Mille Lacs County and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe are in a contentious disagreement about law enforcement roles and responsibilities, and more importantly, tribal sovereignty. The disagreement raises significant questions about the reach of tribal jurisdiction that goes back to an 1855 treaty.
The immediate dispute came on June 21, when, with no warning, the Mille Lacs County Board of Commissioners revoked the law enforcement agreement with the Band, an effort to severely restrict the band’s law enforcement powers. An article in the Mille Lacs County Times — County revokes policing agreement with Mille Lacs Band — provides important context:
While the action involves an eight-year-old law enforcement agreement, a generations-old land dispute over boundaries remains largely at issue. The band recognizes its territory as 61,000 acres established by the Treaty of 1855 made between the U.S. government and the Chippewa [Ojibwe] band. The county recognizes band territory as the 4,000 acres held in federal trust due to a number of acts and developments since the treaty. The longstanding conflict complicates a lot of things that are already complex.
Go back a few months, at a key part the dispute grew out of the Band’s request to get federal law enforcement help under the 2010 Tribal Law and Order Act. According to a media release from the Band, the federal decision sided with the Band’s view of its boundaries:
Last November, the Office of the Solicitor of the U.S. Department of Interior released Solicitor’s Opinion M-37032, a legal opinion concluding that the 1855 Reservation boundaries are still intact, contradicting claims by the State and the County that the reservation was diminished and disestablished by subsequent treaties and laws.
This generated a strong reaction in Mille Lacs County.