Tribal Rights

Colo. Tribe Enforces 1874 Treaty, Expands Hunting to Public Land


A group of Southern Ute tribesmen from southwest Colorado are about to take a historic journey. It’s not because they need to look elsewhere to find healthy game to hunt, but they are venturing off their designated reservation to hunt on public land to enforce rights bestowed them under a 134-year-old treaty.

The 1874 treaty, known as the Brunot agreement, cost the Utes 4 million acres to the United States. But under the treaty, the tribe is allowed to hunt on public land, “so long as the game lasts and the Indians are at peace with the white people,” the Los Angeles Times’ L.A. Unleashed blog reports.

While the move to hunt on public land has created a bit of controversy, the tribe reportedly feels it needs to exercise their rights under the treaty in order to keep them valid.

“Although it’s not true in a legal sense that rights can disappear if they’re not used, I think a lot of tribes feel if they’re not maintained and kept alive, there’s that threat” of losing them, the paper quotes Monte Mills, legal director for the tribe.

University of Colorado law professor Charles Wilkinson, an expert on American Indian law, notes in the article that he’s seeing a change in how tribes and state governments resolve disputes. Rather than tumult and litigation, there is statesmanship on both sides, he says.

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