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Man claims to own island, loses in court
A Clinton man who maintains that he is the chief of a Native American tribe that owns all of Whidbey Island recently lost his claim on a Central Whidbey property.
Reuel E. Cohn, however, said the case is not over and he plans to appeal to the federal courts.
Cohn said he is a direct descendant of an Indian chief named Pat-Ka-Nam, who was a signatory of the 1855 Treaty Point Elliot on behalf of the Snoqualmoo Tribe. He claims all of Whidbey Island is a reservation set aside for the tribe and that he is the chief.
Cohn originally filed a lien against the “game farm” near Coupeville in 1994. The state owned the property at the time and used it to raise pheasants that were later released.
The state sold the property to the Au Sable Institute in 1999 for $700,000. The campus later became the Pacific Rim Institute.
Under the terms of the sale, the state agreed to defend the title if Cohn tried to press the lien. In June of 2013, Cohn drafted a “claim in lien” claiming that he was owed $20 million; he recorded the document with the county auditor, according to court documents.
As a result, the state Attorney General’s Office filed a motion in Island County Superior Court April 1, 2014, asking the judge to strike and release the “nonconsensual common law lien.”
The motion state that there’s no federally recognized Snoqualmoo Tribe. Cohn claims that there are about 200 members.
Cohn filed complaints in federal court in 1995 and in 2011 “seeking the return of Whidbey Island to Him and his descendants and Whidbey Island returned to its reservation status as it always should have been according to the Point Elliott Treat and Treaty Map,” the motion states.
Both federal lawsuits were dismissed without prejudice.
On April 21, H. Clarke Harvey, a superior court judge pro ten, signed a motion striking and releasing the lien and awarding costs and attorney’s fees to the state.