Ute Indian Tribe announces boycott of Roosevelt businesses citing racial profiling by police

Published: Friday, Aug. 30 2013 7:55 p.m. MDT

Judge Bruce Jenkins reached his decision after Uintah County Attorney G. Mark Thomas renewed his promise to seek temporary stays in state court cases pending against three Ute tribal members. Thomas vowed to review a fourth contested case to determine whether it warranted a stay as well.

Attorneys for the tribe had sought the emergency order to bar the prosecution of tribal members for offenses they say were committed within the boundaries of the Uncompahgre or Uinta Valley Indian reservations.

The request was filed together with a larger lawsuit that accused law enforcement officers in the Uintah Basin of engaging in racial profiling.

"These are not your average, ordinary criminal prosecutions," Frances Bassett, an attorney for the tribe, told Jenkins in June. "They're being used intentionally to come back at the tribe … to steal portions of the tribe's reservation."

Jenkins appeared to be frustrated with the attorneys on both sides, asking them repeatedly to identify the facts that they believe are in dispute and those that are not.

"I was hopeful, maybe overly optimistic, that folks were going to get together (before the hearing) to define what they're talking about," said the judge, who inherited the case in 1978 when he took the federal bench.

By that time, it was already 3 years old.

Jenkins dismissed the case in 2000, after the parties inked a trio of 10-year contracts that appeared to resolve their jurisdictional disagreements. But in April, the tribe asked him to reopen the case, a request he granted.

"I think it behooves everybody in this case to understand that everybody has to get along," the judge said. "And where we have competing sovereigns, they may need to accommodate one another."

Calling for a boycott is not a new tactic for tribal leaders. In September 1997, Ute leaders launched a boycott of Roosevelt businesses after Jenkins lifted an injunction that had prohibited the city from exercising jurisdiction over tribal members in misdemeanor cases.

The judge's ruling was based on a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that removed Roosevelt from within the boundaries of the tribe's reservation.

The boycott lasted until October 1998, when tribal officials called it off after city leaders made what were seen as "attempts at reconciliation."

Irene Hansen, executive director of the Duchesne County Chamber of Commerce, noted Friday that the boycott comes "after a summer of celebration and events that welcomed residents and visitors from all over the Uintah Basin."

"It is evident that it is the generosity of local businesses that made these events possible," Hansen said. "This news (of the boycott) brings a sense of sadness to all concerned."

Email: gliesik@deseretnews.com

Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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