Oklahoma tribes' millions to be controlled by district judge

Millions of dollars belonging to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes are now under the control of a Custer County, Oklahoma judge who has ordered the two feuding factions within the tribes to begin a mediation process.
by Andrew Knittle Published: June 26, 2012

— A Custer County district judge has taken control of $6.4 million belonging to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, ordering the funds held in a court-supervised account until two feuding factions within the tribes can reach an agreement.

Clinton-based First Bank and Trust Co. placed an administrative freeze on the tribes' accounts two months ago, pointing to an ongoing leadership dispute within the tribes as justification.

District Judge Doug Haught issued a decision Friday, taking control of the money and saying that he “would like to order the disputing parties to mediation ... but I do not believe I have the authority to do that without the consent of all disputing parties.”

“To do anything other than convert this account to a court-supervised account would be tantamount to deciding which of the tribal governments is legitimate,” Haught wrote in his decision. “I do not believe this court has the authority to make that decision.”

In his decision, Haught said tribal officials will have to essentially apply to use the frozen millions. He said he believes his court has jurisdiction over the accounts because First Bank and Trust Co. is a state-chartered institution and subject to state laws.

“Disbursement will be ordered based upon a yet-to-be-determined standard,” the judge wrote. “It is possible that no disbursement can be authorized until tribal turmoil has been resolved.”

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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