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Boycott! Racial Profiling by Cops Angers Ute Indian Tribe

Carol Berry
9/2/13

 

After years of dispute and disrespect from alleged racial profiling by local law enforcement, the Ute Indian Tribe of northeastern Utah is calling for an economic boycott of non-Ute businesses in the community of Roosevelt, located near tribal headquarters.

The boycott stems in part from Roosevelt’s refusal to enter into a cooperative law enforcement agreement with the tribe, the United States, and surrounding counties, a measure that would “alleviate many of the law enforcement issues,” tribal attorneys said in a prepared statement August 30.

“Recently, a tribal member was stopped in Roosevelt and arrested without being charged with any criminal offense,” the tribe’s governing business committee said. “This is just one of hundreds of reports that have come in over the years of unlawful police activity and racial profiling taking place against tribal members by Roosevelt officers, and the tribe isn’t going to accept this anymore.”

The tribe’s newspaper says the business committee was made aware of unjustified stops and harassment by Uintah County police officers of those traveling to and from a tribal Sun Dance in August, disrupting and interfering with the constitutionally protected free exercise of their religion.

The actions demonstrate “extreme disregard and prejudice” toward Native American culture and religious practices, the business committee stated.

The tribe contends Roosevelt is within the reservation’s exterior boundaries, a position supported by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), which backs the tribe in its effort to ensure that the reservation remains intact and that it maintains authority over all Indian country lands within the exterior boundaries.

Roosevelt was founded by a homesteader after Ute lands were opened to white settlement in 1905.

The NCAI also supports the “finality and binding effect” of 1985 and 1997 federal court rulings affirming in 1985 and 1997 the reservation boundaries that are supported by the tribe. Those rulings are being contested by the State of Utah and Uintah County in district court, with a decision expected in 2014.

The current boycott “does not apply to companies affiliated with or doing business for or in partnership with the tribe, such as oil and gas operators or contractors that maintain an office in Roosevelt,” the business committee said.

However, while the business committee “encourages and supports a positive relationship with the city of Roosevelt, in light of the willful refusal to accept [the cooperative law enforcement agreement], and in light of the continued violation of civil rights by law enforcement,” the boycott will begin.

The boycott will continue until Roosevelt and its law enforcement officers address and resolve ongoing civil rights violations, the business committee said.

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