- By Native News Online Staff
On Tuesday, September 26, 2023, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and the National Congress of American Indians, represented by the Native American Rights Fund, jointly submitted an amicus curae (friends of the court) brief in support of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in their ongoing case against the County of Mille Lacs, currently under consideration by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
The original lawsuit brought forth by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe stemmed from disagreements concerning law enforcement responsibilities. For many years, the county and the tribal nation had maintained a collaborative policing agreement that acknowledged the tribal police's authority to enforce criminal laws and conduct investigations within the reservation.
When the county declined to renew this agreement, incidents of crime within the reservation escalated due to actions taken by the county to limit the jurisdiction of tribal law enforcement. The county contended that the Mille Lacs reservation had been disestablished and reduced in size, thereby asserting that tribal police were operating beyond their rightful jurisdiction.
However, in March 2022, the District Court issued a comprehensive 93-page ruling affirming that the boundaries of the Mille Lacs reservation remained intact as established in an 1855 treaty. Subsequently, the county appealed this decision to the Eighth Circuit.
The amicus brief initially contends that the matter is now rendered moot. Recent revisions to Minnesota state law have effectively resolved the dispute concerning tribal criminal jurisdiction. These amendments now explicitly acknowledge the concurrent jurisdiction of tribal nations and local county sheriffs in enforcing state criminal laws. Despite the mootness of the case, the amicus brief further elucidates that the District Court's ruling, supported by more than fifty years of legal precedent in state and federal courts, accurately affirmed the non-disestablishment of the Mille Lacs Reservation.
Tribal nations steadfastly uphold their commitment to safeguarding their sovereignty, protecting their communities, and defending their treaty rights. Furthermore, these recent developments in Minnesota law serve to clarify and strengthen tribal jurisdiction, ensuring a safer and more self-reliant future for both Native and non-Native residents within Indian Country. The Native American Rights Fund takes pride in standing alongside Minnesota tribal nations and the broader Indian Country community in their collective effort to respond effectively to crime and violence in Indian Country.
To read the amicus curiae brief, please visit the following link:https://www.narf.org/nill/documents/20230926amicus-mille-lacs-8th-circ.pdf
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