Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians of Nevada


The tribe has no right to stop a state court water commissioner from crossing its land to regulate irrigation gates controlling the Humboldt River, state attorneys claim. But tribal officials counter they have sovereign immunity and can block anyone they want from entering reservation land. Both sides presented arguments before the Nevada Supreme Court. Deputy Attorney General Paul Taggart said the issue is whether the tribe has the legal right to take as much water as it wants. He said water commissioners regulated Humboldt water rights for 55 years but were suddenly kicked out by the tribe two years ago. The state went to district court for an order to enforce commission powers. The tribe, in turn, went to the Supreme Court to block that order, arguing it is sovereign and immune from state court actions. Raymond Rodriguez of Nevada Legal Services said the Humboldt Decree says nothing about crossing reservation land without permission. The headgate, he said, was built by the federal government, not the state, and does not fall under state control. He said the land issue looms large as Elko expands and more people go onto tribal lands. The court will issue a ruling at a later date. No matter which side wins, the issue will be appealed to federal court.