This short paper is produced for the Allegheny College conference Democracy Realized? The Legacies of the Civil Rights Movement (March 28-29, 2014).
United States Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, authored the Court’s opinion in Williams v. Lee, a decision hailed as the opening salvo in the modern era of federal Indian law. The Williams decision was the work of the liberal wing of the Court, with important input by Chief Justice Warren and Justices Brennan and Douglas. Williams, a ringing endorsement of inherent tribal governance authority, more specifically endorsed tribal justices systems as embodied in tribal courts. Without Williams and similar cases, it is unlikely that tribal governments and Congress would act to develop tribal justice systems. Williams, and the tribal courts that arose as a result, was a powerful civil rights decision that commentators rightfully have linked to Brown v. Board of Education.
This paper will survey several tribal justice systems in an effort to identify commonalities and complexities. There are hundreds of tribal justice systems in the United States; each of them unique in the details, but many of them similar to other tribal, state, and federal courts.
The paper is divided into three sections. The first two parts include a section on adversarial tribal justice systems and a section on non-adversarial tribal justice systems, often called restorative justice systems. The third part involves greater discussion of the complexities of incorporating tribal customary and traditional law into tribal common law.
In case one wonders, “Representing Justice” by Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis influenced the paper.
BLISS TOWNSHIP — Spurred by last year’s public outcry not to drain Lake O’Neal, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians set out to collect fishery, wildlife and water quality data.
Now that the compilation is complete, the tribe will present its findings to the public beginning at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Bliss Township Hall.
Doug Craven, the natural resources director for the tribe, said Lake O’Neal is unique to the tribe and the data was collected to help inform better decisions for it in the future.
“It’s one of the few lakes that’s completely within the tribal reservation area,” he said. “We recognized the gap regarding fisheries data and there was substantial public interest. We conducted the data to see if it matched the public’s perception and it appears that it does.”
Bill Parsons, an inland fisheries biologist with the tribe, said the data helps provide a baseline inventory on the lake cataloguing both the types of fish and birds that populate it. Parsons said he found smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, blue gill, yellow perch, rock bass, pumpkinseed and northern pike making up the fishing, and a large population of water fowl, including osprey and loons, as well as bald eagles nesting around the lake.
“We’ve determined that it’s an important fishery for the wildlife,” he said.
Standard & Poor’s — an independent global provider of credit ratings — has reduced the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians’ credit rating twice in one week.
Following the tribe’s Aug. 11 announcement that it was attempting to re-negotiate the payment of its $122 million in senior unsecured notes — which were originally issued in 2006 to support the construction of the Odawa Casino Resort — and would therefore be suspending its $6.3 million in interest payments due Aug. 17 to its holders; Standard & Poor’s issued a statement Aug. 12, that it would immediately reduce the tribe’s credit rating from ‘CCC’ to ‘CC’ with a negative outlook.
According to Standard & Poor’s credit rating definitions, available on their Web site — www.standardandpoors.com— a ‘CCC’ credit rating means that a company is currently vulnerable, and ‘CC’ means the company is highly vulnerable.
In its Aug. 12 release, Standard & Poor’s also stated that once the tribe missed its interest payment on Monday, Aug. 17, that its credit rating would be reduced to ‘D,’ which means the company has failed to pay one or more of its financial obligations, and that the global credit-rating provider believes the tribe will fail to pay all, or substantially all of its obligations as they come due.
Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians chairman Frank Ettawageshik recently lost his bid for re-election as chairman. We wish to honor Frank’s service not only to the Little Traverse Odawak but also to all of the tribes of Michigan.
And at home, Frank’s administration renegotiated LTBB’s gaming compact and developed and built the Odawa Casino. He has worked on intergovernmental relations and economic development with the State of Michigan.
Frank is an amazing speaker and storyteller, as well as a leader, and he is to be honored.
Members of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians of Michigan voted in a primary election on May 11. Incumbent chairman Frank Ettawageshik and incumbent vice chairman Bill Denemy received the most votes. They will face Ken Harrington and Dexter McNamara in the June 29 general election. Tribal members also narrowed the field for five council seats.
INTERLOCHEN PUBLIC RADIO (2009-04-22) For the more than a decade now Indian tribes in Michigan and elsewhere have been reclaiming objects lost over the centuries. In many cases they are also able to return to the earth the remains of long-dead ancestors. We’ll meet the researcher who does this work for one of the tribes in northern lower Michigan.
PETOSKEY — The Emmet County Local Revenue Sharing Board’s method of dividing tribal casino profits among local governments was wrong, a judge ruled recently.
Charlevoix County Circuit Court Judge Richard Pajtas made the ruling in a suit three Petoskey area school boards brought against the revenue sharing board, according to Dennis O. Cawthorne, a former state representative from Manistee who represented the school boards through the law firm Kelley Cawthorne, which he heads with former Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley.
Cawthorne recently notified Manistee Area Public Schools Superintendent Bob Olsen about the Emmet County decision and said it proves the Manistee Local Revenue Sharing Board is correct in the way it handles allocations from slot machine profits at the Little River Casino Resort.
Publication of American Indian perspectives on history is a positive trend that provides an antidote to colonizers’ perspectives. However, the antidote should not be a mirror image of previous bias. Cappel’s thesis is that unnamed British officials gave tins of smallpox spores to Odawa from L’Arbre Croche in 1763. This genocide “changed the course of history.” Substantiation comes from Web sites and Andrew Blackbird’s History of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan (1887), augmented by speculation related to Lord Jeffrey Amherst’s infamous letter. Cappel also indicates that copper from Michigan was traded to Mediterranean civilizations to create the Bronze Age; the Odawa community of L’Arbre Croche numbered around 30,000; scalping began in 1756; the French “encouraged an addiction to rum”; tens of thousands of Indians under a flag of truce were murdered by the British; and both the League of Nations and UN were modeled on the Indian system. One function of this book is its illustration of the ubiquity of plot theories and the historical inaccuracies that form their bases. It also demonstrates a beginning stage in historiography that includes Indian sources. Summing Up: Optional. Graduate students and faculty only.G. Gagnon, University of North Dakota
I also had some of the same concerns with this work. There are enough doubters about the origins of smallpox epidemics in Indian Country that a work like this could be very useful, but it lacks the primary documentation that doubters demand.
On the other hand, Simon Otto’s wonderful preface should remind us that the oral histories contained in works like these remain invaluable.
The tribe shares 2 percent of electronic gaming revenues from the Odawa Casino Resort with local communities. The Emmet County Local Revenue Sharing Board decides how to distribute the funds. Three educational institutions are suing the board over the distribution formula, saying they are entitled to a larger share. The tribe is not a party in the lawsuit.