The Iowa legislature has approved a resolution that supports putting Meskwakis in charge of criminal justice on the tribe’s settlement near Tama.
A 1948 federal law put the State of Iowa in charge of policing the settlement and prosecuting crimes by Meskwakis against Meskwakis. Senator Steve Sodders, a Democrat from State Center, said tribal leaders have been asking for this for a long time.
“This has been a travesty since 1948,” Sodders said.
The resolution urges congress to repeal the federal law that gave the State of Iowa police powers on the Meskwaki settlement. The settlement is in Sodders’ senate district.
“These folks have fought and bit their way up from poverty,” Sodders said. “From whites taking their land way back when and moving them all over the place, they came back and bought their own land.”
Representative Dean Fisher, a Republican from the town of Garwin in Tama County, urged his fellow House members to call on congress to act.
“This 1948 law is now outdated and inconsistent with how jurisdiction is handled on most Native American reservations,” Fisher said.
The resolution passed both the Senate and the House today, but the move had a vocal criticr. Senator Julian Garrett, a Republican from Indianola, said the tribe made a deal 67 years ago that all state laws would apply to the settlement.
“And that’s what we’re being asked to try to help undo now,” Garrett said.”The local prosecutor in Tama County is vehemently against this resolution. He questions how dedicated to our concepts of law and order some of the leadership there may be.”
Sodders called those sentiments “borderline racist.”
“They have their own law enforcement. Those law enforcement officers are certified by the Iowa Law Enforcement. They have their own prosecutor. They have a defense attorney. They have their own judges. They have their courts,” Sodder said. “They are a soveign nation. They’re not a reservation. They are a settlement.”
According to the tribe’s website, the Meskwaki Nation has nearly 1400 enrolled tribal members and owns over 8000 acres of land in Tama County and Palo Alto County.
(This posted was updated at 10:18 p.m. after House passage of the resolution, following Senate passage a few hours earlier.)