Tribe Sues USA, Demanding Recognition
LAS VEGAS (CN) - The Winnemucca Indian Colony sued the United States, which has refused to recognize it as a legitimate tribe 12 years after its chairman was killed on the steps of the colony's administration building. That case remains unsolved.
"The plaintiffs need to be a recognized government by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the United States of America in order to conduct business, enter into reciprocity agreements for law enforcement to protect the security and safety of their residents and members, to apply for grant funds and other important activities to protect their members and provide for their economic well being and the safety of their persons," the complaint states.
"Without a government recognized by the United States, this small Colony is victim to occupation as it is now by persons not members, not Indians and not law abiding.
"Without a government recognized by the United States, this small Colony is without protection, subject to police harassment by the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] and interference in their daily business.
"Without a government recognized by the United States, this small Colony has no court, no fire service, no police protection and many other services necessary for a civilized society."
In 2000, then-Chairman Glenn Wasson reported to the tribe's Colony Council that Vice Chairman William Bills might not qualify as an Indian, as he may have been adopted. Wasson also said that Bills was diverting mail belonging to the colony, the complaint states.
According to media reports, Bills is 100 percent Filipino, and the tribe's bylaws require members be at least one-quarter Indian.
Ten days after making those accusations, "On February 22, 2000, Glenn Wasson was murdered by multiple stab wounds on the doorsteps of the Colony's Administration Building. The federal government has failed to arrest anyone for this murder and failed to make any credible investigation," the complaint states.
Bills was then put in charge.
But the Bureau of Indian Affairs was informed that Bills was not an Indian and had no blood quantum to qualify for membership, the complaint states, so the Western Nevada Agency of the BIA declared that the tribe's government was "dysfunctional" and would not be recognized.
In December 2000, the Regional Office overruled the agency's decision.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs has since failed to recognize a government of the Winnemucca Indian Colony, according to the complaint.
In August 2002, a panel of appellate judges issued an opinion recognizing Thomas Wasson as the chairman of the colony, the complaint states. The 9th Circuit affirmed in 2010.
In May 2011, the colony sought to rehabilitate a smoke shop - the "economic bedrock" of the colony - which had been abandoned after Glenn Wasson's death.
But the Bureau of Indian Affairs intervened. In July this year, it ordered workers to leave the project under threat of arrest, according to the complaint.
Since the, the Superintendent of the Western Nevada Agency has refused to respond to the Colony's request to review the matter.
The colony seeks recognition by the federal government, and wants its officials recognized as serving the Council of the Winnemucca Indian Colony.
The tribe and Chairman Thomas Wasson are represented by Robert R. Hager with Hager & Hearne, of Reno.