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Hoopa Valley Tribe appeals decision to release money to Yuroks

3/23/2007, The Eureka Reporter

The Hoopa Valley Tribe appealed Thursday the Department of Interior’s March 1 decision to give the Yurok Tribe more than $90 million from the Hoopa-Yurok Settlement Act trust fund.

According to a Hoopa news release, the Hoopa tribe also asked the Board of Indian Appeals “to issue a stay of the decision to prevent distribution of the trust money until the board issues a final ruling on the appeal.”

The filing of the Hoopa tribe’s appeal, the Hoopa news release stated, noted the decision by the DOI’s Office of Special Trustee as “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with law.” And, the filing of the appeal “immediately prevents the OST from taking any further action on the decision” to give the Yurok Tribe the $91 million.

Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairman Clifford Lyle Marshall made a statement in the Hoopa news release that the OST decision violates federal law.

“We have no choice but to appeal the decision of (DOI’s Special Trustee for American Indians) Ross Swimmer,” Marshall said. “When Hoopa accepted Congress’ settlement 19 years ago, the Yuroks refused the money and tried to get a better deal by suing the government. They gambled and lost their litigation. Now they have used politics to circumvent the conditions of the Hoopa-Yurok Settlement Act.”

According to the release, the Hoopa appeal “seeks to hold the OST to the terms of the HYSA and to invalidate the trustee’s decision because it is not legal, under the conditions of the original congressional HYSA legislation, for the trustee to now allow the Yuroks to accept the settlement.”

In Marshall’s statement, he noted “the OST decisions represent a 180-degree change of course that is not supported by either prior consistent department interpretations of the HYSA or the plain statutory language of the HYSA.”

“OST cannot turn back time and enable the Yurok to start anew as if it had never litigated, and lost, the takings claim that OST is now allowing Yurok to waive 19 years after the HYSA was passed,” Marshall stated.

In a news release issued by the Yurok Tribe earlier this month, Maria Tripp, the Yurok Tribe’s chairperson, made a statement about the DOI’s decision.

“I commend the leadership of the Department of the Interior for solving this long-standing issue under the Settlement Act,” Tripp stated. “This is monumental and we thank all those who have helped us achieve this.

“With this issue finally resolved, Yurok and Hoopa can put our differences aside. I am excited at the opportunity we have to work together, heal old wounds, and build a prosperous and healthy community in a spirit of mutual cooperation.”

According to the Hoopa news release, “the original monies in the HYSA Trust Fund came (98 percent) from timber sales on the Hoopa Valley Reservation.”

“The tribe agreed to share the timber receipts money with the Yuroks as a condition of the 1988 congressional HYSA act that split the reservations,” the news release reported. “The Yuroks refused to accept the division of the reservation and the money. Their unsuccessful litigation ended when the U.S. Supreme Court would not hear the case.

“The trust fund money has grown to $91 million while the Yuroks litigated their claims and the department and Congress discussed how to administer the funds.”

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