Reflections from the Ah­nish­i­nah­bæójib­way (We, the People)

Red Lake continues to violate legacy

Red Lake continues to violate legacy and widow of Wub-e-ke-niew

January 20, 1999

Red Lake Nation Tribal Court
           attn: Bruce Graves

Dear Red Lake Tribal Courts,

In December of 1990, Wub-e-ke-niew sent his “certification of membership and identification” to Chief Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court.  He then sent a letter to the office of the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, explaining what he had done, including that, as he wrote: “if I continue to allow myself to be falsely identified as Indian I am guilty of complacency and conspiracy; I want to part whatsoever of the fraudulent Indians identity that the U.S. Government is still using to destroy the legitimate Aboriginal Indigenous people of these two continents.”  His letter, slightly abbreviated, was published in the January 9, 1991 edition of the Ojibwe News.  Te name on the Indian enrollment card which he sent to the U.S. Supreme Court was: Francis (no middle name) Blake (no suffix), born June 6, 1928.

Wub-e-ke-niew also legally withdrew his recognition of the United States’ claimed authority to assign land use permits and wrote, to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and elsewhere, that he was living on the unceded land of the Ahnishinahbótjibway Bear Dodem, under Ahnishinahbótjibway jurisdiction.  We continued to reside on that land, under Ahnishinahbótjibway jurisdiction, until his death in October of 1997.

Wub-e-ke-niew expressed himself clearly: in his published writing, in person, in letters and in broadcast media including the local television station.  His well-documented understanding of his Ahnishinahbótjibway identity was consistent, and was known to the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians.  He had a reasonable, legally-founded basis for what he said and wrote.

Wub-e-ke-niew overtly, and repeatedly, challenged the U.S. Government and the Indians under U.S. aegis.  “I am not an Indian – kick me off my land,” he invited.  Neither the United States nor their Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians responded to Wub-e-ke-niew’s challenges, and, in fact, when Wub-e-ke-niew asked the Red Lake Indian law enforcement system to exercise the jurisdiction which they claimed over their Indians, they did not do so.

The United States Government, including their Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, had more than thirteen years during which to challenge the legitimacy of Wub-e-ke-niew’s and my marriage under the Ahnishinahbótjibway Midé of the Bear Dodem.  They had more than seven years during which to act on Wub-e-ke-niew’s invitation: I am not an Indian – kick me off my land.”  They had more than seven years during which to respond to what Wub-e-ke-niew said and wrote – and Wub-e-ke-niew consistently included our mailing address and home telephone number in his published newspaper columns.  But, as long as Wub-e-ke-niew was alive and could speak for himself, the U.S. and their Chippewa Indians tacitly accepted what Wub-e-ke-niew was saying and writing.

After Wub-e-ke-niew died, certain members of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians began to make their moves.  Why wait until a man is dead, and can no longer speak for himself?  Only a coward would say behind a dead man’s back, what he or she would not say to his face while that man was still alive.

The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians issued a “Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood,” signed by Donna Whitefeather, which was used to claim that Wub-e-ke-niew was an “enrolled member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians.”  The name on this document is “Francis G. Blake, Jr. (DOB 6/6/28).”  Attempting to “enroll” a man after he’s dead, especially someone who felt as strongly as Wub-e-ke-niew did about the “Indian” identity, is a dirty trick, and I can only guess as to why the Red Lake Band would have used a fictitious name to do it.  Wub-e-ke-niew was never known as “Francis G. Blake, Jr.” (nor as Francis George Blake, Jr.”) during his lifetime.

There are thousands of Wanna-Be’s who would be delighted to be somebody’s Indian.  There are also plenty of blood-quantum Indians who lack only 1/512th (about a tablespoon) of federally-recognized “Indian” blood.  So, why would anyone go to all that trouble to posthumously “enroll” a man who was emphatically not an Indian?  Could it be that Wub-e-ke-niew was exactly and precisely right about Ahnishinahbótjibway jurisdiction?

The Red Lake Tribal Courts used the false documents which were created after Wub-e-ke-niew’s death, to claim “exclusive and subject matter jurisdiction” over probate of his estate.  Furthermore, both the Indian Courts, and the petitioner for probate, had documents indicating that much of the property probated was, in fact, the joint property of Wub-e-ke-niew and myself.  They knew that Wub-e-ke-niew and I had been married for many years.  They had my mailing address – the same Bemidji post office box which Wub-e-ke-niew and I had used for more than a decade.  Yet, the did not notify me of the probate hearing.

