Tom Harpel/Wikipedia
Ownership of Lake Quinault, ancestral home of the tribe of the same name, was challenged in court but the case has been dismissed.

Judge Throws Out Case Challenging Quinault Sovereignty Over Ancestral Lake


An attempt to question and undermine the sovereignty of the Quinault Indian Nation over its eponymous lake has been dismissed in U.S. District Court.

Judge Ronald B. Leighton on Monday May 4 dismissed a lawsuit filed in Seattle in January that questioned the tribe’s right to declare who could and could not use the lake.

RELATED: Lawsuit Seeks to Wrest Control of Lake Quinault from Tribe

“This quick and explicit ruling was never in doubt,” said Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp in a statement. “As I said back in January, Lake Quinault is undisputedly within the Quinault Reservation. This was a meritless lawsuit. Lake Quinault is sacred to us. It is unquestionably within our Reservation and we take our responsibility to manage it properly very seriously.”

The suit had been filed by North Quinault Properties LLC against both the tribe and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, the latter included for alleged mismanagement. The private plaintiff represented local non-tribal property owners who were angered when the Quinault Nation limited use of the lake last year.

RELATED: Quinault Nation Restricts Lake Use Due to Habitat Degradation

Quinault Nation Reopens Lake to Limited Non-Tribal Use

Both the state and the tribe applied for dismissals, which were granted.

“Plaintiff’s Complaint against the Quinault Indian Nation is barred by the doctrine of Tribal sovereign immunity,” the ruling in favor of the tribe stated.

Sharp emphasized that the restrictions had been put in place for everybody’s sake, for the preservation of the lake.

“Our objective is to protect the lake for future generations,” Sharp said in the tribe’s May 4 statement. “We realize it is a popular recreation destination, and we are happy to accommodate those interests, but only as long as the lake is respected and protected at levels we accept.”

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bullbear's picture
Submitted by bullbear on
Tribal sovereignty is the cornerstone of all tribal rights when it comes to the federal and state government. Here is a prime example of a private developer who thought they could bulldoze their way onto tribal land and claim it is for their own use and its residents as well. The tribe has every right to seek damages from posing the tribe as hostile forces and all legal fees from the developer. The time is well overdue for tribes to stop being so forgiving to the onslaught of developers and utility corporations who do an insurmountable amount of damages, found guilty and only receive a slap on the wrist when the courts favor tribal nations. If the shoe is on the other foot, all of us know very well what the outcome would be. Lets hope that this major decision will remain fresh in the minds of generations to come for the Quinault so their pristine forest lands with its vast variety of tree species will also not be subject to such outside forces. Chalk one up to tribal nations and hats off to those who fought valiantly in our judicial system. Let this serve as a call to tribal youth that our People need your help in the legal field to help secure our tribal nation's future. We should not expect any non-Indian attorney, regardless if they are a strong, lifelong friend to our tribal nations, to know what keeps the fire burning inside us for our People today, tomorrow and the day after that.