Other news from around the country
Montana According to Bill Yellowtail, former regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, residents of America's Indian reservations do not have the same environmental safeguards as other citizens. The EPA has a long list of programs, but it often contracts with states to do much of the work. Tribes now have the authority to do the same thing, but are often not equipped to implement the programs. Mainstream environmentalists have resisted criticizing the tribes, but Yellowtail said those days may be ending. Often tribal and private corporations look to Indian reservations to escape stronger state environmental regulation. Many argue it is time to stop perpetuating the myth of tribal sovereignty, behind which all sorts of criminal activity can hide.
Idaho The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments April 23, 2001 on a long-standing legal battle over who owns the southern third of Lake Coeur d'Alene. The State is asking the Court to reverse a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit that granted ownership to the tribe. Idaho contends the lower court rulings are in conflict with past rulings from the Idaho and U.S. Supreme Courts, and they upset more than 100 years of state management of the waters as a public resource.
Illinois (AP) The Miami tribe of Oklahoma on Thursday withdrew a lawsuit in which it sought 2.6 million acres of private property the tribe claimed it received by treaty 200 years ago.
The Miami Indians filed a motion to dismiss the case outright in U.S. District Court, and Judge J. Phil Gilbert agreed. The tribe sued landowners in 15 east-central Illinois counties last June, saying the land was promised to them forever in a 1805 treaty with the U.S. government. The state intervened in the case, saying the federal Indian Claims Commission long ago rejected the tribe's claims to Illinois land. The state set aside money to help the landowners fight the lawsuit.
Tribe chief Floyd Leonard said the decision to end the lawsuit followed a review of the tribe's legal strategy, which included changing law firms. ``We want to be good neighbors with the people of Illinois and our lawsuit against these families sent the wrong message,'' Leonard said in a statement.
Landowner Tim Yow said the dismissal caught him completely off guard, but that he was "elated.'' "I thought we were really getting ready to do serious battle,'' he said. "I didn't have any inkling that it would be dropped.'' State leaders had speculated that the tribe wanted the land for a casino. Tribe officials denied that claim. Leonard said the tribe wants to use a portion of the land to build a cultural and ceremonial site.
Tribe officials promised to continue their legal fight with a new approach. "We want to do it in a way that's going to focus the court's attention, the public's attention on the merits of the case,'' Turner said. AP-NY-06-14-01 2210EDT
Editor's note: The tribes are smart. They know they can not win when the opposition is serious about pressing the Indian Claims Commision Act (ICCA) as a defense.
North Dakota The State of North Dakota has asked a federal appeals court to uphold a decision to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe in which they claim ownership of Devils Lake. The Tribe is asking the appeals court to revive its 15-year-old lawsuit against the federal and state government as well as several private landowners near the lake.