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Judge Throws Out Case Challenging Quinault Sovereignty Over Ancestral Lake

A lawsuit challenging the Quinault Indian Nation's ownership of its ancestral, eponymous lake has been dismissed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
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An attempt to question and undermine the sovereignty of the Quinault Indian Nation over its eponymous lake has been dismissed in U.S. District Court.

Judge Ronald B. Leighton on Monday May 4 dismissed a lawsuit filed in Seattle in January that questioned the tribe’s right to declare who could and could not use the lake.

RELATED: Lawsuit Seeks to Wrest Control of Lake Quinault from Tribe

“This quick and explicit ruling was never in doubt,” said Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp in a statement. “As I said back in January, Lake Quinault is undisputedly within the Quinault Reservation. This was a meritless lawsuit. Lake Quinault is sacred to us. It is unquestionably within our Reservation and we take our responsibility to manage it properly very seriously.”

The suit had been filed by North Quinault Properties LLC against both the tribe and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, the latter included for alleged mismanagement. The private plaintiff represented local non-tribal property owners who were angered when the Quinault Nation limited use of the lake last year.

RELATED: Quinault Nation Restricts Lake Use Due to Habitat Degradation

Quinault Nation Reopens Lake to Limited Non-Tribal Use

Both the state and the tribe applied for dismissals, which were granted.

“Plaintiff’s Complaint against the Quinault Indian Nation is barred by the doctrine of Tribal sovereign immunity,” the ruling in favor of the tribe stated.

Sharp emphasized that the restrictions had been put in place for everybody’s sake, for the preservation of the lake.

“Our objective is to protect the lake for future generations,” Sharp said in the tribe’s May 4 statement. “We realize it is a popular recreation destination, and we are happy to accommodate those interests, but only as long as the lake is respected and protected at levels we accept.”