Advocacy Journalism - justice for Jawnie Hough

A terrible saga for Jawnie Hough
June 29, 2001




from the

     Native American Press/Ojibwe News

City Pages story, Mille Lacs tribal court brief, DPS Commissioner Weaver caves in to tribal pressure

by Bill Lawrence, publisher

City Pages writer Mike Mosdale contacted Press/ON several weeks ago, after reading our March 16 article "Illegal process, Red Lake tribal courts." In that article, we detailed the legal nightmare that engulfed a young mother, Jawnie Hough, when the State of Minnesota rubber-stamped a Red Lake tribal court decision reversing State-adjudicated custody of Jawnie's daughter Meghan.

Mike Mosdale spent a lot of time researching the Jawnie Hough story. He read our files, made photocopies of our legal documents, and went up north to interview some of the principals, including Jawnie Hough. He was also interested in the case of Press/ON writer Clara NiiSka, who was removed from the Red Lake tribal courtroom where the estate of her deceased husband, Press/ON columnist Wub-e-ke-niew, was being probated. NiiSka was banished from the reservation by tribal council chairman Bobby Whitefeather in order to get her out of the court-room. NiiSka is presently petitioning the State Supreme Court for State recognition of a traditional marriage which was valid under the laws at Red Lake when she and Wub-e-ke-niew married in 1984, and for removal of the Red Lake tribal court's determinations from the State Courts' Judgments.

City Pages writer Mike Mosdale was also concerned about the case of another journalist, Press/ON reporter Jeff Armstrong. He interviewed Armstrong, and rode with Jeff and me to Mille Lacs for the May 24th hearing at the Mille Lacs tribal court. We are told that the story that Mosdale wrote for City Pages included segments on all these legal issues.

The cover story that City Pages published on June 20, "No Reservations," began as background information about Press/ON, a part of a more serious investigative report on reservation tribal courts in Minnesota. The "No Reservations" story recently published by City Pages published is posted online at and Press/ON has heard that Mosdale is rewriting the parts of his story that City Pages has not yet published.

During this past week, I filed a brief in the Mille Lacs tribal court, challenging their jurisdiction over the suit that Jeff Armstrong and I filed in federal court more than two and a half years ago. It was referred back to tribal court by U.S. Magistrate Judge Erickson last August. I thought the legal issues underlying the Armstrong case would be of interest to many of our readers, therefore we have published my Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction and the supporting Memorandum in this issue of Press/ON. The U.S. Supreme Court decision released on Monday, Nevada v. Hicks, not only caused a last-minute rewriting of my legal brief, but also substantially limits Indian court jurisdiction not over non-members, as well as removing jurisdiction which the tribal courts have claimed over civil rights actions under § 1983 of the federal code. As Justice Scalia held in his opinion in that case, tribal courts are not courts of general jurisdiction. The precedent established by Nevada v. Hicks is another limit on the Indian establishment's claim tribal sovereignty. The U.S. Supreme Court posts its decisions online at

Clara NiiSka's series on tribal courts will resume on July 13th.

Also this week, the State Department of Public Safety hand-delivered DPS Commissioner Charlie Weaver's "Temporary Classification Request." Weaver formally requested that David Fisher, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Administration, reclassify the tribal gambling audits, which can be obtained by the State under the Tribal-State gambling compacts, so that they are not available to the public. Not surprisingly, my Minnesota Data Practices Act request for the all of the tribal gambling audits held by the State seems to have touched off a flurry of lobbying by the tribal establishment. According to the procedures of the Data Practices Act, the Commissioner of Administration will open a thirty-day review period during which the public and media can comment. The Commissioner's address is: Mr. David Fisher, Commissioner, Department of Administration, 50 Sherbume Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55155. Re: DPS's June 27 Request for Temporary Reclassification of Tribal Gambling Audits

Press/ON will have our semi-annual break next week, and will resume publication on the July 13th. Have a pleasant 4th.






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