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Meskwaki Tribe awaits President’s signature on fed. bill for jurisdiction on the Settlement

December 7, 2018
By John Speer - Editor ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

over criminal activity on the Meskwaki Settlement in Tama County is soon expected to be placed back in the hands of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa. The change results from passage of U.S. Senate Bill 381 which provides for the jurisdictional realignment and now awaits the signature of President Trump.

"For generations, we took care of our own criminal issues and problems and shared jurisdiction over crimes committed on the Settlement with the federal government," Meskwaki Tribal Chairman Anthony Waseskuk said in a news release. "This all changed in 1948, when the federal government passed a one-sentence law and gave the State of Iowa criminal jurisdiction over the Settlement."

U. S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) who along with Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) reintroduced the bill in the Senate told The News-Herald, "The passage of this bill is a victory for the principle of fairness. Laws should be applied equally among citizens, and with the President's signature, the fairness that's been lacking for the Meskwaki will finally be restored."

Article Photos

Meskwaki Justice Center on the Settlement.
-News-Herald file/John Speer

The bill passed the U.S. House over a year ago, on Nov. 1, 2017. The legislation was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa) and co-sponsored by the other Iowa House members.

The creation of the Meskwaki Tribal Court system along with the police force is credited for making the switch in jurisdiction responsibility possible.

Until the 2006 establishment of the Meskwaki Nation Tribal Police Department, the Tama County Sheriff's Office was in charge. THE FBI and U.S. Marshal's Office were also relied upon for certain cases during the period.

"Seventy years after passage of the 1948 Act, the Settlement is a much different place." Tribal Chairman Waseskuk also said in the release. "The Meskwaki Nation now operates and maintains a fully functional criminal justice system including a court system with law trained judges, prosecutors and public defenders. Our police officers are certified law enforcement officers by the State of Iowa and provide 24 hour police protection to the community."

The Tribe's Attorney, General, Jay Finch, added in the news release, "This was simply unfair and unjust. It resulted in Native Americans being prosecuted twice for the same offense on their own land while non-natives were prosecuted merely once in state court. Being prosecuted twice for the same offense in turn led to additional fines, court costs and incarceration for the Native American defendant."

"It's been a very long battle and journey and we are happy that soon another piece of the tribe's sovereignty which had at one time been taken away has now been restored," Chairman Waseskuk said.



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