Supreme Court turns down petition in Mdewakanton land dispute

Sheldon Peters Wolfchild served as the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that seeks the rights to land promised to the loyal Mdewakanton in Minnesota. Photo by Steven McGeary

It looks like it's the end of the road for a group of Mdewakanton descendants who have been seeking rights to the land promised to their ancestors.

Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a petition in Wolfchild v. Redwood County. The action, which came in an order, means the descendants are stuck with a ruling that denied them a right to sue for the land.

In 1863, Congress promised 12 square miles of land in present-day Minnesota to the loyal Mdewakanton. But the land was never set aside for the people so the plaintiffs, led by Sheldon Peters Wolfchild, sought justice in the federal courts.

Efforts to account for the land were initially successful in the early 2000s. But in recent years the courts have repeatedly ruled against the Wolfchild plaintiffs.

The latest setback came from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in June. In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel said the Wolfchild plaintiffs lacked a "private remedy" under the 1863 law that would have allowed them to assert rights to the land promised to their ancestors.

"Because the loyal Mdewakanton are not entitled to a declaration of the exclusive right and title of the twelve square miles under the 1863 Act, the loyal Mdewakanton have no property rights upon which to base federal common law claims for ejectment and trespass," Judge Myron Bright wrote for the majority.

The denial of the petition in Wolfchild v. Redwood County marks the third time that the Supreme Court has declined to hear the matter.

8th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Wolfchild v. Redwood County (June 1, 2016)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
Mdewakanton descendants want Supreme Court to hear land case (09/01)
Appeals court lifts sanctions in long-running Dakota land dispute (06/07)
Judge sanctions plaintiffs and attorneys in Dakota land dispute (06/11)
Sheldon Wolfchild: Return land promised to Dakota descendants (04/13)
Judge dismisses suit seeking return of Dakota land in Minnesota (03/11)
Lower Sioux Indian Community promises defense of land rights (05/27)
Lawsuit seeks establishment of new reservation in Minnesota (5/22)
Dakota descendants sue for return of land promised by 1863 law (5/21)
Supreme Court turns down Dakota trust mismanagement case (03/10)
Supreme Court asked to hear Dakota trust mismanagement case (02/19)
Dakota descendants back in court over mismanagement of trust (01/28)
Native Sun News: Loyal Mdewakanton Dakota win a partial ruling (01/19)
Dakota descendants win another round in trust management suit (01/11)
Supreme Court declines Dakota descendants trust case (4/19)
Tribes working to keep cases away from Supreme Court (3/31)
Appeal planned in Dakota trust mismanagement case (4/13)
Turtle Talk: Issues at play in Dakota trust case (3/11)
Appeals court decision in Dakota trust case (3/10)
Judge expands Dakota trust mismanagement suit (4/30)
Dakota descendants fight for land trust rights (4/23)
Dakota descendants await payment in trust case (8/14)
Judge reaffirms ruling in Dakota trust fund lawsuit (12/19)
Meetings set in Mdewakanton trust fund lawsuit (01/28)
Dakota descendants win round in trust fund case (10/29)
Dakota descendants file trust mismanagement suit (11/19)
Minn. tribes challenged on membership policies (11/17)