Arthur "Archie" LaRose in Native Condition. Comment »
This year, Congress held two hearings on legislative proposals to distribute a 1999 federal court settlement of $20 million approved for damages inflicted by the Nelson Act on six Indian reservations in Minnesota between the years of 1889 and 1934. At both hearings, members of congress stated that,
“the time has come to get this done.”
I find it interesting that Congress is impatient when it comes to spending someone else's money, but fails to lift a finger to return the 600,000 acres of Leech Lake's homelands that was taken.
Many in Congress talk about the protection of property rights, but some of those same members are now ignoring the property rights of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe by supporting this proposed legislation.
The Nelson Act stripped approximately 600,000 acres of timber and lands from the Leech Lake Indian Reservation, much of it taken directly from the US to form the Chippewa National Forest. Our Reservation, protected and promised to be our permanent homelands under treaty with the US, was cut to less than 40,000 acres by the Nelson Act. The distribution bills before Congress would completely ignore this 100 year old unjust taking, and instead would blindly distribute the settlement funds to other bands.
If enacted, this would be the only federal court settlement that is distributed solely based on politics, without any consideration of the legal equities of the underlying case. Several members of the House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs asked the BIA whether it considered the proposed distribution fair or legal. The BIA had no response. The BIA was then asked what if a group of tribes in an intertribal dispute brought the Secretary a proposal to take away the treaty and property rights of a minority tribe, would you support that$ The BIA responded that it had no good answer to that question. This non-response sets up the possibility for a dangerous precedent for all of Indian country.
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Arthur "Archie" LaRose is chairman, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.
posted April 24, 2012 5:40 pm edt