March 14, 2011 The Yakama Nation is suing the federal government for violation of its treaty rights over an FBI raid last month of a tribal cigarette manufacturer on the reservation.
Washington State - govt raids King Mountain Tobacco Co. located on the Yakama Indian reservation..
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court seeks an order requiring the FBI and Department of Justice to notify the tribe before entering the reservation, and unspecified compensation for punitive damages. Named in the lawsuit are U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, and several unidentified FBI agents.
An FBI spokesman in Spokane declined to comment on the lawsuit, calling it pending litigation. Calls to attorneys representing the tribe and tribal leaders also were not returned.
On Feb. 16, FBI agents swarmed King Mountain Tobacco, deep within the reservation, and seized company records and computer equipment. Under the 1855 treaty, the Yakamas reserved their exclusive use of the reservation and authority over its land and people.
According to the lawsuit, the federal government violated those rights by conducting the raid without first contacting tribal leaders. An FBI agent did send a text message to the tribe's commissioner of public safety, but it was after the raid had begun, the lawsuit said.
A search warrant issued in connection with the raid didn't explain the FBI's actions.
The raid came a day after King Mountain sued the state of Washington and Attorney General Rob McKenna, alleging the state is illegally collecting a penalty stemming from the 46-state Big Tobacco settlement in 1998.
Owned and operated by tribal member Delbert Wheeler Sr., the cigarette company is on tribal land off Fort Simcoe Road, southwest of White Swan.
The company is licensed by the tribe, and says it grows tobacco on tribal land and a majority of its 100 workers are tribal members.
Lawyers for King Mountain argue the company is protected under the treaty, which guarantees the Yakamas can freely travel and bring goods to market without state interference.
It's not the first time a cigarette-related raid has occurred on the 1.2 million-acre reservation. For years, tribal smoke shops have had records and inventory confiscated over tax issues.
Tribal members are not subject to state retail or cigarette taxes on the reservation, but state authorities remain poised to enforce cigarette taxes on non-Indians who buy from tribal stores and smoke shops.
Reference: Tribe sues feds over reservation raid by Phil Ferolito (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yakima Herald-Republic, 3/10/2011.