The state attorney general's office is considering whether to assist San Juan County prosecutors in a case against a Navajo man who says Utah's hunting laws run counter to Navajo treaty rights.
Eddie Holiday, 25, was charged in November in 7th Circuit Court with failing to properly tag a deer, a misdemeanor B violation.According to information provided by the Salt Lake-based Native Civil Rights Project, Holiday "has decided to stand up to the system which is denying the Utah Navajos their treaty right to hunt in their aboriginal land."
The case could establish a precedent that would allow enrolled members of the Navajo tribe to be able to hunt for food off the reservation - but in their aboriginal territory - without being subject to state law, the group says.
San Juan County Attorney Craig Halls requested that Holiday's January court date be postponed until April 18, and has asked for assistance from the Utah attorney general's office.
Halls declined to comment specifically on his prosecution plans.
"I can handle the case down here and have handled hundreds of misdemeanor violations. If it requires some historical research, then we would like to have (the attorney general) involved," he said.
The attorney general's office is expected to announce its decision Friday.
Holiday was cited because the head and sex organs of the deer he had shot in South Cottonwood Canyon near Blanding on Oct. 27 were missing, said Kevin Conway, a regional enforcement officer for the state Division of Wildlife Resources.
Utah law requires that either the head or the sex organs be left on the deer so game officials can determine the deer's gender.
"The laws that we are enforcing are the ones everyone is required to abide by when they are off the reservation. If anything, they are less restrictive than the ones passed by the Navajo Council," Conway said.
Reservation law, which like state law mandates licensing and proper tagging, requires the head to be left on and prohibits hunting after sunset. State law allows hunting to continue up to one hour after sunset.
Navajos hunting in the traditional way leave behind parts of the animals not used for food, say Kaiyella Tribe representatives, who in September asked wildlife officials to set aside a special Navajo hunting day in southeastern Utah.
Holiday's supporters include San Juan County Commissioner Mark Maryboy, the Kaiyella Dine' Hunting Rights Committee, the Intermountain Navajo Association and the As Long as the Grass Grows Treaty Rights Project of the Native Civil Rights Project. The Indian National Treaty Rights Organization is monitoring the case.