Tulsa-based Unit Corp. is in a legal battle with an American Indian tribe in Washington state that has claimed sovereignty over an oil and gas lease in Beaver County.
The Kikiallus Nation in January presented Unit with documents from its tribal court threatening to invalidate the company's lease and transfer Unit's right as operator to tribal affiliate TMI Ministries, according to documents filed with the Western District Court of Oklahoma.
Unit has denied the tribe's claims and asked the district court to intervene.
“Our arguments are several,” Unit General Counsel Mark Schell told The Oklahoman. “The lease never expired. We continue to own it. We have no idea how they claim to own it. We don't know who they are. It is not a recognized tribe. It is not a recognized tribal court. It has no jurisdiction over anything in Oklahoma.”
Phone calls and emails to the Kikiallus Nation and TMI Ministries were not returned.
The Kikiallus Nation is listed with the Washington State Office of Indian Affairs as a “non-federally recognized Indian tribe.” Kikiallus is affiliated with the Stillaguamish and Swinomish tribes, which are both federally recognized.
TMI Ministries is listed as a nondenominational religious organization based in Olympia, Wash. Kurt Weinreich is listed as executive director. The organization has the same phone number as Kurt's Amazing Roof and Gutter Cleaning, which has a different Olympia address.
Weinreich, also known as Kurt Kanam, is listed with the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation as working in cultural resources for the Kikiallus Nation. He also is an administrator for both the Kikiallus Nation and TMI Ministries.
Phone calls and emails to Kanam were not returned.
The case involves an oil and gas lease Unit entered into in 2010.
The Kikiallus Nation claimed in the tribal court filings that the lease expired in July 2013.
Unit, however, said it has completed an oil well on the lease, which is now considered held by production. Unit said it owns a 60 percent interest in the lease and that Deep Basin Drilling Program LP controls the remaining 40 percent.
Unit has asked the district court for a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction against the tribe.
Unit said in the filing that Kurt Kanam has a history of attempting to convince state and federal courts “to enforce the improperly obtained tribal court judgments.”
Alaska District Court in July 2012 granted a preliminary injunction against Kanam, who was listed as a tribal attorney and judge of the Karluk Tribal Court in Alaska.
In that case, Kanam and the tribal court found that the Native Village of Karluk should receive damages from federal land trust Koniag Inc. equal to what parties received in a 1984 settlement.