Yakama Nation to have full authority over civil, criminal proceedings on tribal land

By KIMATV.com Staff


YAKIMA, Wash. — Federal officials have accepted a petition that will give Yakama Nation authorities exclusive jurisdiction for certain cases on tribal land, and will have the State of Washington withdraw from any authority.

The United States Department of the Interior said in a news release Monday that ‘retrocession’ has been granted, and tribal police and courts will have full authority over civil and criminal cases involving members of the nation.

The federal government will retain their authority over the Nation, and Yakama Nation authority will remain the same. The removal of state authority over tribal persons is the only change to come from this decision.

The state will keep jurisdiction over those involving non-tribal defendants, plaintiffs or victims.

As part of the agreement the federal Office of Justice Services (OJS) assessed the Yakama Nation’s court system and offered recommendations for improvements to their tribal court operations, as well as helped develop a 3-5 year plan.

The Yakama Nation also created ten new police officer positions, in preparation of having more cases to handle.

OJS also donated $149,000 to the help bolster the tribal court system by improving the court’s infrastructure, increase pay for law-trained judges, hire a legal assistant and court administrator, and provide training to tribal judges, prosecutors, and defenders on issues like domestic violence, child abuse, and neglect.

Washington lawmakers established a process for tribes to ask for exclusive jurisdiction in 2012. Washington has become the sixteenth state to rescind its authority over tribal court proceedings involving only tribal members.

Governor Jay Inslee agreed to the Yakama Nation’s petition last year. The change will officially take effect in April.

View here to see the full release from the United States Department of the Interior.