Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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News from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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Nov. 12, 2011


Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations file amended water complaint

In the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations’ ongoing effort to protect regional water resources and tribal rights, lawyers for the tribes have filed an amended complaint in the Sardis Lake lawsuit proceeding before Judge West in federal court. Lawyers for the Nations said the amended complaint was necessary to address a request by defendants to delay negotiations and set aside the federal court lawsuit so that they could file a separate action in state court.

Tribal attorneys assert that the federal court already has jurisdiction over the issues and a separate state court action would serve only to delay resolution.

“Judge West, pretty wisely, made clear last week that he sees the negotiating table as the parties’ best path to resolution. We agree and have said that for years,” said Mike Burrage, attorney for the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations. “We believe this request would only complicate the process unproductively since the federal court has jurisdiction over these questions already. We think further delay would be a mistake, So we filed an amended complaint to clarify our position on that point and the main issues.”

The amendment underscores the inherent federal nature of the issues to be resolved.

According to tribal attorneys, federal courts alone are responsible for the interpretation of treaties between the federal government and Indian nations which serve as the basis for the tribal claims.

Tribal attorneys also assert that a portion of the Atoka pipeline was constructed in trespass of tribal trust lands, though the Nations have made no claim that would require the shutting down or otherwise change ownership of that pipeline.

“We are committed to resolving the matters already before the court. We’re looking for a resolution that works for all of us,” said Burrage. “But we are also committed to taking the actions necessary to protect our right to work it out in federal court.”