through the reservation on Parker-Poston-Ehrenberg Road or State Route 95 after curfew hours, and about businesses that are open 24 hours a day.
“As for other specifics of the Stay at Home Resolution, please read it,” the Tribes replied. “It addresses necessary travel, essential business and curfews.”
Parker Town Manager Lori Wedemeyer said she had no comment except to refer to Mayor Dan Beaver for a comment.
“I just want everyone to work together to get this virus over with,” she said.
Parker Mayor Dan Beaver said he didn’t have a reply to this except to urge everyone to follow Gov. Ducey’s advice to “Stay Home, Stay Well and Stay Connected.”
At the end of her statement, Loudbear also expressed sentiments that everyone should come together to meet the challenge of the coronavirus.
“This is a time for us to come together as a community in a united approach to slowing the spread of coronavirus,” she said. “We are grateful for everyone who is abiding by both the Governor’s Stay at Home Order and the CRIT Stay at Home Resolution.”