Although maps may show just one large Goshute Indian Reservation on the Utah-Nevada border, it has actually been divided into two non-connecting sections for decades.
But they soon could be joined together by President Reagan's signature.The reservation for the 400 members of the Goshute tribe has been divided by a quarter-mile wide strip on the Utah side of the border. But Congress voted just before it adjourned for the year to add that land to the reservation - finally.
Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, said when President Woodrow Wilson signed an order creating a Goshute reservation on the Utah side almost 85 years ago, he neglected to include that narrow strip along the border.
When the Nevada portion of the reservation was created in 1938, it only went to the Nevada state line - again leaving the strip out of the reservation.
"It is my belief, as well as the tribe's, that the omission of this strip was an oversight, and that the United States - both Congress and the administration - intended both portions to be physically joined providing consistency to the reservation's boundary," Garn said.
The bill, if signed by President Reagan, would transfer 1,754 acres of U.S. Bureau of Land Management land in the strip to the tribe. A small 320-acre enclave of private land would not change hands.
The bill also expands the reservation's boundaries at other spots, including 80 acres of land within current boundaries and 1,440 acres adjacent to the reservation - including five acres used by the tribe as a cemetery.
Garn said, "It is important to note that all of this land was at one time part of the aboriginal area of the Goshutes."
Besides aiding the Goshutes, the bill also aides a small band of members of the Utah Mountain Ute Tribe - the White Mesa Utes - who live in Allen Canyon, San Juan County, near Blanding.
The bill would declare 40 acres of land that had been withdrawn from public domain in 1924 for a now long-abandoned school as "held in trust for the benefit of the tribe."
Garn said, "This action will permit the 300 White Mesa Utes living in Allen Canyon to use this land productively, for example, in such activities as grazing and gardening."
He said the land had only been used occasionally by tribal members because of uncertainty about the land's status.
Although the land adjoins two tribally owned portions of land on both sides, it is not within or adjacent to the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation, which is primarily in Colorado.