ST. PAUL -- The Department of Natural Resources won't appeal a nearly $4 million award to several Indian bands for the cost of fighting their treaty rights case to the U.S. Supreme Court, a DNR official said Friday.
''It went all the way to the governor,'' said DNR spokesman Dennis Stauffer.
The agency will ask the Legislature for permission to tap the state's general fund to pay the award, he said.
A federal judge in December awarded the nearly $4 million sought by seven of eight Minnesota and Wisconsin Indian bands to pay for their successful nine-year legal battle with the state.
The Mille Lacs Band filed a lawsuit in 1990, contending that an 1837 treaty still allowed the tribe to hunt and fish without state regulation on non-reservation land. The other bands later joined the lawsuit. The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 last year that those rights continue to exist.
The state then argued the bands' request for payment of legal fees should be rejected entirely, or at least lowered substantially.
U.S. District Judge Michael Davis, however, granted the entire request.
''The bands did achieve exceptional results in this case and are thus entitled to be compensated for all hours reasonably expended to reach such a result,'' Davis wrote.
Don Wedll, commissioner of natural resources for the Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa, has said the ruling should finally lay the case to rest. The Mille Lacs Band received the biggest award, about $2.8 million.
State officials had to decide quickly whether to appeal because interest was accruing on the award. Stauffer didn't know how much had accrued in the nearly month since the judge's ruling.
In November, the state rejected a land transfer to the Mille Lacs Band as a way to pay legal fees. A transfer likely would have been controversial in central Minnesota, in part because it would have taken land off property tax rolls.
As one payment option, the Mille Lacs band had supported transferring state land to the band. In 1993, as part of a larger agreement with the state to settle the issue, the band also was willing to accept a land transfer -- 7,500 acres of state property. Minnesota lawmakers rejected the deal, clearing the way for the lawsuit to proceed.
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