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Colorado River Indian Tribes

The Colorado River Indian Tribes are firing back after officials in the Town of Parker and La Paz County challenged the tribes' recent stay-at-home order. The orders contain strict demands, including a curfew for all residents, including non-tribal residents, living with the reservation. CRIT also said it would close all boat ramps to the Colorado River on tribal land. The order closes access to the Colorado River for recreational purposed within the boundaries of the reservation until April 30. Such activities include fishing, boating and swimming. Fishing, hunting and camping permits have been temporarily suspended.

The Town of Parker and La Paz County countered the orders late last week, with Parker Town Manager Lori Wedemeyer saying the Tribes' resolution does not apply to the town because it is a separate political entity. 

The Tribes posted a lengthy response Tuesday night on Facebook, signed by tribal Attorney General Rebecca Loudbear. 

She said the one square mile boundary of the Town of Parker is completely surrounded by lands held in trust for the Colorado River Indians Tribes, and that those lands are under CRIT's jurisdiction. Additionally, she says the stay-at-home resolution approved by the Tribal Council applies to tribal members regardless of whether they live in the Town of Parker or elsewhere on the reservation. 

Loudbear also reminded that the tribe has the authority to "exclude non-Indians from its lands for any conduct, whether of a criminal or civil nature." She said the Tribes have used that power sparingly, but could choose to exercise it if the community's health and welfare is threatened.

Here's the full text of Loudbear's statement:

The statements issued by the Town of Parker and the Parker Police Department in response to the Stay at Home Resolution No. 54-20 passed April 1, 2020 by the Tribal Council of the Colorado River Indian Tribes are a complete misstatement on the application of law within the Town of Parker. The Town of Parker is located entirely within the boundaries of the Colorado River Indian Reservation. The one square mile boundary of the Town of Parker is completely surrounded by lands held in trust for the Colorado River Indian Tribes and also contains a substantial amount of trust land within its boundaries. The Colorado River Indian Tribes always has jurisdiction over trust land within the Town of Parker, and Indians within the Town of Parker, regardless of land status upon which an Indian resides.

The Town of Parker is considered Indian Country (Colorado River Indian Tribes vs. Town of Parker, 705 F.Supp. 473 (D.Ariz 1989)). In other words, the fee lands within the Town of Parker have not been disestablished and therefore are Indian Country for purposes of determining jurisdiction over Indians and non-Indians. Since the Town of Parker is within Indian Country, the State of Arizona has no civil or criminal jurisdiction over Indians within the Town of Parker. Therefore, only the Stay at Home Resolution approved by Tribal Council applies to Indians, whether they reside on fee or on trust land within the Town of Parker. Additionally, those non-Indians who reside on trust land are subject to civil authority of the Tribes and in this circumstance of a pandemic, those that reside on fee land are also subject to the CRIT order. The Colorado River Indian Tribes also owns several fee lots within the Town of Parker and the Governor’s order does not apply to the Colorado River Indian Tribes as a separate sovereign.

The issue of jurisdiction over the conduct of non-Indians while on fee lands within the Town of Parker is complex and limited. The two primary exceptions are a tribe may regulate and tax “the activities of nonmembers who enter consensual relationships with the tribe or its members” and a tribe may regulate conduct of nonmembers that “threatens or has some direct effect on the political integrity, the economic security, or the health or welfare of the tribe.” (Montana v. U.S., 450 U.S. 544 (1981)). A pandemic caused by a virus as contagious as coronavirus knows no boundaries. As the Town of Parker is entirely surrounded by the Colorado River Indian Reservation, the conduct of residents, Indian and non-Indian 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.

Additionally, the Tribes also has the inherent authority to exclude non-Indians from its lands for any conduct whether of a criminal or civil nature. (Water Wheel Camp Recreational Area, Inc. v. LaRance, 642 F.3d 802 (9th Cir. 2011)). This is a power the Tribes has always used sparingly. However, if the health and welfare of its membership is at stake, an exclusion ordinance could be enforced.

This is also a prime opportunity to remind any individual interacting with an officer of the Colorado River Indian Tribes that CRIT Officers have AZ Post certifications and are authorized to investigate and arrest for violations of state law. Therefore, do not assume they are only enforcing Tribal laws and afford them the same respect you would give any Town or County officer.

This is a time for us to come together as a community in a united approach to slowing the spread of coronavirus. We are grateful for everyone who is abiding by both the Governor’s Stay at Home Order and the CRIT Stay at Home Resolution.

Sincerely,

COLORADO RIVER INDIAN TRIBES

Rebecca A. Loudbear

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(1) comment

fnelson

They can't throw white people in tribal jails. I seen only one white person in the CRIT Tribal jail. He was in there for 1st degree Murder and got only 1 year in the tribal jail for murder and is now free. The victim was a non-member and the murderer was a none member and the Crime occurred on Town of Parker checker board area. Tony Rogers was supposed to have handled that one, But CRIT took it over and they put that murderer in the CRIT jail. During a tribal Council meeting I asked Rebecca Loudbear about this and she said the town of Parker was on Tribal Land. I said so if non-members can be tried in CRIT Tribal Court for 1st degree Murder. You guys better go get all the other murderers in the Lapaz county jail then and try all of them too for Misdemeanor 1st degree murders in the CRIT Tribal courts then. Rebecca Loudbear didn't respond. So what is CRIT going do then if white people don't abide by there decree. Kick the whole town of Parker off the Reservation?

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