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Wind River Tribes
Tue January 10, 2012
Wind River tribes take Dept. of Interior back to court
On Monday, the Federal Court of Appeals reinstated a claim filed by the Wind River Tribes against the federal government which accuses the Department of Interior of mismanaging mineral royalties for the two tribes.
The Shoshone and Arapaho claims were initially filed in 1979. Since then, most have been adjudicated and settled, however, one big piece remains: oil and gas leases initially established in the early 1900’s.
Allegedly, the Department of Interior managed those leases, then illegally transformed them into new leases in the 1930s.
The tribes argue that because the Department failed to follow its own rules, the leases are void, and the tribes are owed money for them. However, the federal court argues that the tribes brought the claim too late, and that they can only collect damages from six years prior to the original suit filed in 1979.
Mathew Fletcher is a professor at Michigan State University College of Law and has been following the case. “In an ideal world the department of interior and department of justice go to the tribe and say ‘let’s just negotiate this thing, come to a reasonable settlement, and move on with our lives.’
Unfortunately the United States in the last 10 years especially, has not been a good player in these kind of cases. They fight them to the death so you it could be dragged out for several more years again.”
If the Federal Government decides to not fight the case, the tribes could collect over 30 years’ worth of damages. However, the more likely scenario is that the case will end up in front of the Supreme Court so that the Government can try to avoid paying such a huge sum of money.