United States Supreme Court Affirms Mt. Adams And Tract D Are Reservation Lands



On April 18, 2022, the United States Supreme Court rejected Klickitat County’s challenge to the Yakama Reservation’s boundaries. Klickitat County had argued that 121,465 acres in the southwestern corner of the Yakama Reservation—including the eastern half of Mt. Adams and the Glenwood Valley—were not included within the Yakama Reservation. The decision firmly concludes a dispute that has raged for more than a century.

“The Supreme Court’s decision once again validates the continuing strength of our Treaty rights under the United States Constitution,” said Yakama Nation Tribal Council Chairman Delano Saluskin. “The Yakama Nation will never compromise when our Treaty is at stake.”

The dispute centered around interpreting ambiguous language in the Treaty of 1855. When Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens drafted the Treaty, he described the Yakama Reservation’s southwestern border as “passing south and east of Mount Adams, to the spur whence flows the waters of the Klickatat and Pisco rivers . . . .” No such spur exists, which created an ambiguity in the Treaty language. The Yakama Nation has always understood Mt. Adams and Tract D to be Reservation land, and that understanding was affirmed by the Indian Claims Commission in 1966, President Richard Nixon in Executive Order 11670 in 1972, and federal surveyors in 1982. Despite this common understanding between the Treaty parties—the Yakama Nation and the United States—Klickitat County challenged the Yakama Reservation’s boundaries.

Klickitat County argued that the Treaty’s language should be interpreted to exclude the town of Glenwood from the Reservation, and in the alternative, that Congress removed Glenwood from the Reservation in the Act of December 21, 1904. The United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington disagreed.

The Supreme Court’s order list denying Klickitat County’s petition for writ of certiorari is online.  The Supreme Court docket is publicly available at https://www.supremecourt.gov/search.aspx?filename=/docket/docketfiles/html/public/21- 906.html

“We have repeatedly defended and will continue to defend our Treaty rights against Klickitat County if challenged, but hope this starts a new relationship between our governments founded on respect for the Yakama Nation’s Treaty rights and history,” said Chairman Delano Saluskin.

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