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Winnemucca Indian Colony Update: Oral Arguments Heard in Inter-Tribal Court of Appeals of Nevada

Water Protector Legal Collective

Sandra Freeman, Staff Attorney

Nevada Legal Services

Alexandra Rawlings, Directing Attorney, Indian Law Project and Farmworker Project

December 16, 2022

Winnemucca Indian Colony Update:

Oral Arguments Heard in Inter-Tribal Court of Appeals of Nevada (ITCAN)

Winnemucca Indian Colony, Paiute and Shoshone lands, Nevada, U.S.A — On December 2, 2022, the Winnemucca Tribal Court summarily evicted the Elders and other Residents (some still unrepresented) without a trial and banished several others, ordering most to leave the homes they have lived in for decades by Friday, December 9, 2022. Attorneys from ​​Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC) and Nevada Legal Services (NLS) filed emergency motions to stay and appeal for the Elders and Residents they represent. On December 11, 2022, the Intertribal Court of Appeals of Nevada (ITCAN) agreed that the appeals court should hear oral arguments about the legal team’s request to stay the eviction and banishment orders entered at summary judgment by the tribal court, and set the matter for a hearing on December 15, 2022.

During the hearing, the three justices heard arguments from attorneys Jimmy Salvator (Nevada Legal Services) and Sandra Freeman (Water Protector Legal Collective) on behalf of their respective clients among Elders and Residents ordered to leave their homes. Counsel argued in support of their motions for emergency stay of the eviction and banishment orders in addition to a request filed for a site visit, asking the justices to visit the Colony grounds to see firsthand the difficult conditions the Elders and Residents face.

Counsel for the disputed Tribal Council of the Winnemucca Indian Colony argued that the appellate court should uphold the eviction order in deference to Tribal Sovereignty. Counsel from NLS and WPLC emphasized that the request for a stay does not go against Tribal Sovereignty, rather is a plea to the appellate court to ensure that due process is followed and to weigh the balance of equities in favor of Elders and Residents who will now find themselves without a home in the middle of Nevada’s harshest season. Citing several procedural issues, including a lack of subject matter jurisdiction when the Tribal Court issued its eviction ruling, NLS and WPLC counsel argued these errors should result in allowing Elders and Residents to stay in their homes until ITCAN reaches a final decision about the questions presented by the appeal. The hearing ended with the justices indicating that they would provide a ruling “in due course.” The legal teams will share the ruling as soon as one is delivered.

About WPLC and NLS:

Born out of the #NoDAPL movement, the Water Protector Legal Collective is an Indigenous-led legal nonprofit that provides support and advocacy for Indigenous peoples and Original Nations, the Earth, and climate justice movements.

It is the Mission of Nevada Legal Services to strengthen the community by ensuring fairness and providing equal access to justice for low-income Nevadans. NLS has the responsibility to advance legal aid in search for justice for those who need it the most.

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