Posted - 09/19/2006 : 12:49:16 AM
| September 18, 2006
Police haven't filed charges against 'tribe'
Investigation continues into group claiming to be an Indian tribe
By chris conrad
_http://www.mailtrib une.com/archive/ 2006/0918/ local/stories/ latgawa_case_ continues.htm_
(http://www.mailtrib une.com/archive/ 2006/0918/ local/stories/ latgawa_case_ continues. htm)
CENTRAL POINT -- As the case against a group claiming to be an Indian tribe carries into its second month, members of the "Latgawa Native American Indian Tribe" are wondering what the hold up is.
Central Point police are considering bringing felony charges of forgery, simulating legal process and impersonating a police officer against members of the group. The case stems from the group issuing its own drivers licenses, license plates and insurance cards to its 300 members.
The organization, which is not recognized as one of Oregon's nine Indian tribes, claims to exercise police powers including prosecuting members in its own court and hauling them to jail in a retired police Crown Victoria vehicle.
Latgawa member Dan Bryant criticizes the Central Point Police Department for holding computers seized using a search warrant at President John Newkirk's home in the 700 block of Manzanita Street.
"It's been 60 days and no charges have been filed against the tribe," Bryant said. "We haven't received our property."
Bryant said group members have asked police about the status of their case, but the inquiries were met with "absolute silence."
"We have sent notice to them to return our computers, which were taken illegally in the first place," he added.
The group argues that it doesn't need federal recognition because its forefathers never surrendered to the U.S. government.
Central Point Lt. Chuck Newell said the group filed for federal status, but did not receive it. He added that no charges will be filed until the investigation is completed, which could take another month.
"We seized five or six computers from Newkirk's home," Newell said. "It can take a few weeks to analyze the information found on a single computer." He also said the Latgawa case has been trumped by other crimes, such as a child pornography bust last week.
"If something comes along that has to do with children or someone getting hurt we're going to move that to the front burner," he added.
One of Bryant's harshest complaints is that police in the past have accepted the "tribe's" documents. For instance, when Bryant's car was impounded after a traffic stop, it was released to him after he produced a Latgawa license. Newell chalked that up to a mistake made by a clerk, who apparently thought the license was authentic.
In fact, the department thought the group was recognized until investigators began making phone calls to the Bureau of Indian Affairs after Bryant's car with the "tribal" license plates was stopped by authorities.
Bryant, however, is accepting none of the city's excuses.
"The bottom line is there is prejudice in this town against the Latgawa tribe," he said.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471, or e-mail _cconrad@mailtribun e.com_ (mailto:cconrad@mailtribune .com?subject=Police haven't filed charges against ' tribe') .
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Tatanka Ohitika—Brave Buffalo,