The Cougar Den gas station and restaurant on the Yakama Nation in White Swan, Washington. Image: Google Maps
Business | Law

Washington asks high court to overturn Yakama Nation treaty victory





The state of Washington is asking the nation's highest court to hear a treaty rights case affecting a business on the Yakama Nation.

By a 7-2 vote, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the 1855 Yakama Treaty guarantees a right to "free and open access" to the commercial market. For the Cougar Den gas station on the reservation, that means freedom from the state's fuel tax.

But the state wants the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the victory. A petition in Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den was filed on June 14.

“It’s consistent with the Washington State Attorney General’s hostility of the Yakamas’ sovereignty and treaty rights,” Brendan Monahan, an attorney for Cougar Den, told The Yakima Herald-Republic. “We will be opposing the petition and clarifying what is as issue.”

Cougar Den's response is due July 14, according to Docket No. 16-1498. The state of Washington will then be able to file a reply.

After that, the justices will schedule the petition for a conference. If they decide to accept it, they will issue an order following their meeting, which occurs behind closed doors.

The Supreme Court accepts just a small percentage of petitions. Only two Indian law cases were accepted during the current term, which began last October.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case before the Washington Supreme Court, Cougar Den Inc. v. Washington State Department of Licensing.

Read More on the Story:
Washington state wants Yakama fuel tax exemption overturned (The Yakima Herald-Republic 6/22)

Washington Supreme Court Decision:
Cougar Den Inc. v. Washington State Department of Licensing (March 16, 2017)

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Washington Supreme Court affirms legality of tribal gas compacts (August 28, 2015)
Editorial: Yakama Nation gas tax likely headed to higher court (August 5, 2015)