SCOTUS denies county’s claim to portion of Yakama lands

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected Klickitat County’s claim to a portion of the Yakama Indian Reservation, likely ending a dispute that has raged for more than a century.

The court denied the county’s appeal without comment.

Klickitat County had argued that 121,465 acres in the southwestern portion of the reservation, including the eastern half of Mount Adams and the Glenwood Valley, were not actually included when the reservation was created.

"The Supreme Court’s decision once again validates the continuing strength of our treaty rights under the United States Constitution," said Yakama Tribal Council Chairman Delano Saluskin. "The Yakama Nation will never compromise when our treaty is at stake."

The dispute involved ambiguous language in the tribe’s Treaty of 1855 with the U.S. government.

Territorial Gov. Isaac Stevens, who drafted the treaty, wrote that the reservation’s southwestern border passed "south and east of Mount Adams, to the spur whence flows the waters of the Klickatat and Pisco rivers."

The tribe said no such spur existed, and that the Yakama Nation had always understood that Mount Adams and land known as Tract D was reservation land.

That position was affirmed by the Indian Claims Commission in 1966, by an executive order by President Richard Nixon in 1972, and by federal surveyors in 1982, and by numerous earlier court cases.

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