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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Women Lose Bid for Cut of Chippewa Award Money

(CN) - Two alleged descendants of the Rocky Boy's Band of Chippewa Indians are not entitled to receive a cut of the money owed the tribe after the U.S. government short-changed them in past treaties, the Court of Federal Claims ruled.

Melinda and Mary Gopher failed to convince the court that they had a legitimate interest in the funds through their ancestor, Bear Claw Woman, who went by the English name "Mary Chippewa." Chippewa married Jim Loud Thunder Gopher and was allegedly listed on the 1908-1909 census roll as a member of the Rocky Boy's Band of Chippewas.

The Chippewa tribe won judgments against the government in two lawsuits, the first seeking compensation for nearly 7.5 million acres of land that the government bought in 1864 for 8 cents an acre. The Indian Claims Commission found the amount "unconscionable" and awarded the Red Lake and Pembina Bands of Chippewas $3.6 million.

The second court award involved the government's 1863 purchase of 10 million acres of land in North Dakota for $1 million - a deal later dubbed the "Ten Cent Treaty." The commission ordered the government to pay an additional $52.5 million to various Chippewa bands for that land.

The Gophers appealed the Secretary of Interior's determination that they had no stake in the judgments. They said the government had relied on a "flawed" 1917 census roll that omitted their ancestor's name. Instead, they urged the government to rely on the 1908 roll, which allegedly supports their claim based on lineage. However, the plaintiffs are neither enrolled members of any beneficiary tribes nor recognized as non-member lineal Pembina descendants.

Judge Hewitt denied the Gophers' motion to intervene, saying they "do not have a direct and immediate legally protectable interest in the subject of the action."

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