The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma v Rex Walden et. al.

On June 2, 2000, [insert original case] the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma filed suit against 25 Illinois landowners seeking the “recognition of [the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma’s] ownership interest in trust, and the recovery of physical possession of those portions of land wrongfully held by the respective defendants, of an approximate 2,648,420 acre tract land within Champaign, Clark, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Effingham, Ford, Iroquois, Jasper, Moultrie, Livingston, Shelby, and Vermillon Counties, Illinois (the Miami Wabash Watershed Tribal Lands within Illinois) to which it is entitled under federal law and U.S. Treaty commitments.


The History of the Miami Wabash Watershed Tribal Lands


In 1795 the Treaty of Greenville (7 Stat. 49) established a boundary line between the territory of the United States located east of the Mississippi River for which Indian title had been relinquished and Indian lands which had not been relinquished.



Ten years later (1805), the Treaty of Grouseland (7 Stat. 91) ceded Miami lands farther east in favor of lands in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. The United States government recognized the exclusive title, ownership, and right to possession of lands located in the Wabash Watershed in parts of what are now Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois by the Miami Tribe and agreed “that no part of the lands guaranteed to the Miami Tribe by treaty could be transferred without the express consent of the Miami Tribe.”


Treaties under which Miami ceded lands of the Miami Wabash Watershed Tribal Lands: (exepting 2.6 million acres in east/central Illinois):


"The Removal of the Miami Tribe, 1846" by John Fitzgibbon


In 1846, the Miami Tribe was forcibly moved to Miami County, Kansas which split the tribe into the Eastern (Indiana) and Western Miamis (Oklahoma). The 148 Indiana Miamis remaining scattered along the Upper Wabash Valley of Indiana from Lafayette to Fort Wayne. Eight years later (1854), the U.S. Senate signed a treaty recognizing the Indiana Miamis as a nation separate from the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma.

Trying to settle a local tax case in 1897, the US Department of Justice declared the Miami Tribes of Oklahoma and Indiana as citizens of the US. Subsequently, the Department of the Interior withdrew federal recognition for the Indiana Miamis as a tribe, effectively terminating the tribe.

In 1966, through an appeal to the Indian Claims Commission, the Peoria and Kickapoo Tribes receive acknowledgement to their title claim on lands in Western Indiana and Eastern Illinois (Royce Areas 73 and 74) which sets a precedent for Native peoples attempting to reclaim their lands.

Thirty years later (1996), the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma initiates discussion with state administration under Governor Jim Edgar. “The Miami Tribe maintains that, the United States government, through its General Land Office, sold property located in the Miami Wabash Watershed Trial Lands within Illinois to white settlers. The Miami Tribe further alleges that the United States Government sold that property without adopting a treaty or convention as Federal law required, without the adoption of a statue expressly and specifically extinguishing the Miami Tribe’s title to the Wabash Watershed Trial Lands within Illinois and without the consent of the Miami Tribe.”

The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma sued 25 landowners in Illinois District Court on June 2, 2000. Almost all initial coverage of the lawsuit by local media outlets noted the possibility that the suit was motivated by the Miami Tribe’s desire for land to use as a casino in Illinois as they had done in Kansas three years earlier.


(Photo courtesy of the Champaign-Urbana News Gazette)

A 98 year-old landowner from Urbana, Illinois, Rex Walden is the lead defendant in the land claim by the Miami.



In response, on March 30, 2001, the State of Illinois motioned to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction. In their brief, the State “believe[d] that it [wa]s entitled to intervene because resolution of the suit could deprive it of its sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Wabash Watershed Lands, including its power to regulate and tax activities on that land.” The Illinois Attorney General stated, “The Miami Tribe makes much of the fact that it is not coercing Illinois into federal court by seeking money or other property from it, some of the hazards sought to be avoided by the eleventh amendment. However, although the Miami Tribe does not expressly seek in this suit to take money or real estate from Illinois, the suit, by its very nature, seeks to remove at least part of the Wabash Watershed Lands from the area over which Illinois exercises sovereignty and convert it to tribal land. The implications of such a conversion are far greater than those of a mere transfer of ownership between private citizens or even between a private citizen and a tax-exempt organization.” In essence, the State claimed it would loose the revenue from land and income taxes paid by individuals residing on Wabash Treaty Lands. The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma was granted an extension to respond to the State of Illinois’ allegations.


Although dismissed on June 14, 2001 due to the failure by either parties to motion for summary judgement, which expedites the court decision, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma continues to assert their rights to the Wabash Watershed Tribal Lands.


On May 9, 2002, Illinois State Representative Tim Johnson sponsored a bill that would allow the Miami Tribe to sue the federal government for land claims instead of individual landowners.


Media Coverage

Miami Tribe of Oklahoma v Rex Walden et. al.

Miami Casino Development in Indiana and Kansas

The Miami Tribe of Indiana and Federal Recognition


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