Lost Tribe

Grand Prairie's Henry Clayton has proclaimed himself chief of the new 'nato Nation. Is he the head of Texas' largest Indian tribe-or an indian impostor?

But Robert entered a drug rehabilitation program at the Salvation Army, which he successfully completed. Since June, he has been working regularly for a construction company and for the first time, consistently supporting the children. Though she had misgivings, Rebeka and Robert married.

Still, Clayton was unsatisfied. "We asked Rebeka and Robert to come to tribal court," Clayton says. "We wanted to be updated on how they were doing. You don't get off drugs in 90 days. It takes two years to recover fully. We wanted to know if we could help them, do they have any needs, how were the children doing. This is not a court about winning or losing, but about fairness."

Clayton filed a motion with the Utah court asking Judge Low to transfer his daughter's still-pending custody case to the "First Federal District Court" of the 'Nato Nation, where, presumably, he would be the magistrate. Rebeka sought help from the Dallas Bar Association pro bono project to block the transfer.

Earlier this month, Judge Low finally rendered a decision that managed to anger both sides.

"This Court earlier acknowledged to Henry Clayton, First Federal District Judge of the 'Nato Indian Nation, that it had no objection to the transfer of jurisdiction," Judge Low began [giving Clayton some credibility or at least addressing him as judge]. But because Rebeka and Robert were now married and living in Texas, Low found that most of the issues relative to transfer of jurisdiction were moot.

Judge Low refused to make a finding as to the legal status or rights of the 'Nato Indian tribe. "If the 'Nato Indian Nation desires to proceed in Texas with respect to the care and custody of the children, it is free to do so," Judge Low wrote.

Ellis Burt, one of the attorneys advising Rebeka on her case, called the decision a shame. "The judge said he was not going to change jurisdictions, but if [Clayton] wanted it, take it," Burt says. "It was a total abdication of responsibility. It's going to be a mess. You haven't heard the end of this yet."

Henry Clayton was equally upset with Judge Low's ruling. "The judge took the easy way out. He turned jurisdiction back to Texas. He should have given us jurisdiction. He does not understand Indian law."

Clayton is mulling his options, which include, he says, taking the matter to Utah Senator Orrin Hatch. "The 'Nato Indian Nation is not finished yet," he says.

As the conflict with her father and his court plays out, Rebeka finds herself thinking more about her Native American roots. The only picture decorating the walls of her small apartment is a small, black-and-white print of an Indian in full headdress. She plans to study more of her heritage, so she can teach her children. She would even accept help from her father and 'Nato, she says, if she trusted his motivations more.

"If he really wants to help me and help the Indians," she says, "why doesn't he do it legally?

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