Nutongla Sanchez v. Garcia
Hopi Court of Appeals
(Hopi Appt. Ct. 1999)
In 1991, Madge Nutongla Garcia, a Hopi resident of the village of Hotevilla, died without leaving a written will. Madge owned three structures in the village: a rock house, an addition to the rock house, and an orchard house. Under traditional Hopi law, structures located in the decedent’s village passed in intestacy to the decedent’s eldest daughter. Madge’s three children, daughter Marilyn Nutongla Sanchez (plaintiff) and sons Walter and Dell Garcia (defendants), requested that a clan relative distribute the decedent’s property. After hearing all the parties, the clan relative determined that Madge had made an oral will devising one home to each child. Initially, the three siblings agreed to this resolution. Later, Sanchez went before the village board of directors, claiming title to all three houses under Hopi intestacy law. The board was unable to resolve the dispute and waived its authority to hear the inheritance matter. Sanchez brought the intestacy claim before the tribal court. The tribal court reaffirmed the clan relative’s findings. Sanchez appealed to the Hopi Court of Appeals.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Sekaquaptewa, C.J.)
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