Is Native blood enough to be tried in CRIT court?

An interesting turn of events in the domestic violence case of Parker Town Councilwoman Ramona Duran. After the case had been turned over to La Paz County Attorney Sam Vederman, Duran claimed she is a Native American and, although not enrolled as a tribal member with the Colorado River Indian Tribes, now wishes her case to be heard in CRIT court. This has prompted some observers to wonder whether the claim to Native ancestry is enough to warrant such jurisdictional manouevers, or whether one should have to be a tribal member to qualify for transfer to tribal court. Which is correct? The legal system seems to indicate that Duran’s tribal blood can give her the right to a tribal verdict. The case is now in the hands of CRIT prosecutors.

8 comments

  1. I’d take my chances on an Indian court over Sam Vedermans anyday. Good on her! (even though I know nothing about her and her case)

  2. You’re a little off on this one John. A claim of Native Ancestry is not enough to warrant the case being moved to tribal court. Nor would the tribal court have jurisdiction if all she did was say “I’m an Indian.”

    However, if you are an enrolled member of ANY tribe (not just CRIT) then it must be moved to tribal court if the offense occurred on tribal land. This is proved either by documentation from the tribe, or if you have that tribes ID card. Remember, different tribes have different enrollment standards (% Blood Required, Direct Decadency, etc…) But if you are a tribal member of ANY federally recognized tribe, you fall under tribal jurisdiction.

    I don’t have any personal knowledge of this person, but a post on the Pioneer Board says she regularly goes to IHS. If that’s true, then she must be enrolled with some tribe. You can’t just waltz into IHS and say “I’m an indian”and get treated. You have to prove you are. Same with getting your case transferred to tribal court. Ms. Duran must be enrolled with another tribe to have her case transferred.

    If she proved she was enrolled with ANY Tribe, Sam would have no choice but to transfer the case. The Justice Court would have no jurisdiction. And Mike, I wouldn’t want to be a Defendant facing Sam’s prosecution either. His Office has a pretty good track record of getting convictions (As you know.) I’d have much less of a chance to “get away with it” if he was prosecuting. But so far, I’ve done a good job of not getting arrested and ending up the defendant. So I’m happy to have him in there.

  3. CommonSense- What’s ‘off’ about asking the question? Thanks for providing an answer!

  4. Touche. It was a question, not a statement. Guess I’m a lil’ touchy. The pioneer article made it sound like all she did was say shes tribal, and the case was magically moved to tribal court, since shes not an enrolled member of CRIT. They never clarify that ANY Tribe will do. I’m betting that’s where a lot of the information on this has come from.

    Shouldn’t hold that against you 🙂 So it wasn’t “off,” it was a question. I humbly apologize.

  5. She must want it to go away then… Does anything really ever happen in “Tribal Court?” There are no felonies on the rez, so she must want it to become a non-issue. Pity…

    Unless of course she was the one layin’ the smackdown! Then why not move it where it goes away?

  6. This clarification comes from the County Attorney:

    “There are two primary factors in determining Indian status: (1) The degree of Indian blood. A person must have some Indian blood; (2) Tribal or government recognition as an Indian.

    Tribal enrollment is not a mandatory requirement for Indian status.

    The courts have considered all of the following as evidence for tribal or government recognition as an Indian:

    1. Tribal enrollment.
    2. Government recognition formally and informally through receipt of assistance reserved only to Indians.
    3. Enjoyment of the benefits of tribal affiliation.
    4. Social recognition as an Indian through residence on a reservation and participation in Indian social life.

    United States v. Bruce, 394 F.3d 1215, 1223, 1224 (2005).

  7. Just because you go to IHS doesn’t mean you are an enrolled member of any tribe. It mearly means you are either a member of a tribe, or a descendant of a member (there are other ways as well). I obtained a copy of the police report and the officer (Ferris) who arrested her asked for proof of membership after she said she was tribal. She tried to show him her IHS card as well as a letter of descendency. I have the same letter of descendancy and IHS card in my wallet. In fact, I should be a enrolled member but cannot provide the proper documents to CRIT enrollment department. So as far as they are concenrned I am not a tribal member even though I go to IHS and have the blood. There are many people in this town in the same situation as myself. I know people who have been arrested by Parker Police Department in the town limits and they stated to the officers they were tribal and after being asked to show ID to prove it they were not granted being prosecuted in tribal court. So now do you go back on all the cases that were not sent to tribal court, but instead were in this case improperly heard in the Arizona Judicial System. Im’ curious what the Parker Police need to be presented with in order to call tribal police onto the scene, because its always been some sort of documentation proving you were an ENROLLED member of a nationally recognized tribe. Anyone who is a descendant of a tribal member who has been prosecuted by town or county courts should be questioning if they have the right or if you were denied your right like Mona Duran was given?

  8. Parkercitzen if you obtained a copy of the police report than we must of got two different copy of reports because my report does not indicate that Mrs. Duran tried showing any letter or IHS card to any responding officer(s). People really need to get their facts straight. Not that it’s anybody’s business but Mrs. Duran (days later) submitted paper work to be filed with her report going to the courts.

    It is very unfortunate that you are unable to get enrolled, but you to have rights and maybe should learn how to start exercising them if you’re that upset about Mrs. Duran is doing so. Mrs. Duran still had to go through the process of filing her papers and going to court. She didn’t just walk up to the courts and say hey I’m Indian.

    Parker Police officers ask Native American or local tribal members for their tribal enrollment cards because that is their procedures. If a Native American (not tribal member) is arrested on reservation they have the right to present and prove they are Native American in court under the rules listed below (like Mrs. Duran did):

    There are two primary factors in determining Indian status: (1) The degree of Indian blood. A person must have some Indian blood; (2) Tribal or government recognition as an Indian.
    Tribal enrollment is not a mandatory requirement for Indian status.
    The courts have considered all of the following as evidence for tribal or government recognition as an Indian:
    1. Tribal enrollment.
    2. Government recognition formally and informally through receipt of assistance reserved only to Indians.
    3. Enjoyment of the benefits of tribal affiliation.
    4. Social recognition as an Indian through residence on a reservation and participation in Indian social life.
    United States v. Bruce, 394 F.3d 1215, 1223, 1224 (2005).

    If you fall under any of the above then your case should be heard in tribal court. If you are cited or arrested you have the right to prove your Native American and request your case to be referred or heard in tribal courts. It is not that the cases you speak about were improperly heard in the Arizona Judicial System, it’s the individuals obviously did not know their rights as a Native American when on reservation.

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