Iowa lawmakers back repeal of jurisdiction over Meskwaki Tribe

Bringing SCR5 up for consideration. Photo from Facebook

The Iowa Legislature passed a resolution last week calling on Congress to repeal a law that granted criminal jurisdiction over the Meskwaki Tribe to the state.

Supporters said the 1948 law was outdated, citing the establishment of the tribe's law enforcement department and court system. They said it was time for the state to stop prosecuting crimes committed "by or against Indians" on the reservation.

“They have their own law enforcement,” Sen. Steve Sodders (D), one of the sponsors of SCR 5, told Iowa Public Radio. “They have their own prosecutors, they have their own defense attorneys, they have their own judges. They are a sovereign nation.”

Congress granted criminal and civil jurisdiction in Indian Country to certain states through the 1948 law, Public Law 280 and other measures. They were passed during the termination era, when the federal government was trying to end its trust relationship with tribes.

Several states have since relinquished their authority under PL280 though it's not clear whether the retrocession process would apply in Iowa since the Meskwakis fall under a different law.

Termination was repudiated by president Richard Nixon in his special message to Congress in 1970.

Get the Story:
Iowa Legislature calls on U.S. Congress: Change Meskwaki Court (The Toledo Chronicle 6/11)
Legislature approves giving Meskwaki Nation criminal jurisdiction on settlement (Radio Iowa 6/3)
Law on Iowa Meskwakis Called “Racist” (Iowa Public Radio 6/3)

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