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In re Estate of Gopher

Supreme Court of Montana

October 17, 2013

IN RE THE ESTATE OF: DOROTHY McGILLIS GOPHER, Deceased

Submitted on Briefs: August 7, 2013

APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eighth Judicial District, In and For the County of Cascade, Cause No. ADP-10-0127 Honorable Thomas M. McKittrick, Presiding Judge

For Appellants:

Melinda Gopher (Self-Represented); Blair Gopher (Self-Represented); Missoula, Montana

Glenn Robert Gopher (Self-Represented); Miranda Gopher (Self-Represented); Mary Gopher-Parenteau (Self-Represented); Great Falls, Montana

For Appellee:

Neal P. DuBois; Sutton & DuBois, PLLC; Great Falls, Montana

OPINION

Patricia O. Cotter, Justice

¶1 Melinda Gopher, Blair Gopher, Glenn R. Gopher, Miranda Gopher, and Mary Gopher-Parenteau (hereinafter "the siblings") appeal the order of the Eighth Judicial District Court, Cascade County, appointing five co-trustees to a charitable trust with a ceremonial tribal flag as the trust property. The siblings challenge the District Court's assumption of jurisdiction over the probate of the estate of their mother, Dorothy McGillis Gopher (the Estate), an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe who lived in Cascade County and whose estate property, the flag, was located in Cascade County. The siblings assert that this estate matter belongs in the Blackfeet Tribal Court. Appellee Mike Gopher, brother of the siblings, asserts jurisdiction in the District Court is proper. We affirm.

ISSUE

¶2 A restatement of the dispositive issue on appeal is:

¶3 Did the District Court err when it assumed subject matter jurisdiction over the Estate of Dorothy Gopher?

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

ΒΆ4 Dorothy McGillis Gopher died intestate on October 2, 2008. Dorothy was an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe, and at the time of her death, she was domiciled in Cascade County, Montana. Dorothy was survived by seven children: Glenn, Thane (since deceased), Mike, Blair, Miranda, Melinda, and Mary. Dorothy's estate consisted of one asset, a thirteen-star flag known as the "Ojibwe Peace Flag." The flag has been held by successive individuals since an unknown date, beginning with an Indian individual named Ah-On-Te-Ways. Eventually, in 1946, Mary Chippewa Gopher received possession of the flag. Following Mary's death in 1965, her son Robert Gopher possessed the flag. When Robert died in 1998, his wife Dorothy took possession of the flag. Robert's will ...


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