American Indian Communities in Minnesota - Land Claims

American Indian Communities in Minnesota
Natural Resources

Land Claims

Has Minnesota been involved in any major land claims issues with American Indians in recent years?

Yes, during the 1980s both the State of Minnesota and the U.S. were involved in a dispute over land claims on the White Earth Reservation.

In a recent negotiation over land claims to which the State is not involved, the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe has tentatively agreed to a $2 million settlement with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

What were the issues involved in the White Earth Land Claims with the United States and the State of Minnesota?

The White Earth Land Claims were the result of transfers of over 100,000 acres of White Earth Indian Reservation Lands that were determined to be improper by the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI). Because of the improper transfers, title to these lands were subject to dispute. The improper transfers were in four categories:(72)

1. Unapproved land sales;

2. Improper forfeiture;

3. Improper probate by state courts; and

4. Forced fee patents by the U.S. DOI.

The improper forfeiture claims were the result of several court cases determining that a 1906 federal law referred to as the "Clapp Amendment" was unconstitutional.(73)

How were the White Earth Land Claims resolved?

In 1983 Senators Boschwitz and Durenberger introduced S. 885 and Congressman Arlen Strangeland also introduced a House companion, H.R. 2246, to provide legislative relief to the land title problems. Congress did not take action on the proposal because the White Earth Band was opposed to the legislation.

In 1984 the Minnesota Legislature(74) provided 10,000 acres of state-owned land to be transferred to the United States to be held in trust for the White Earth Band of Chippewa Indians and $500,000 to be used by the U.S. DOI to assist in implementing the settlement. Minnesota's participation was contingent on Congress passing appropriate legislation by December 31, 1985.

After further negotiations, Congress again proceeded to try to work out an agreement. In spite of the continued opposition by the White Earth Band,(75) Congress passed the White Earth Reservation Land Settlement Act of 1985(76) to provide for the federal government's part of the settlement. The Act provided compensation to members of the Band for their loss of allotment plus interest accrued at 5 percent per year from the date of loss. The Act was contingent on:

1. The State of Minnesota entering into an agreement to transfer 10,000 acres of land to the United States to be held in trust for the White Earth Band;

2. The State of Minnesota appropriating $500,000 for technical and computer assistance; and

3. The U.S. appropriating $6.6 million for economic development benefitting the White Earth Band.

The 1986 Minnesota Legislature extended the provisions of the 1984 law until December 31, 1990.(77)

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