Press/ON celebrates thirteenth anniversary:
news, challenging myths, and providing a public forum for open
discussion of issues relevant to the community
celebrates thirteenth anniversary: Bringing people news,
challenging myths, and providing a public forum for open discussion of
issues relevant to the community
It is satisfying to note that this edition of Press/ON concludes
thirteen years of continuous publication, and begins our fourteenth
year. I am proud of the fact that we have been able to give a voice to
the people so that they can express their views, and to present
accurate information so that they can make informed decisions about
issues that affect their lives. Hopefully, we have helped to make the
Native community a better place to live, work and play. I am most
gratified that we have been able to do this on our own-- without having
to accept funding from any government or foundation sources. Press/ON
has remained independent, and as far as we know, we are the only
independently-owned weekly Native newspaper in the country.
We want to thank those of you who have supported and worked with us
over the years, and look forward to an interesting and ever-changing
future. Without your support, this would not have been possible.
Mille Lacs tribal court: As this issue goes to press on Thursday, May
24, reporter Jeff Armstrong and I are to appear in the Mille Lacs
tribal court, pursuant to U.S. Magistrate Judge Raymond Erickson's
order to "exhaust tribal remedies." Press/ON
has been in federal court
on this matter since December 1998; reporter Jeff Armstrong was
illegally arrested and detained by Mille Lacs tribal police while
covering a public meeting of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe in October
We intend to challenge the jurisdiction of the Mille Lacs tribal court:
there is no constitutional basis for the establishment of a tribal
court at Mille Lacs. It may legitimately provide a forum for dispute
resolution between consenting adults who are also Mille Lacs tribal
members--but it is not legally a "court of law," and it cannot exercise
general jurisdiction. Department of the Interior Solicitors' opinions
over the past twenty years have repeatedly stated that Mille Lacs and
other bands of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe do not have the authority
to establish a tribal court. For example, William Lavell, Associate
Solicitor, wrote on December 21, 1990 (with reference to a child
custody case subject to the Indian Child Welfare Act) that there were
"two bases" for vesting authority: the first deriving from the federal
government's delegation under 25 CFR part 11, and the second from
direct and explicit federal delegation of its authority. As Lavell
writes, "the tribal governing body of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and
its bands were not vested with such powers by the tribal constitution
... Therefore, absent a constitutional amendment, the governing bodies
have no authority which they can delegate" to tribal courts.
The sole conflicting opinion was written in 1994 by a member of the
Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Michael J. Anderson, who has done extensive
legal work for Indian tribes in Minnesota. Anderson rested his opinion
on "general principles" rather than on "any of the many technical
arguments." He wrote his opinion shortly before he left office to
pursue his legal career in Minnesota.
The Mille Lacs tribal court is unique. None of the other reservations
of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, except Bois Forte, have tribal courts.
State jurisdiction under Public Law 280 was retroceded at Bois Forte;
there has been no such retrocession at Mille Lacs. Even with retroceded
state authority, it is still questionable whether even the Bois Forte
band legitimately has the authority to establish a tribal court.
More tribal (and State) injustice: And, the legal abuses continue. In
Beltrami County this week, Jawnie Hough
more-or-less acquitted of
state criminal charges stemming from an ex parte Red Lake tribal court
order. Those charges should have been summarily dismissed, rather than
compelling Ms. Hough to appear in court.
Furthermore, the state of Minnesota should have never accepted the Red
Lake tribal court's reversal of a state custody
determination--particularly in ex parte legal action. And, Ms. Hough's
public defender, Kristine Kolar, should have acknowledged the conflict
of interest presented by her husband David Harrington's position as Red
Lake tribal attorney, and proactively worked to find another attorney
for Jawnie Hough.
As tribal councils--and their in-pocket tribal-courts--become more
powerful with gambling revenues, the problems with abuses of due
process and flagrant violations of civil rights in tribal courts are
quite likely to keep on getting worse. Press/ON has published several
articles during the past few months reporting ongoing attempts by
tribal councils and their courts to broaden their jurisdiction. The
problem is aggravated by the lack of appellate courts in the "Indian"
system: civil rights, proper procedure and other
constitutionally-protected legal rights are not sustained by reasonable
processes of appeal for aggrieved parties.
The Supreme Court of Minnesota needs to provide specific formal rules
that require those entering tribal court decisions into State
jurisdiction to prove that all parties were afforded due process and to
certify that the legal and civil rights of all parties were properly
respected and protected.