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State Government News

Law on Iowa Meskwakis Called “Racist”

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Angelo Mercado/flickr
Meskwaki Powwow

With some opposition, the Iowa Senate today approved a resolution that will allow the Meskwaki settlement near Tama to assume jurisdiction for criminal justice.

Tama County oversees law enforcement and prosecutions at the settlement.  

The resolution asks the federal government to repeal a 1948 law giving the state of Iowa oversight of offenses by Meskwakis against Meskwakis.  

State Center Democrat Steve Sodders says tribal leaders  have been asking for this for a long time.

“They have their own law enforcement,” Sodders says.   “They have their own prosecutors, they have their own defense attorneys, they have their own judges.   They are a sovereign nation.”  

Sodders’s senate district includes the Meskwaki settlement.  

Some critics question the dedication of tribal officials to traditional concepts of law and order.   Backers of the resolution call that “borderline racist.”

“This is the right thing to do not only for this tribe,” Sodders says.   “There are other states that have similar laws against specific tribes  in their state which I believe are outdated racist laws that need to be repealed.”

Critics question whether drunk driving or domestic abuse would be reported and prosecuted if Tama County turns over responsibility. 

 Tribal leaders watched from the gallery as the Senate approved the resolution on a voice vote and sent it to the House for consideration.