Nevada Tribal Leader, 81, Sues BLM for $30 million

Article by Scott Sonner as it appears in RGJ.com

“The perversity that permeates Obama’s BLM runs deeper than just massacring the last of our native wild horses and burros, they target our Native American brothers, as well!” ~ R.T. Fitch, president/co-founder of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Violating Constitutional Rights is the Core of BLM’s Business Plan

photo courtesy of Danny Brady

The federal government seized Raymond Yowell’s cattle — all 132 head — and hauled them across the state and sold them at auction.

Then the U.S. Bureau of Land Management sent Yowell a bill for $180,000 for back grazing fees and penalties, and later garnished part of his Social Security benefits.

Now, nearly a decade later, the 81-year-old former chief of the Western Shoshone National Council is fighting back. He’s suing the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Treasury Department and others for $30 million. Yowell claims the government violated his constitutional rights, broke an 1863 treaty and saddled him with a debt that he doesn’t owe.

“There’s no other way,” said Yowell, a member of the Te-Moak Band of Western Shoshone, who still works a small cattle ranch with his son in northeast Nevada’s high desert.

“I kept writing letters to them saying I didn’t have a debt with them, that I never signed a contract,” he told The Associated Press. “But they just ignored it. There’s no use talking to them.”

Yowell said in the lawsuit filed earlier this month he was exercising his “treaty guaranteed vested rights” to be a herdsman when he turned his cattle out in May 2002 to graze on the historic ranges of the South Fork Indian Reservation.

BLM officials said the tribe’s Te-Moak Livestock Association held a federal permit to graze cattle on the public land in northeast Nevada from 1940 to 1984, but had quit paying the fees to the BLM in 1984, claiming the tribe held title to the land.

Despite earlier federal and U.S. Supreme Court decisions against them, the Indian leaders asserted then — as Yowell does today — that the land is still theirs as dictated by the Treaty of Ruby Valley of 1863.

Under the treaty, the United States formally recognized Western Shoshone rights to some 60 million acres stretching across Nevada, Idaho, Utah and California. But the Supreme Court’s 1979 ruling determined the treaty gave the U.S. government trusteeship over tribal lands, and that it could claim them as “public” or federal lands.

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