Utes fight for right to prosecute

  The Ute Indian Tribe has discovered the power of money.


Some 10 months after the tribe's business committee launched a boycott of Roosevelt, Utah, businesses there continue to feel its sting. The boycott centers on a decades-old dispute over who should prosecute tribal members charged with misdemeanors in the town of Roosevelt, pop. 5,000 - the city or the Ute Indian Tribe.





"I've been in business for seven years," says Evan Gentile, "and it's never been tougher." Sales at his quick lube shop are down 9 percent. Uinta Basin Tractor Inc. lost a $150,000 contract. "Now that they've boycotted us," says Davy Evans, the parts manager, "I can't even sell them a filter."


Antagonism intensified in April when the Roosevelt City Council voted 3-2 not to hand over any jurisdiction to the tribe.


That followed a U.S. Supreme Court decision giving Roosevelt the legal right to prosecute Ute tribal members charged with misdemeanors. The tribe wants this eastern Utah town to waive that right and let the tribe prosecute such cases under its own law-and-order code. The code places more emphasis on community service for minor offenses and less on fines, since many of the tribe's members are poor.


If a Roosevelt resident is arrested on tribal land, the individual is turned over to the appropriate county for prosecution. "We have the common courtesy to give you back to your people and say, "You take care of your problem," "''''says Kirby Arrive, a member of the Ute business committee. "All we are asking is that common courtesy in return, and I don't think that is beyond reason."





" Guy Boulton





The writer works for the Salt Lake Tribune.
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