The Little Shell Pembina Nation allege that when the federal government created the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa reserve in 1882, it used the unceded Little Shell lands in violation of the Old Crossing Treaty of 1863. According to a proposed criminal complaint Filed Wednesday, Sept. 9 in federal court, the nation seeks financial compensation for all economic and environmental activities and injuries caused on unceded ancestral lands, as well as a public apology from the U.S. government for humanitarian crimes. committed against the Pembina Chippewa people of the Little Shell Pembina Nation.
Although the Little Shell Pembina Nation is not an officially recognized tribe by North Dakota or the United States government, Breanna Kay Delorme, the lawyer representing the tribe, noted that it had been recognized by the United States in the Old Crossing Treaty in 1863. The Little Shell Pembina Nation has 18 members, according to Delorme, who said many other descendants were enrolled in the Turtle Mountain Band.
Representatives for the Turtle Mountain Band and the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission did not respond to calls for comment on Friday, September 11.
To Delorme’s knowledge, no other tribe has ever sought an apology and restitution from the US government in a criminal case before. If the proposed criminal case is dismissed by the US court – which Ms Delorme says likely will – he intends to take the case to the International Court of Justice.
On March 24, the Little Shell Pembina Nation officially filed a Declaration of Indigenous Identity and Rights with the United Nations. In addition to the criminal case, Delorme said she plans to file a separate civil claim soon to seek damages in a U.S. court.
“The United States just likes to deny claims that it should be held accountable for its actions,” Delorme said. “We will therefore take it to the International Court of Justice if it rejects our request.”
The Little Shell Pembina Nation are descendants of the Chiefs of the Little Shell Band of Chippewa, a historic sub-band of the Turtle Mountain Band. Over the past centuries, the band had dispersed, with much winding up in Montana, where the Little Shell Band of Chippewa was officially recognized by the US government last year. According to the tribe’s website, there are more than 5,400 registered tribal members in Montana.
A fictional tribe called the Little Shell Pembina Band of North America, which has no connection with the historic Little Shell Pembina Nation, also materialized in 2003, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL classifies the group as an extremist anti-government organization which, at one point, engaged in immigration fraud schemes, although it no longer appears to be active.
The descendants of the first chief Little Shell remain in the area. The 18-member Little Shell Pembina Nation are among those groups, led by Karyence Ronald Delorme, or Chief Little Shell VII, according to court documents.
Delorme said the criminal case has been ongoing for years – in many ways the tribe has sought an apology and reward from the U.S. government since they committed the alleged theft and fraud over a century.
She also noted that the tribe never ceded their land to the United States.
“The Little Shell Pembina Nation is probably one of the only remaining tribes in the United States that has not consented to United States jurisdiction,” Delorme said.
The proposed 12-page complaint details several other alleged criminal acts of the United States, including theft, fraud, forgery, falsification of records and violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“I mean, most of our claims are based on the paper trail they left for themselves,” Delorme said. “It’s not something that should really come as a surprise to the United States. They are the ones who documented all of their fraud.”
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