Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
FIVE STAR LIFT
Miami (Native American tribe)
Durbin, Richard J.
DURBIN MOVES TO PROTECT LANDOWNERS IN SUIT BY TRIBE
HE WANTS THEM REMOVED AS DEFENDANTS
Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau
Dick Durbin, D-Ill., moved Wednesday to protect 15 Illinois landowners
who are defendants in a lawsuit filed by an Indian tribe trying to
reclaim 2.6 million acres of what it says is ancestral territory.
said Wednesday that he will file legislation to remove the landowners
as defendants in the suit and to prevent the tribe from claiming
the land if the tribe's suit is successful. The tribe could win only
monetary damages under Durbin's bill.
move stems from a suit filed last year by the Miami Indian tribe
accusing the 15 Illinois landowners of "trespassing" on
Indian land. The suit claimed the land rightfully belongs to the
tribe and that the government violated two treaties, dating from
1795 and 1805, when it sold the property to white settlers.
land in dispute covers 2.6 million acres in Southern and central
Illinois. The tribe sued one landowner in each county that it claims
affects thousands of people who live in the disputed area," Durbin
of the landowners have alleged that the tribe is using the lawsuit
to pressure the state to allow it to open a casino.
said that the tribe has a right to make its case but that the federal
government should be the defendant because the landowners would have
had nothing to do with any treaty violations.
current law, Indian tribes can't sue the federal government because
the government has "sovereign immunity" from such action.
Durbin's bill would waive the government's immunity and substitute
it as the defendant.
(we're) saying to the Native Americans is that the appropriate defendant
is the federal government, because this dispute arises before Illinois
was a state and certainly before any of these landowners had title," Durbin
said. A lawyer for the tribe could not be reached (for) comment.
announced his plans after huddling with Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill.,
Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Champaign, Ill., and Illinois Attorney General
Jim Ryan. Johnson has filed similar legislation in the House.
(c) 2001 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Record Number: 0EAC419507E75A37