Grassley, Ernst Bill Aligns Criminal Jurisdiction on Meskwaki Settlement with rest of Indian Country
Feb 16 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Iowan Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst reintroduced legislation to grant the Meskwaki Settlement power to enforce laws for certain crimes committed on its land, bringing its authority in line with that of the vast majority of Indian country.
“Our legislation kicks off the final step in a coordinated process to ensure the Meskwaki enjoy the same authority to enforce criminal law on their land as tribes have in nearly every other part of the country. It’s important that we respect the autonomy of the Meskwaki to govern themselves and enforce violations of law on their own land involving members of their tribe. The Iowa state legislature overwhelmingly passed the necessary legislation to grant this authority, and Governor Brandstad has signed it. It’s time now for the U.S. Congress to act and ensure the Meskwaki people are treated the same as nearly every other tribe in the United States,” Grassley said.
“I’m pleased to join Senator Grassley in reintroducing this important legislation that will directly impact the members of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi/Meskwaki Nation in Iowa,” said Senator Ernst. “This bill would repeal a 1948 law that restricted the tribe’s criminal authority, and return jurisdiction over certain criminal offenses committed on the Meskwaki Tribal Settlement to the tribe. In line with guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, the State of Iowa first enacted a law to restore such jurisdiction to the tribe. I commend the work of all parties involved in laying the groundwork for this legislation, and I hope to see it passed and signed into law.”
In most places across the country, state criminal jurisdiction over Indian land is limited to crimes by non-Indians against non-Indians and victimless crimes by non-Indians. However, because of a 1948 law, state authorities have jurisdiction over crimes committed on the Meskwaki settlement, just as it does elsewhere in Iowa. The law also grants the federal government exclusive jurisdiction over major crimes committed in Indian country, even though in most other places around the country, the federal government shares jurisdiction with the state.
The legislation would bring Iowa in line with other states by limiting its criminal jurisdiction on the Meskwaki settlement to crimes by non-Indians against non-Indians and victimless crimes by non-Indians. It also allows the state and federal governments to share jurisdiction for major crimes on the settlement involving tribal members.
To transfer authority, the Iowa legislature had to first enact legislation establishing the limits on the state’s jurisdiction over tribal land. Now that the state has acted, the U.S. Congress must now pass this legislation and the President must sign it to repeal the 1948 law, completing the transfer of authority.