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Sioux Tribe Loses First Round to Claim "Sue"
SIOUX TRIBE LOSES FIRST ROUND TO CLAIM FOSSIL
Court Disallows Indian Ownership Though Find
Was Made On Reservation
Rapid City S.D. (AP) - The Cheyenne Sioux tribe has lost
the first round of a tribal court fight to claim ownership
of a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil nicknamed "Sue".
The tribe cannot rely on a tribal business ordinance to
seize the fossil, because a key provision was passed two
years after the dinosaur's discovery, Tribal Court Judge
Rochelle Ducheneaux ruled recently.
The Cheyenne River Sioux probably will appeal the decision
to the tribal court of appeals, tribal attorney Mark Van
Workers for the Black Hills Institute for Geological Research
discovered the fossil in 1990 on the Cheyenne RIver Indian
The fossil was on land held in trust for rancher Maurice
Williams, who accepted a $5,000 payment from the Hill City
firm before before the fossil was removed.
Institute officials say the payment was for the dinosaur
bones; Williams says the payment was for the right to look
for fossils on his land.
The tribe argues the transaction was void because neither
Williams nor the institute had a tribal business license.
The tribe revised its business license in 1992 to allow the
tribe to seize property sold illegally on the reservation.
But the 1992 provision "cannot be retroactively applied in
this case," Ducheneaux ruled.
"I will say the decision is in error, and we probably will
appeal it," Van Norman said.
The tribal court fight is one of several legal battles over
the 65 million year old fossil, which is said to be the
largest and most complete T. rex skeleton ever discovered.
In May 1992, federal agents seized Sue during a probe of
alleged theft of fossils from federal land.
Federal courts have turned away the institute's challenges
to that seizure and the fossil remains in storage at the
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City.
Late last year, institute founder Pete Larson and several
other officials of the firm were indicted on federal charges
that they stole fossils from federal and tribal land and
falsified records to cover up their activities.
All of the defendents have pleaded innocent.
The indictments did not involve the T. rex fossil.