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Hoopa Valley Tribe files $80 million lawsuit

Feb 1 2008, Eureka Reporter

The Hoopa Valley Tribe filed an $80 million lawsuit against the federal government Friday, as the U.S. Department of Interior begun disbursing trust fund money from Hoopa timber sales to the Yurok Tribe.

The funds came from logging on the Hoopa Valley Reservation before it was divided by Congress in 1988, a Hoopa Valley Tribe news release stated.

“We are suing because the Department of Interior’s decision to give all the Hoopa timber money to the Yuroks defied federal law and preempted a more equitable solution by Congress,” Hoopa Tribal Chairperson Clifford Lyle Marshall stated in the release.

The Hoopa lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., was in response to the DOI’s $15,000 payment to members of the Yurok Tribe on Jan. 15.

The lawsuit follows the DOI’s decision last spring to give all $90 million of the Hoopa-Yurok Settlement Act funds to the Yuroks, the release stated.

The money was part of a government plan to divide and disburse profits from the Hoopa Reservation timber sales managed by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1974-88.

When the Hoopa and Yurok reservations were congressionally split in 1988, Hoopa accepted the agreement and part of the timber receipts.

According to the release, the Yurok Tribe refused the money and sued to negate the division of the Hoopa Valley Reservation into the ancestral lands of the two tribes.

A Yurok Tribe spokesperson said the tribe did not want to comment until the council reviews the lawsuit.

The U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee conducted a hearing on the Hoopa-Yurok settlement Act in 2002.

The Interior Department recommended new legislation.

Following mediation between the Hoopa Tribal Council and the Yurok Tribal Council, the tribes also agreed on proposed legislation, but nothing was enacted, the release stated.

In 2007, officials in the Interior Department decided the Department’s long-standing position had been wrong and no legislation was necessary.

The original money in the HYSA Fund came from timber sales on the Hoopa Valley Reservation.

The Hoopa tribe agreed to share the timber receipts money with Yuroks as a condition of the 1988 Congressional HYSA act that split the reservations, the release stated.

According to the release, the Yurok Tribe did not accept the division of the reservation and the money.

“The Settlement Act gave the Yurok Tribe until November 1993 to drop its litigation and obtain certain benefits; it refused to do so,” Marshall said in the release. “Now that they lost in the courts they have used lobbying tactics at the Department of the Interior to reserve the last decade of legal and administrative decisions saying they could not access this money.”

The Hoopa Valley Tribe had asked Congress to intervene.

“Congress could have resolved this issue equitably for both tribes, but the Interior Department has chosen to inequitably amend the statute by itself,” Marshall stated.

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