When I appeared at the Red Lake courthouse for the probate hearing, scheduled for May 22, 1998, the hearing was postponed until May 26.  On May 26, I was served with an “order of removal,” purporting to banish me from the entire reservation, in order to get me out of the courtroom.  I was not being disruptive, and in fact the only thing which I said in court, was to object, politely, to the order of removal.  Prior to the time that court convened, I filed a “notice of special appearance,” along with supporting documents, indicating my objections to the Red Lake Tribal Courts’ assertion of jurisdiction.  On May 26, I filed a continuation of my notice and additional supporting evidence.  The Clerk of Courts signed for those documents, but I do not know if they were entered into the legal record—they should have been.  If the Red Lake courts had intended to deal with me honestly and fairly, they would have let me have my say in court.  There was no legitimate reason to remove me from the courtroom, much less attempt to banish me from the entire reservation.

Under the date of June 14, 1988, I sent the Red Lake Courts a certified letter objection to the assumption of jurisdiction by the Red Lake Courts, appealing the case unless the decision had been to drop the case due to lack of jurisdiction, and requesting copies of the court records.  The Courts signed for the letter, but did not respond.

I had previously sent a property-list to the person appointed as “executor,” also by certified letter.  She signed for the letter, but did not respond.

In addition to “legalize” the theft of my property, including that which was clearly, obviously mine (like my clothing and personal papers), an employee of the Red Lake Indian Courts appears to have attempted to damage my reputation, including slanderous telephone calls made to the University of Minnesota, and a libelous statement quoted in a letter from State Senator Linda Berglin dated June 9, 1998.  The lawyer whom I consulted about this libel and slander told me that the person making the statements was, de facto, protected by “tribal sovereignty.”  Perhaps such behavior reflects somebody’s idea of “Indian values.”  I know that it has nothing to do with Ahnishinahbótjibway values.

On January 19 of this year, I found that the Red Lake Nation Tribal Court had made a “final judgment,” formally declaring that they had probated Wub-e-ke-niew’s estate as of August 5, 1998.  This decision had been filed with the Beltrami County Courts, in an attempt to extend the Tribal Court’s decision to property which is under Beltrami County jurisdiction.  (Since Beltrami County court records are public information, I purchased a certified copy of the Tribal Court’s August 5 decision from the County.)  Other copies of this decision may have also been filed in other jurisdictions, including federal ones.  Although U.S. Constitutional guarantees of due process and protections against the seizure of papers, for example, may not apply to U.S. “Indian” jurisdictions, it is my understanding that due process and civil rights do apply in such jurisdictions as Beltrami County.

            I am, therefore:

    a)   formally objecting, again, to the Red Lake Nation Tribal Court’s assumption of jurisdiction over Wub-e-ke-niew and/or his/my/our/the Ahnishinahbótjibway Bear Dodem’s property.

    b)   formally objecting, again, to the continuation of the probate hearing after my removal, as well as formally objecting, again, to the taking of property in which I have a legitimate interest; and formally objecting to the Red Lake Nation Tribal Court’s August 5, 1998 decision as well as to any other decision made by that Tribal Court which in any way refer to Wub-e-ke-niew (by any name) and/or me, and/or any of his/my/our/the Ahnishinahbótjibway Bear Dodem’s property.

    c)  formally re-requesting those court records which I requested under the date of November 13, 1998.

    d) formally stating to the U.S. Department of the Interior that the Red Lake Nation Tribal Courts have already had ample opportunity to remedy the problems associated with their attempt to probate Wub-e-ke-niew’s estate.  It is my understanding that my good-faith attempts to deal with the Red Lake Nation Tribal Courts have been more than sufficient, that “tribal remedies” have been exhausted, and that the United States thus incurs the responsibility for redressing the damages done by the Red Lake Nation Tribal Court and its employees.  More broadly, the U.S. needs to take responsibility for the abuses in the wake of Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez – and for the sometimes flagrant mis-use of “tribal sovereignty” by their 1934 IRA “Indian” governments.

It is generally understood that courts are supposed to provide fair hearings, due process, reasonable consideration of fundamental civil and human rights, and perhaps even a semblance of truth.  The Red Lake Nation Tribal Courts have not done so.  Perhaps the one thing which the Red Lake Courts have provided, in their purported probate of Wub-e-ke-niew’s estate, is a blatant illustration of what Wub-e-ke-niew wrote in We Have The Right To Exist about such courts, including: “The Euro-American say that they want to ‘acculturate’ Indians, but as a conquered people they are kept separate from the mainstream, and the finer points of the Euro-Americans’ English and Roman legal fair trials) are ignored.  As long as I can remember, even the Métis have called the courts set up for Indians, ‘kangaroo courts.’”

<>If the Red Lake Tribal Courts were even pretending to be honest, they would send the requested court records – and they would render null and void their August 5, 1998 decision.


Clara NiiSka

cc:        Beltrami County Courts
            Native American Press/Ojibwe News
            U.S. Department of the Interior
            United Nations

Clara NiiSka and Bear

Clara and Bear on the lakeshore near their home, summer 1997.

< HOME >
< NEXT >