contracting for banal ‘third world’ bureaucracies?
Blue Stone, Harvey Owns, and Lawrence Larson have been wrangling with
Prairie Island tribal court since November 1999 over tribal enrollment,
eighteen months after their case was finally heard, the three elders
waiting for the tribal court to make its decision.
As Press/ON reported last
February, Marcella Blue Stone, at that time age 78, was born at Prairie
when it was still Strom’s Crossing whistle-stop, the daughter of the
I.R.A. tribal chairman at Prairie Island, Walter Jesse Leith. She is listed on the I.R.A. “base rolls” at
Prairie Island – one of those Indians whose 1934 membership influenced
federal government’s determination that the Prairie Island community is
“federally recognized.” Larson is her
Owens, the third litigant in this enrollment case, was also born at
Island, the son of Julia W. Owens, a “fullblood” on the base rolls, and
full brother of renowned Prairie Island spiritual leader Amos Owens. According to Owens, Bluestone, and Larson’s
attorney, Gary Montana, Harvey Owens was not listed on the 1934 B.I.A.
because he was working at the depression-era Civilian Conservation
(C.C.C.) camps. He later joined the
army, and is reportedly a “decorated World War II veteran.”
researching the articles published last February, this writer sought
relevant court records from the Prairie Island tribal court. Court administrator Carrie Blaesener refused
to release the records, explaining that, “You can appreciate the
position. Due to the nature of the
case, those records are not public.”
attorney/tribal court judge Henry Buffalo subsequently assured the
Court Rules Committee that tribal court records were “public
during that committee’s hearings on a proposed rule to grant “full
credit” to almost every tribal court “judgment, decree, order,
record, or other judicial act …” After
months of hearings, including testimony by concerned people from
reservations, the Supreme Court Rules Committee unanimously rejected
proposed ‘full faith and credit’ rule at its August 14th
meeting. Press/ON assumes, however,
Buffalo would not have spoken falsely to the Minnesota Supreme Court
therefore his statement that tribal court records are public records is
statement. A number of other tribal
court judges and tribal attorneys, including Andrew Small, were present
hearing when Buffalo assured the Minnesota Supreme Court that tribal
records are public records, and none of them contradicted Buffalo.
a notarized affidavit from one of the parties to the case authorizing
of the court records, Press/ON attempted to obtain a copy of
Island court records. The offices of
the clerk of court, we learned, are not on the reservation, but rather
law offices of BlueDog, Olson and Small, in the high-rise Southgate
Plaza, 5001 West 80th Street, south suburban Minneapolis.
web page at http://www.boslaw.com, the law firm advertises that, “We represent several tribal gaming
operations, including some of the largest operations in the States of
Minnesota, Iowa, and North Dakota. In
the capacity of legal counsel to tribal gaming operations, we have
virtually every aspect of the gaming business. Members
of our firm advise tribal businesses on a wide
variety of issues,
as noted above, and we have served as general counsel to virtually
of tribal business, governmental and regulatory operations.” BlueDog, Olson and Small (BO&S) also
provides tribal court services to the Prairie Island and Lower Sioux
communities, and one of the partners, Andrew M. Small, although not
practice law in Minnesota, “has
admitted to practice in ten Tribal jurisdictions throughout Indian
request for the court records at the tribal attorney/tribal court
Hi, you’re the clerk of courts? …
I can get her for you though
Would you please … thank you
Hello, are you the …
Press/ON: Carrie Blaisvig, or …
Press/ON: My name’s Clara NiiSka. I write
the Native American Press, I’ve talked to you a couple of times
Press/ON: The reason I’m down here is because
Henry Buffalo assured the
Rules Committee that tribal court records were open.
I have a release from a party who’s involved with a
with the Prairie Island tribal council involving enrollment. I’d like a copy of the court records.
do you have the original?
Press/ON: It was faxed to me.
Minnesota rules, a photocopy of a notarized thing like that is just as
Okay. Aaah, give me a moment.
Press/ON: Okay …
[wait for at least
going to have to send those out to you, I
can’t … them while you’re here, I’ve got [unintelligible] I need
prepare for, it’s an extensive file. Copies
are fifteen cents a page. I can call you
when it’s ready or I can send it out to you.
Press/ON: Why don’t you put a … when will it
court all afternoon today, um, I’d like to
say I’ll be able to do it tomorrow, but I can’t guarantee it
Press/ON: I mean, he’s been waiting for [more
than] a year for the
decision, so I
don’t want to wait for a year for the records
his attorney, Mr. Montana, has copies of
everything as well
Press/ON: right, but I’m asking the court for
them because I was told
that they are
are, but like every court file it needs to be
purged and … I mean, there are certain in documents in there that are …
and such, that … the file needs to be purged and copies need to be
can’t do that today. If you would have
called … I’m ready and willing to comply with your request, but I can’t
Press/ON: Ok, so when do you think they’ll be
said, I have court all afternoon today, ah,
hopefully I could get to it tomorrow or the next day, but I’ve got
pressing issues I need to attend to as well (laugh) so …
Press/ON: So, I’m asking you, when do you
think they’ll be ready?
by the end of the week
Press/ON: Ok, so I can come get them Friday
call you and tell you when they’ll be ready.
Press/ON: How about I come get them Friday
morning, would that work for
Press/ON: Okay. How
many pages, about how
much am I going to owe you?
know, it’s a pretty extensive file, so … I can
call you and tell you how much it’s going to be
Press/ON: A hundred bucks … fifty bucks … ?
really can’t add it up in my head right now (laugh)
Press/ON: Is it like this thick [gestures],
or is it like this
it’s the trial court and the appeal court
Um … I
can’t even add them up. I can call you and
tell you how many pages
it is before I …
Press/ON: … well why don’t you just copy
them, and I’ll just sort of
take a chance
that I owe you a hundred bucks
okay, I’ll have those for you Friday, there’ll
probably be a fair-[sized] pile
Press/ON: Okay. My
name’s Clara … I
already told you. N-i-i-S-k-a.
Press/ON: I also, at one point, asked you for
a copy of the tribal code
reservations that you folks serve as tribal court for.
And, at that point you told me you didn’t
know how big the tribal code was, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
returned to the Southgate office building, which houses the Prairie
Lower Sioux clerk of courts on August 22nd, intending to get
requested court records.
courts Carrie Blaesener was unavailable, “in court” BO&S staff
Alcantar told Press/ON. Alcantar
would not provide any information as to whether or not the “extensive”
had been copied, when Blaeser would be available, nor what the charges
photocopied records would be.
discussion, Alcantar told Press/ON that we would have to
Blaesener and “make an appointment to pick up the records.”
time, neither Blaesener nor Andrew Small had returned Press/ON’s
calls, and Press/ON has not yet obtained a copy of those
three years after they began trying to get their tribal enrollment
out, Marcella Blue Stone, Harvey Owns, and Lawrence Larson are still
for the Prairie Island tribal court to rule – one way or the
other – in
their enrollment case. Larson has
described the long delay as the tribal establishment’s “waiting for us