Indian tribes sue judge and bank

May 17, 2012 at 1:00 PM
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OKLAHOMA CITY, May 17 (UPI) -- The Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian tribes have filed a lawsuit against an Oklahoma district judge and an Oklahoma bank for freezing some $6.4 million in funds.

The tribes amended their suit against First Bank and Trust Co., to include Custer County District Judge Doug Haught as a defendant Tuesday. Haught is named as a defendant for allegedly using his jurisdiction to undermine tribal self-governance.

First Bank and Trust Co., is accused of illegally freezing tribal funds on April 24. Bank officials said the decision was made as a result of disputed tribal leadership, The Oklahoman reported Thursday.

Two women, Janice Prairie Chief-Boswell and Leslie Wandrie-Harjo, both claim to be governor of the tribes, plunging them into a tumultuous dispute for more than a year.

Lisa Liebl, spokeswoman for the tribes, said the decision has already done a great deal of damage to the tribe's daily functions. Checks to vendors, contractors and tribal employees started to bounce after the freeze went into effect. Liebl said the tribes' roughly 500 employees are working on a reduced schedule to cut costs.

The lawsuit alleges the tribes will be forced to severely cut back key government programs, such as housing assistance, food vouches, emergency medical services, and substance abuse programs because of the freeze on their assets.

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