The House unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that the Ute Indian Tribe earlier told Congress is essential to help it keep the peace.
The House passed on a voice vote a bill to allow Indian tribes to prosecute in tribal courts Indians who are not members of their tribes. Tribes still have no jurisdiction over non-Indians.The Supreme Court ruled last year in Duro v. Reina that laws did not give tribes jurisdiction over other non-tribal Indians. Congress quickly changed that through a provision in the Defense Appropriations Act, but it expires later this year.
The bill passed Tuesday would make last year's quick change permanent. It goes now to the Senate for consideration.
Earlier this year, Ute Tribal Council Vice Chairman Curtis R. Cesspooch testified that without passage of the bill, non-tribal Indians would likely face no prosecution by anyone because federal and state authorities were reluctant to step in and fill the void left by the Supreme Court ruling.
"The Ute Indian Tribe deplores the distinct possibility of our homelands - a land base over which we are responsible - become havens for lawless non-member Indians. The tribe does not envision either the state of Utah or the United States suddenly expending new funds to guarantee the peace," he said.
"The lands of the Ute Indian Tribe are vast and populated by all manner of Indians. Non-member Indians are married to tribal members," Cesspooch said.
"It is absurd to suggest that federal prosecutors who are already overburdened with serious major crimes will prosecute misdemeanor crimes coming from Indian reservations."