A group of descendants of the Mdewakanton Sioux Indians of Minnesota (MSIM) have filed a federal lawsuit against the Interior Department in a fight for land in southwestern Minnesota that they say they were promised 153 years ago but never got.

The group's attorney, Erick Kaardal, who has been the legal pointman in similar litigation for more than 10 years, said the suit asks that the MSIM be acknowledged as a tribe separate from three other communities — the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Prairie Island Indian Community and Lower Sioux Indian Community. The suit filed in the U.S. District for the District of Columbia asks that the tribe be given 12 square miles of public lands that were set aside by the Secretary of the Interior under the 1863 Act as a reward for loyal Dakota who sided with white settlers in the U.S.-Dakota War.

The group currently includes more than 7,000 descendants of the Mdewakanton Sioux Indians of Minnesota.

"The Department of the Interior has, under the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, continuously acknowledged that the Mdewakanton Sioux Indians of Minnesota are a tribe," Kaardal said. "It is time that the Department of the Interior implements Section 9 of the February 1863 Act and delivers possession of the 12 square miles or its legal equivalent."

In a similar lawsuit filed to settle the land dispute, the Eighth U.S. Court of Appeals earlier this year upheld a lower court's dismissal of the case, saying the 1863 Act authorized the government to set apart public lands to each individual who helped rescue "the whites" and not to the tribe. The U.S. Supreme Court later declined to review the case.

Mary Lynn Smith