(This post has been updated after I received a comment from Mille Lacs County Attorney Jan Jude about it.)
I posed some questions to the Mille Lacs Band about their request for extra federal jurisdiction under the Tribal Law and Order Act.
I got the answers yesterday, too late to get them in this week’s paper. However, I did write a column that covers some of the same ground. Get the paper to read it, or wait for it to show up on the web (and send a check to the Messenger if you’re getting your news for free).
The questions have been floating around the area over the last couple weeks, and I thought it would be good to get answers since a lot of people with little knowledge of the issues are spreading misinformation around the community and arousing unfounded fears.
For the record, I ran the same questions past Mille Lacs County Attorney Jan Jude, but she declined to provide answers.
(Note: On seeing this post, Jude responded by saying I hadn’t shared those “particular” questions with her. On April 4, I emailed a long list of statements I had heard and said “Do you agree with these opinions?” They weren’t the exact same questions I posed to the band, but the gist of the email was similar. Jan chose not to respond, which is her right, so I didn’t follow up with the exact questions I posed to the band. Jan provided a brief news release and said the county’s response would be forthcoming. We’ll all have access to it as soon as it’s available, which should be Friday, but it may not respond to all the issues below. I think Jan could’ve nipped some of the more outrageous rumors in the bud and set the record straight, but she chose not to. Again, that’s her call, but I don’t agree with it.)
1. Would the feds’ acceptance of the band’s petition have any effect on the legal status of the 1855 reservation area/boundaries?
No. The Justice Department’s acceptance of the Band’s application would be consistent with the longstanding federal position that the 1855 reservation boundaries remain intact.
2. True or false: The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is claiming that the county is not providing adequate law enforcement.
False. The Mille Lacs Band appreciates the law enforcement efforts of Mille Lacs County. The ability to partner together on public safety issues has had a positive impact on the county, communities and the reservation. The Band’s application seeks to obtain additional, federal law enforcement assistance to address unusually high crime rates, particularly violent crimes, on the Mille Lacs Reservation.
3. True or false: The real reason for the band’s request is to reestablish the reservation. It’s not about crime; it’s about land.
False. The law enforcement problems on the reservation are real and have been acknowledged by the County as well as the Band. The Band’s application seeks to take advantage of recently enacted federal legislation (the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010) to help address those problems. The Federal Government already acknowledges the existence of the reservation boundaries, so there was no need to submit the application to obtain federal acknowledgement of those boundaries.
4. T or F: If the request is accepted, the county and/or state would have no jurisdiction over tribal property or band members.
False. The Band’s application will not limit existing state, county or local law enforcement jurisdiction in any way. If the application is approved by the U.S. Justice Department, federal law enforcement resources would be available to help Tribal police, county sheriff and local police departments investigate and prosecute serious crimes in the region.
5. T or F: If the request is accepted, county and city planning and zoning laws would no longer apply to tribal properties.
False. The Band’s application has nothing to do with planning and zoning; it involves criminal law enforcement only.
6. If the request is accepted, non-Indians could be tried, convicted and/or jailed under tribal law.
The Band’s application does not provide any new or additional jurisdiction to the Band’s court. If the application is approved, it would mean that the federal government could investigate and prosecute certain crimes in federal court (not Band court). The definition of the crimes and the sentences would be a matter of federal, not Band, law. This additional law enforcement tool will help reduce crime and will benefit all residents in the County.
7. The band is pursuing this request because it believes the political climate makes this a good time to win a court case to reestablish the reservation.
We are not aware of any way in which any County resident has been harmed by the existence of the reservation boundaries. It is time to stop using this issue as a means to block measures, such as the Band’s construction of a regional wastewater treatment plant 12 years ago and its current request for the re-assumption of federal criminal jurisdiction, to solve real problems and benefit all County residents.