Chicago Tribune

June 15, 2001

Miami tribe drops suit over land in Illinois

Author: Karen Rivedal, Tribune staff reporter. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Edition: North Sports Final
Section: Metro
Page: 2

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Article Text:

In a surprising move, the Miami tribe of Oklahoma on Thursday withdrew a federal lawsuit seeking 2.6 million acres in east central Illinois that it had argued belonged to it by treaty.

The Miami Indians filed a motion to dismiss the case in U.S. District Court in Benton, and the court granted it, ending a yearlong legal battle. The lawsuit had sought land in 15 counties, including parcels covered by state parks and the University of Illinois in Champaign.

It also named 15 Illinois landowners, prompting Illinois Atty. Gen. Jim Ryan's office to intervene on their behalf. "This removes a cloud over the heads of many landowners in central Illinois that's been present for more than a year," Ryan's spokesman Dan Curry said.

Ryan's office called the tribe's decision to give up the lawsuit a victory for Illinois and the landowners.

"Our stance from the beginning was that these were innocent Illinois homeowners and landowners whom the tribe really should not have had any fight with," spokesman Scott Mulford said.

Miami tribe lawyer Leslie M. Turner said Ryan's decision to get involved was a factor in the tribe's decision to end the suit. The tribe also wanted to spare individual landowners a lengthy court battle, she said.

But Turner said the tribe would continue fighting for its land, which the Indians contend was ceded to them by the federal government nearly 200 years ago. Tribe lobbyists earlier this year said they also were open to other settlement options, such as a cash payment or the grant of unsettled lands.

The tribe had until Friday to respond to motions filed by Ryan's office in April to dismiss the suit. Mulford said the state's lawyers were shocked when that wouldn't happen.

"It was a surprise to everybody," he said.

In court briefs, Ryan's office argued the suit should be dismissed because it called into question the state's sovereignty and ability to serve its residents, Mulford said.

Copyright 2001, Chicago Tribune
Record Number: CTR0106150303


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