Department of Interior to Stay Out of Intratribal Matters

The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes have been in a legal battle to determine who is the Governor of the tribes. In the most recent move the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs made the decision to remove itself from intratribal matters. A letter August 23 states the BIA decision as so “in the present matter [about who is the Governor of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes], we believe that this office acted precipitously in issuing its letter [opinion] dated January 6, 2011.” The BIA letter follows an August 15 decision by the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma dismissing Plaintiff Leslie Wandrie-Harjo’s claims in Wandrie v. Boswell, 5:11-cv-0171-F. According to the press release from the tribe the dismissal concluded that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to decide the intratribal matter of who is the Governor of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. The current government of the tribe has seen two separate factions claiming leadership over the 13,000-member tribe. Gov. Janice Boswell has fought to maintain the position she was voted into in January 2010. Harjo, who was voted in as Lt. Gov. with Boswell, started her push for the Governor’s seat earlier this year. Harjo claimed a tribal court suspended Boswell which would make her the governor. Both have accused the other faction of violating the tribal constitution and other violations. Harjo has presented her argument in multiple arenas including the federal district court, the BIA and tribal courts—all attempts were denied. “We are pleased with the result. Leslie has attempted to become governor by legal opinion and appears to have wanted that legal opinion from anyone. She disregarded the electorate’s choice, the Tribes’ Constitution, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes’ court orders, resolutions of the Tribal Council, and even submitted her claims to entities outside the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes’ Constitutional System,” Boswell said in the tribal press release. “Leslie is free to appeal the August 23, 2011 letter decision but in the meantime, I am still the Governor and the will of the people has been upheld.”

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