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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
        Norman said.

        Workers for the Black Hills Institute for Geological Research
        discovered the fossil in 1990 on the Cheyenne RIver Indian
        Reservation.

        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.