Jemez Pueblo files appeal in Caldera suit

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Gov. Toya > Says pueblo will fight as long as it takes to succeed

By The Staff

Jemez Pueblo Governor Vincent Toya announced Friday the Pueblo has appealed New Mexico federal district court judge Robert C. Brack’s Sept. 24 decision, dismissing the Pueblo’s title lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks the return of the Valles Caldera. The case will be reviewed by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Toya said in a statement, “We continue our fight to secure our rights in this sacred land until we succeed. We will pursue all options in our struggle to protect this sacred land. Wavema, Redondo Peak, is just as precious to us as Blue Lake is to Taos Pueblo.

“It is also the source of the Rio Jemez that delivers precious water resources for sustaining our people and community. It is our most important sacred place and it is crucial to the survival of traditional Jemez culture. The people of Taos Pueblo fought for 64 years to recover Blue Lake. We are just as committed.”

In its brief opposing the government’s motion to dismiss, the Pueblo argued that if the Court’s ICCA “exclusive jurisdiction” argument is correct, post-1946 eastern Indian land claims and settlements, the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act confirming 40 million acres to Alaska Natives, recent Indian treaty claims and Indian water rights now in court throughout the Western United States should have been subject to the same rule. If correct, the Court’s interpretation means that the ICCA did not just provide compensation for “ancient wrongs” but itself extinguished all off-reservation Indian property rights as of Aug. 13, 1946.

“The secular and traditional leadership as well as the tribal young and the old remain confident that these culturally critical, in lands will be restored to us.”

In his September ruling, Brack stated the following.

“Defendant is immune from suit unless it consents to be sued. Plaintiff has the burden of establishing jurisdiction. This Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a claim against Defendant for which sovereign immunity has not been waived. “Plaintiff has not met its burden to establish a valid waiver of sovereign immunity. As a result, Plaintiff’s claim may not proceed and the statute of limitations had run out.

“Plaintiff’s claim is barred because it fell within the exclusive jurisdiction of the ICC and it is barred by the statute of limitations contained within the ICCA.”

Valles Caldera Trust, Board of Trustees Chairman Kent Salazar said at the time, “We will continue to work closely with the Pueblo nonetheless to ensure the cultural history, spiritual significance and the landscape are preserved for generations to come. It is what we do as the Valles Caldera Trust and what we are committed to as friends and neighbors of the Pueblo of Jemez”