Since 1948, state officials have been able to prosecute crimes by Native Americans on Native land. That’s resulted in some tribal members being tried twice for the same crime, in tribal court and state court, according to Meskwaki Attorney General Jay Finch.
“We felt that was fundamentally unjust and unfair that Native Americans were being prosecuted twice for the same offense,” Finch says, “or were being exposed to increased fines and incarceration.” Federal lawmakers have approved a bill that would repeal the 70-year-old law, a move Finch says would reassert the tribe’s sovereignty.
The bill is now heading to President Trump’s desk. Under that original law, Finch says, justice was not being served. “Which basically resulted in tribal members being charged twice for the same act on their land,” Finch says, “whereas, as a non-Native who committed a criminal offense on the settlement would only get prosecuted once in state court.”
In 1948, Congress gave the state of Iowa criminal jurisdiction over the Meskwaki settlement. At the time, the tribe didn’t have a formal court system, but that’s changed over the past 70 years.
(Thanks to Kate Payne, Iowa Public Radio)