A group of descendants of the Loyal Mdewakanton on Wednesday formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court to settle a 153-year-old fight over 12 square miles of land in Redwood County.
Television and movie actor Sheldon Peters Wolfchild is among the descendants of the Loyal Mdewakanton, a group of American Indians that was promised but never given the land as a reward for siding with white settlers in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
If successful, the lawsuit would result in the eviction of more than 70 private landowners, some municipal entities and the Lower Sioux Indian Community in southwestern Minnesota.
A decision could also set broader precedent by allowing American Indians to pursue federal common law claims of trespass and ejectment, said Erick Kaardal, the Minneapolis attorney who filed the suit.
The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in the case this summer saying that the concerned lands can’t be considered part of federal common law. The court said the claims would be valid if the original 1863 treaty provided a “private remedy” for the tribe to acquire the land. No such recourse is available in the treaty, the court said.
“In our view, it’s a seminal Supreme Court case,” Kaardal said in an interview. “Do American Indians, when they’re identified in statute and given the right to permanent occupancy to set up on land, can they use federal court to take trespassers off?”
Ricardo Lopez • 651-925-5042