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First of a two-part series.
The Justice Department has filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque to dismiss the Jemez Pueblo lawsuit to reclaim tribal lands which encompass much of the Valles Caldera National Preserve.
The government’s motion focuses on a claim settled under the 1946 Indian Claims Commission Act called Pueblo of Zia, et al v. United States, in which Zia, Jemez and Santa Ana Pueblos sought compensation for an alleged “taking” of approximately 520,000 acres of land. Attorneys argued that the United States had allowed others to take possession of those lands “in derogation of the rights of the petitioners.”
The Valles Caldera land was not part of that lawsuit or settlement, but federal attorneys are now claiming that the ICC’s authority to “hear and determine all tribal claims against the United States that accrued before Aug. 13, 1946” — and a five-year window to file those claims —precludes any later claims. The motion argues that “Congress vested the ICC with expansive and exclusive jurisdiction to litigate all pre-1946 Indian-claims.”
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