Richard Nixon photo

Executive Order 11670—Providing for the Return of Certain Lands to the Yakima Indian Reservation

May 20, 1972

In 1855, the United States entered into a treaty with the Yakima Tribe of Indians. The treaty created a reservation, generally described by natural landmarks, for the exclusive use and benefit of the Tribe. Over the years, there have been continuing disputes regarding the true location of the reservation boundary.

In 1897, President Cleveland created by proclamation the Mount Rainier Forest Reserve in an area near the western boundary of the Yakima Reservation. In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt extended the boundary of that Forest to include a tract of some 21,000 acres, then mistakenly thought to be public land. The tract is included within a larger area now called the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. In 1942, a portion of the tract was designated the Mount Adams Wild Area, and this portion has been administered since 1964 for the public benefit under the Wilderness Act.

In 1966, the Indian Claims Commission found that this tract had originally been intended for inclusion in the Yakima Reservation. However, the Commission does not have authority to return specific property to a claimant; it may only grant money damages. Accordingly, the Tribe sought Executive action for return of its land.

The Attorney General has at my request reviewed the specific history and background of this particular case, including the principles which govern the taking of land by the United States and the question of whether this particular land was so taken. In a recent opinion, the Attorney General has advised me that, in these exceptional and unique circumstances, the land was not taken by the United States within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment and that possession of this particular tract can be restored to the Tribe by Executive action.

Now, THEREFORE, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and statutes of the United States, particularly 16 U.S.C. 473, it is ordered as follows:

SECTION 1. A portion of the eastern boundary of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is modified as follows:

Beginning at the point on the main ridge of the Cascade Mountains, where the Yakima Indian Reservation boundary as located by the 1926 Pecore survey from Goat Butte intersects said main ridge; thence southwesterly along the main ridge of the Cascade Mountains to the summit or the pinnacle of Mount Adams, as shown on the diagram of the Rainier National Forest attached to the Presidential proclamation of October 23, 1911, 37 Stat. 1718; thence southerly along a divide between the watersheds of the Klickitat and White Salmon Rivers as shown on the 1932 Calvin Reconnaissance Survey Map (Petitioner's Exhibit No. 4, Docket No. 47, Indian Claims Commission) to its intersection with the north line of Section 34, Township 7 North, Range 11 East, Willamette Meridian.

SEC. 2. The Secretary of the Interior is directed to assume jurisdiction over the tract of land heretofore administered as a portion of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and excluded from the Forest by Section 1 of this order, and to administer it for the use and benefit of the Yakima Tribe of Indians as a portion of the reservation created by the Treaty of 1855, 12 Stat. 951.

SEC. 3. Any prior order or proclamation relating to the tract of land affected by this order, to the extent inconsistent with this order, is hereby superseded.


The White House,

May 20, 1972

Richard Nixon, Executive Order 11670—Providing for the Return of Certain Lands to the Yakima Indian Reservation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives