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Treaty-Guaranteed Usufructuary Rights: Minnesota v. Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians Ten Years On

October 2011

Citation: ELR 10921

Author: Peter Erlinder

In Minnesota v. Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that U.S. treaty negotiators severed the perpetual right to use land from formal title to the land in an 1837 (and 1854) Treaty. The Mille Lacs majority and dissent differed only as to whether treaty-guaranteed usufructuary property rights had been abrogated by subsequent events. Two major questions remain after Mille Lacs: (a) did the Anishinabe (Chippewa) have treaty-guaranteed usufructuary rights outside the 1837 and 1854 ceded territory; and (b) if so, are those treaty-guaranteed usufructuary rights also valid today?

Peter Erlinder is Professor of Law, Wm. Mitchell College of Law, and Director, International Humanitarian Law Institute.

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