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Full-page ad tells Roosevelt's side in Ute dispute

The Roosevelt City Council took out a full-page ad in the Uintah Basin Standard this week to dispel claims that the city singles out Ute Tribe members for unfair treatment and has refused to meet with tribal leaders to address mutual concerns.

Three weeks ago the Ute Tribe Business Committee told members of the Legislature's Native American Liaison Committee that the city police treat tribal members unfairly, that city officials had refused to allow tribal members to join in the Fourth of July parade, and that city leaders declined to meet with tribal leaders to discuss pending court action.The accusations stemmed from a Sept. 8 decision by U.S. District Judge Bruce S. Jenkins to rescind an injunction that prohibited Roosevelt City from arresting Ute Tribe members for misdemeanor crimes. The injunction was lifted after a ruling by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals May 8 that said Roosevelt was no longer on the Ute reservation.

The day after the injunction was lifted, Ute leaders announced that the tribe would boycott Roosevelt businesses. They also criticized Roosevelt officials for failing to meet with them to discuss common issues of concern.

The boycott and the subsequent allegations brought a flood of hate mail over the Internet addressed to Roosevelt City and Duchesne County officials. City leaders said they decided it was time to address the accusations to set the record straight.

In their open letter city officials say it "was imperative for Roosevelt City to clarify the right to enforce criminal jurisdiction within its boundaries." The city comprises 95 percent nontribal members.

Accusations that the tribe was not allowed to participate in the Fourth of July parade couldn't be further from the truth, the open letter read. City officials say the tribe was welcome to participate in the parade, but the tribe also wanted to have its own powwow parade in Roosevelt. "Roosevelt City has supported this, not only in financial donations, but has also welcomed the powwow parade to be held on the city's main street," the letter read.

Allegations that police treat tribal offenders differently is "simply not true," the letter stated, adding that "all reports of civil-rights violations undergo a thorough investigation, and in every case, the city's law-enforcement officers have been found innocent of any misconduct."

The tribe's claim that the city hadn't told them they were filing to have the injunction removed and then refused to meet with them for possible negotiations was also disputed. City officials say the tribe never contacted them about meeting together.

Last week city administrator Brad Hancock contacted a member of the Business Committee in an effort to open up discussions and attempt to ease tensions.

The Ute Tribe has acknowledged a contact by Roosevelt City and "is discussing options to continue," said Business Committee member Larry Blackhair.

But will the two governments really sit down and talk soon?

"Good neighbors, although they have difficulties at times, always have time to talk," said Blackhair.

City Councilwoman Beverly Hanson said city officials have always been amenable to meeting with tribal leaders and would still like to meet with them to discuss future issues.