How the Lawsuit with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Affects the County BudgetBy Dillon Hayes, County Coordinator
In 2017, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe sued the County, County Attorney, and County Sheriff. This was related to the revocation of the law enforcement agreement, but the greater implication is that, if the Band prevails, it may result in re-establishment of the Mille Lacs Reservation. The Reservation was established by Treaty in 1855, but ceded to the United States in 1863 and 1864. In 1902 the Federal government paid the Band to move from the former Mille Lacs reservation and relocate to White Earth. In 1913 the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that the Mille Lacs Band had relinquished the Mille Lacs Reservation. As a result, for the next 100 years, the Mille Lacs Band, and the County, State and Federal governments, did not recognize or claim the area as a reservation.
The direct implication for residents and taxpayers of Mille Lacs County is that the County is, and will, regardless of outcome, still be required to provide services. An example of this is out of home placements under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA); the County has essentially no control over these placements, but is still responsible for the funding – approximately 60% of all County out of home placement costs each year, for only 7% of the County’s population. Additionally, while most of the Band’s property is not taxed, the Band is still the County’s largest taxpayer, paying approximately 3% of all County property taxes in 2021. If the amount of property the Band owns increases, and if that property or their existing taxable properties are no longer taxable, that would mean higher taxes for everyone else.