ESSENTIAL UNDERSTANDING 6: RIGHTS DERIVED FROM GOVERNMENT-TO-GOVERNMENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TRIBES AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
Many non-Indians think that American Indians have “special rights” that no other groups of people get, and they believe that’s not fair to everyone else. What these people don’t understand is that Indians don’t have any special rights because of their race or ethnicity. The so-called special rights stem from the government-to-government relationship between Tribes and the federal government. Those rights are not given to individuals; they’re given to a government. In certain cases, Tribes reserved subsistence rights under treaties to hunt, fish and gather on lands outside of their reservation boundaries, without limitation in time, excepting as Congress might determine. The federal government also promised to provide certain goods and services such as education and health care and to provide for the general welfare of the Tribes. These rights were not “given” to Tribes. They were part of the bargained exchange between a Tribe and the federal government for the Tribe’s cession of lands or the end of warfare.
Under the 1874 Brunot Agreement signed by President Ulysses Grant among the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Tribes and federal government, the Southern Ute and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribes reserved off-reservation treaty hunting, fishing and gathering rights in southwest Colorado, without limitation in time, excepting as Congress might determine. Under the Brunot Agreement, the Tribes ceded 3.4 million acres to the federal government. Retaining off-reservation treaty hunting, fishing and gathering rights in southwest Colorado was part of the consideration in the cession.
The State has a September 15, 2008, Memorandum of Understanding with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe regarding year-round hunting and fishing by tribal members in southwestern Colorado which is in accord with the 1874 Brunot Agreement. The Memorandum of Understanding with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe recognizes tribal and state jurisdiction over hunting of tribal members off-reservation in the Brunot Agreement area and agrees on collaboration.