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U.S. Department of Justice confirms CRIT's reservation boundary in California; West Bank Homeowners Association members and other property leasees must have leases and must pay rent
PARKER, Arizona (June 19, 2008) - The U.S. Department of Justice has once again confirmed the Federal Government's long-standing position that the Colorado River Indian Tribes' reservation boundaries spread into California.
In a letter from the Department of Justice to Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack, the Department of Justice states that if any residents leasing CRIT land in California "wish to continue to occupy this land, they must have a valid lease and make payments pursuant to that lease."
CRIT and the Federal Government have long agreed that the CRIT Reservation's boundaries stretch into California, and include lands being leased from the Tribes by private individuals.
Some of these private individuals, in what CRIT Tribal Chairman Daniel Eddy, Jr. has characterized as a "land grab," have recently disputed CRIT's boundaries, despite agreeing to lease property from the Tribes and acknowledging CRIT's authority at the time.
The DOJ letter is another example of how Federal law and legal interpretations have continually found that CRIT's boundaries are not in dispute, and include areas of California.
"The long-standing position of the United States, as set forth in an order of the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and in filings before the U.S. Supreme Court, is that the Reservation extends past the west bank of the Colorado (River) into the State of California," the Department's letter stated.
Eddy, Jr. said that the letter is yet another confirmation of what has been virtually indisputable for more than 100 years - that the CRIT Reservation includes lands in California, and CRIT has a right to do what it wishes with those lands.
"We appreciate the Department of Justice once again reinforcing what we and the Federal Government have known for a long time," Eddy, Jr. said. "It's unfortunate that after all these years, a few individuals who are not interested in upholding their legal agreements with our Tribes and instead trying to steal land from underneath us have sought to confuse this matter.
"The issues here are actually very clear. CRIT has lands in California that it has leased to private parties. We expect the terms of those leases to be honored. And if those terms are not honored, we will vigorously exercise every right we have to protect the interests of our people."
The letter comes on the heels of a Colorado River Indian Tribes' Trial Court ruling last week that ordered that Water Wheel Camp Recreation Area, Incorporated and Robert Johnson, its owner and operator, can be evicted from the property by CRIT.
In addition, the Trial Court ordered Water Wheel and Johnson to pay nearly $2 million in damages and reimbursement of CRIT's legal fees for violating the terms of his lease, not vacating the property when the lease expired, not submitting lease payments to CRIT and not paying CRIT revenues generated by the property as stipulated in the lease.