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Law School Case Brief

Minnesota v. Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians - 526 U.S. 172, 119 S. Ct. 1187 (1999)


The privilege of hunting, fishing, and gathering the wild rice, upon the lands found in Wisconsin and Minnesota ceded by the Chippewas to the federal government and in the rivers and the lakes in the territory ceded, is guaranteed to the Indians during the pleasure of the President of the United States by the United States Government's 1837 Treaty with the Chippewa Indians, codified at 7 Stat. § 537.


Respondent Native American tribes sued petitioners, state government, agency, officials, and landowners (State), in a pair of lawsuits seeking enforcement of an 1837 treaty. The treaty retained for the Native American tribes usufructuary rights on land ceded to the federal government. Petitioner State claimed the rights either were terminated in 1850 by a presidential executive order, were abrogated by one group of respondents in an 1855 treaty, or were terminated when Minnesota became a state. The trial and appellate courts held for respondents. Petitioners appealed.


Was the 1837 Treaty, which retained usufructuary rights in favor of Native American tribes, voided by an executive order?




The court held that no federal statute authorized the 1850 executive order, nor did the 1837 treaty itself. In addition, the 1855 treaty dealt only with the purchase of Native American lands by the federal government, not with respondents' usufructuary rights. Finally, the 1858 statute admitting Minnesota into the Union did not address respondents' usufructuary rights.

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