By Deb Murphy
The descendants of Ida Warlie have spent more than 16 years pulling together the paper trail that appears, to a layman’s eye, to lead to the family’s rights to two disputed lots identified by the Bishop Paiute Tribal Council as necessary for economic development.
That trail includes two opinions by the Intertribal Court of Southern California, Appellate Court, minutes from Bishop Tribal Council meetings recognizing Geraldine Pasqua, Warlie’s daughter, as the head of household over the lots in question as well as other original families’ changes in heads of household, Resolution 127 from the Owens Valley Board of Trustees acknowledging Pasqua’s status and correspondence from the Bureau of Indian Affairs acknowledging the Tribal Council’s authority to identify heads of household, according to Tribal tradition and culture.
Each document holds significance in the family members’ claims to lots 6 and 7.
The initial opinion from the Court of Appeals issued November 2, 2015 reverses the Tribal Courts’ decision on family members trespass charges on the lots; the second, June 1, 2016, upholds the reversal and remands the case back to Tribal Court with the requirement that the case be decided in accordance with the laws laid out in the opinion.
There are a few sidetracks in the opinions dealing with applications for the two lots. But the gist of the document is firm on a number of issues:
– The Bishop Tribal Court does have jurisdiction to decide occupancy and use\ of assignments. (Judge William Kockenmeister has consistently insisted that decision lay with the Tribal Council).
– The Assignment Ordinance passed in 1962, limiting assignments to two lots “provides that all approved assignments in existence at the time of the ordinance’s approval are acknowledged and approved.” The Warlie family’s seven assignments stand intact.”
- There is no dispute that Ida Warlie’s assignment continued to be used and occupied by her descendants in the years following her death through 1976.
- Approval of Pasqua’s assignment applications are confirmed.
- The opinion also deals with and dismisses other family member applications for the two lots.
- The Napoles’ packet also includes minutes from the September 28, 1977 Bishop Tribal Council meeting approving Pasqua’s application for the seven remaining Warlie lots. From the Council the application went to the Owens Valley Board of Trustees
Resolution 127, issued by the Board on November 15, 1977, states “the Owens Valley Board of Trustees has reviewed the attached application and found the applicant (Janice Geraldine Pasqua) to be eligible for the assignments requested.”
The resolution was forwarded to the BIA Area Director “for his review and consideration.” According to Ron Napoles, the BIA denied the application, based on the 1962 ordinance that limited assignments to two lots. The Appellate Court opinion clarifies that issue.
Seven years later, BIA’s Central California Agency Superintendent Ronald Jaeger sent a letter to the Board of Trustees acknowledging “confusion…in processing of land assignments.” The letter also acknowledges the Board of Trustees is the approving official; the BIA’s role is for “review and consideration” only, basically to make sure the paperwork is properly completed.
During the November 22 Tribal Court proceedings, Tribal Judge Bill Kockenmeister said the family had to present a decision by either the BIA or the Board of Trustees acknowledging the lots in question belonged to current family members. He also seemed to dismiss the Appellate Court opinions.
The Bishop Tribal Council was contacted for comment on the documentation. Their reply: “Please see the …. November 15, 2016 press release, which responds in part to Mr. Napoles false allegations. The Bishop Paiute Development Corporation (BPDC) and Bishop Paiute Tribe will have no further response to these falsehoods at this time.”