Other news from around the country
The State of Alaska is attempting to intervene in two lawsuits that could extend tribal self-government powers to over one million acres of allotted land in that state. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled two years ago in the Venetie case, that Indian country, or lands in which tribal governments have self-governing powers, generally do not exist in Alaska with the possible exception of Native allotments. The State contends that a ruling that would declare allotted lands as Indian country would hinder Alaska's ability to regulate about a million acres within its borders.
U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka announced plans to introduce a bill in Congress that will allow Native Hawaiians to form their own government that would have direct relations with the federal government. It will also recognize Native Hawaiians as an indigenous people who have a legal right to self-determination. In addition, the bill will leave the definition of who belongs to this group up to the Hawaiian community.
Chairman Sam Penny of the Nez Perce Tribe compared non-tribal members within the former reservation boundaries to illegal aliens in the U.S. He says that illegal aliens cannot vote in the U.S. and so non-members have no valid complaint about not being able to vote in tribal matters.
The Miami Indians of Oklahoma have filed suit in federal court seeking to reclaim a 2.6 million acre swath of mostly privately owned farmland in east-central Illinois. Local farmer Francis Walden's 98-year-old father is named in the suit as a trespasser on Miami tribal land. The property has been in the Walden family for over 70 years. Walden and two dozen other area property owners were selected by the tribe as representatives of the hundreds of thousands of state residents charged with trespassing. The tribe is asking the court to grant them immediate possession of the land and to eject the defendants, unless they are licensed by the tribe. The resulting uncertainty in title insurance issues could cost many Illinois farmers their bank loans.
According to the Associated Press, if the Nipmuc Tribe from Massachusetts is successful in gaining federal recognition, they plan to file claim to more than 10,000 acres of land in the State.
A twenty-year agreement has been reached in the fishing dispute between five Michigan Indian tribes and the State of Michigan. The settlement calls for the removal of more than 14 million feet of annual large-mesh tribal gillnet. Many of the largest tribal gillnetting operations will be converted to trap net operations. The agreement also provides that the tribes will be able to harvest whitefish and other species, while sport anglers will be allowed to harvest recreational species like salmon. Lake Trout will be harvested by both groups.
The Red Lake Band of Chippewa has agreed to accept a $53.5 million settlement for a 50-year-old claim against the federal government. The Band alleged that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) mismanaged the Band's timber resources.
The Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) is planning to conduct trawling surveys this fall on Mille Lacs Lake. The State of Minnesota has done trawling surveys for 25 years, but according to Mead McCoy of GLIFWC, they haven't yielded many fish in recent years.
The Minnesota 9th District Court in Mahnomen County recently ruled that tribal members have the right to trespass on private property while exercising their treaty rights. Two members of the white Earth Band of Chippewa were charged with trespassing in November of 1998. According to the court, "Both were engaged in hunting, and such activity is reserved to them free of state regulation on all lands, privately owned or otherwise, within the boundaries of the white Earth Reservation by the Treaty which established the reservation in 1867. This court therefore lacks subject matter jurisdiction of the offense charged." (Editor's note: Who says the Mille Lacs Reservation Boundary issue isn't important. With misguided state judges who make rulings like this, and federal courts that allow trespass on private property like in the Washington Shellfish case, if you live within the old Mille Lacs Reservation boundaries, there is great cause for concern.)
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals in the continuing dispute over the Yankton Sioux Reservation. The Clinton administration, which sided with the tribe in lower court proceedings, urged the Supreme Court to reject the appeals. This move by the Supreme Court, lets stand lower court rulings which ruled that the Yankton Reservation still exists, but has been diminished by allotment, and that the current reservation does not include land that was once owned by individual tribal members but is now owned by non-Indians.
The following resolution was adopted at the Washington State Republican Party Convention in June of 2,000.
Whereas Article IV, section 4, of the U.S. Constitution guarantees every state a republican form of government, and this guarantee to each state is a warrantee to protect the citizens of that state; and
Whereas the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs is currently aiding and abetting Indian tribes to regulate and collect taxes, injure property rights, withhold due process and grant unequal protection under the law to some citizens, for the benefit and advantage of other citizens; and
Whereas these same Indian tribes, with the support and advice of the BIA, organize and operate tribal governments that are not republican in form, and in fact prohibit certain citizens from voting for the representatives who enact such measures and laws and injure the citizens being denied representation;
Therefore be it resolved that the executive and legislative branches of the federal government immediately take whatever steps necessary to terminate all such non-republican forms of government on Indian reservations, and compensate those citizens who have wrongly suffered loss due to denial of their Constitutionally guaranteed rights to be governed by a republican form of government.
Attacks by the liberal media and powerful interest in the Indian movement sent party officials backpedaling, showing no commitment to upholding the most basic principals spelled out in the U.S. Constitution as they distanced themselves from the party's original resolution.
Representatives from the city of Toppenish convinced the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) to adopt a policy that says that the rights of cities shall not be diminished by tribal law. It states, "AWC recognizes that cities and their citizens located within Indian reservations should be guaranteed all U.S. and state constitutional rights, and such rights shall not be diminished, taken away or affected by any tribal law, role or order."
According to a report by Outdoor News field editor Shawn Perich, a final act of the outgoing Clinton Administration may be opening the door to allowing American Indians to hunt and take animals within national parks and monuments. According to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the Department of Interior has overruled National Park Service decision-makers. PEER's executive director Jeff Ruch said " Interior appears to be setting a back-door policy." Native American hunting and killing animals in national parks is not a treaty rights issue, but an interpretation of religious freedom.
Marc Radell, an attorney with the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pleaded guilty to contempt of court charges stemming from his actions involving the EPA's decision to allow three Wisconsin tribes to regulate water quality on their reservations. Radell, along with another EPA employee who has since died, were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and perjury. According to the charges, the two falsified and backdated documents to back up the EPA decisions concerning the Lac du Flambeau Chippewa, the Oneida Tribe and the Menominee Tribe. The State of Wisconsin sued the EPA in federal court, challenging the EPA's power to let tribes regulate water quality standards. The EPA withdrew it's agreements with the tribes, and the lawsuit has since been dismissed, with the EPA being ordered to pay Wisconsin and other parties $369,000 in legal costs.