Yavapai-Prescott Tribe Sued In Historic Preservation Dispute

Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe elder Ted Vaughn is suing the Tribe’s Board of directors over the construction of a new administration building next to the historic home of the founders of the Tribe’s reservation.

Vaughn has a personal stake in the issue: the founders, Sam and Viola Jimulla, were his grandparents, and he grew up in the house. These days, he teaches the Yavapai language in the Jimulla house in an effort to preserve the Tribe’s language and culture.

Vaughn accuses the Board and Tribal planner of hiding the fact that they were going to build the huge new resource building within 20 feet of the Jimulla home, which he calls a “priceless Tribal historic and archaeological resource.”

When construction started in May, the workers tore down a rock wall his grandfather built, and started work on the project that will block the panoramic views from the home.

“We placed the building in the best location possible,” considering factors such as limited space, slope, etc., Tribal General Manager Jim Noe responded.

In papers filed in Tribal court, the Board says the Jimulla house is government property and Vaughn has no “personal ownership interest” in it. Vaughn had plenty of due process under the law, the Board’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit states.

Vaughn is trying to violate the Board’s sovereign immunity, the Board’s motion adds. Vaughn accuses the Board of violating the Tribe’s Law and Order Code, which states that the Tribe will protect things of historical or cultural interest from “disturbance” or “other interference.” He also accuses the Board of violating another section of the code that requires building permits to show the location of the new structure in relation to neighboring lots.

In 1934, the U.S. Civil Works Administration helped Yavapai people build a community house and a handful of homes on the site that officially would become the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Reservation on May 9, 1935. Today, several of those historic buildings remain, and the community house next to the Jimulla home continues to serve as a Tribal administration building.

Vaughn originally wanted the court to stop work on the new building and put it about 40 feet farther away from the Jimulla home. However, with the advanced state of the new construction, Vaughn’s goal now is to protect members’ Indian Civil Rights Act rights in the future, and to encourage the incorporation of more Tribal customs, such as building new structures to face East toward the rising sun.

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