Ninth Circuit Affirms Yakama Reservations Boundary

YAKAMA NATION AGENCY, YAKAMA RESERVATION – On June 11, 2021, the United States
Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision in Confederated Tribes and Bands of the
Yakama Nation v. Klickitat County et al., Nos. 19-35807/19-35821, affirming the reservation
status of 121,465 acres within the southwestern corner of the Yakama Reservation, including Mt.
Adams and the Glenwood Valley.

“The Ninth Circuit’s decision is a resounding victory for the rights that our ancestors reserved in
the Treaty of 1855,” said Yakama Nation Tribal Council Chairman Delano Saluskin. “Both parties
to the Treaty joined together to protect the Yakama Reservation from Klickitat County’s
challenge, and we are thankful the Ninth Circuit honored the Treaty parties’ common

The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation ceded certain rights to more than
10,000,000 acres of land for the rights reserved in the Treaty of 1855, including the right to the
exclusive use and benefit of the 1.4 million acre Yakama Reservation. The Treaty includes a tract
of land south of Mt. Adams known as ‘Tract D’ within the Reservation boundaries, which the
United States depicted on a Treaty Map in 1855, but the map was lost in government files until
After a three day trial before United States District Court Judge Thomas Rice, the district
court held that Tract D was included within the Yakama Reservation by Treaty, and remains
within the Yakama Reservation today.

Before the Ninth Circuit’s three-judge panel, Klickitat County argued that the Yakama Nation
did not reserve Tract D within the Yakama Reservation in the Treaty of 1855. Even if it did, the
County argued that in 1904 Congress subsequently changed the Yakama Reservation’s
boundaries to eliminate Tract D’s Reservation-status. The Yakama Nation responded that clear
evidence from the Walla Walla Treaty Council supported Tract D’s inclusion within the Yakama
Reservation, and that Congress did not clearly express an intent to change the Yakama
Reservation’s boundaries thereafter.

The decision is attached, and video of the arguments is
available at

“[T]he treaty terms ‘must be construed in the sense in which they would naturally be understood
by the Indians’” wrote Ninth Circuit Judge Michelle Friedland in today’s decision. “[T]he
Yakamas understood the Treaty to include Tract D within the Reservation’s boundaries.”

Read the legal documents here: