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Indiana tribe sues ND over land

Scott Brodfuehrer | Wednesday, January 14, 2004

An Indian tribe has filed a lawsuit against Notre Dame and the U.S. Government alleging that part of Notre Dame’s campus belongs to the tribe.

In the suit, the Hannahville Indian Community, a successor of the Potawatamie Tribe, says the state of Indiana illegally transferred land owned by the Potawatamie to Notre Dame. The South Bend Tribune reported the contested land is near the WNDU television studio.

The federal lawsuit seeks the fair rental value of the land occupied by Notre Dame, along with a decree that the tribe is the true and absolute owner of the portion of land.

Notre Dame spokesman Matt Storin declined to comment on the lawsuit.

“We haven’t been formally served with the suit yet. We really don’t want to say anything at this time,” Storin said.

The Hannahville Indian Community, formerly the Hannahville Indian Community of Wisconsin Potawatamie Indians of Michigan, is a federally recognized Indian tribe located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The tribe’s Web site says there are 680 tribal members who live on the reservation and that the tribe has flourished since the introduction of gaming in the 1980s. The tribe owns and operates Chip-In’s Island Resort and Casino in Harris, Mich.

The suit states that the U.S. Government made a treaty with the Potawatamie on Oct. 16, 1826 in which certain land in Indiana was ceded to the United States, other land was ceded to allow a road to be built from the Ohio River to Lake Michigan and that another tract of land was recognized as being in possession and ownership of the Potawatamie.

The suit alleges that part of this tract was claimed by the State of Indiana and given to Notre Dame, in violation of federal laws. The suit states that the U.S. government was irresponsible in allowing Notre Dame to continue to trespass on the tribal lands.

Michael Walleri, a Fairbanks, Alaska lawyer representing the community, did not return a call seeking comment.

John Hamilton, a local attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Walleri, told the Tribune that the lawsuit is a “friendly suit” and that he believes the suit will be resolved quickly and amicably.

The South Bend Tribune contributed to this report.