If a bill that cleared the Iowa Senate becomes law, Iowa’s courts would formally recognize many of the legal rulings made by the tribal court on the Meskwaki Settlement near Tama. Senator Keith Kreiman, a Democrat from Bloomfield, is an attorney who made the case for the bill during debate in the Iowa Senate.
"We just want to make sure that when you’ve been to court, your judgment or the decisions are recognized by all the courts in the state," Kreiman says. According to Kreiman, the move will clear up confusion.
"There have been some problems with Iowa court judgments being recognized by the Meskwaki Tribal Court and litigants in the Meskwaki Tribal Court having their judgments recognized in the Iowa courts," Kreiman says.
But Representative Lance Horbach, a Republican from Tama, says there are too many unanswered questions. "Lots of times in situations like this, it’s not a matter of not supporting a piece of legislation, it’s just understanding or a lack of understanding and that’s the position that I’m in and a lot of legislators are in," Horbach says. "We have two different cultures trying to match up with justice systems and currently it doesn’t (match)."
Horbach says the biggest question for him is whether the rulings that are made by the tribal courts are to be enforced by people who aren’t Meskwakis. "I’ve met the tribal judges. I’ve met their court people. They’re all top quality…the concern that my district has, even though I represent them both, is the fact that we’re just unsure if allowing their customs and tribal laws to be enforced outside the tribe by our sheriff’s department (and) our judicial system is the right way to go."
There’ll be a statehouse meeting today between legislators and Meskwaki women who have raised concerns about a lack of rights on the Meskwaki settlement.