Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians

The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians retains rights under various treaties it signed with the United States in 1836, 1837, 1842, and 1854. This series of treaties ceded large tracts of land in northern Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota to the federal government. In exchange for these vast land cessions, the tribes were given promises of small amounts of money, schooling, equipment, and the like. In addition, the 1854 treaty included the reservation of land as a permanent home for many of the Chippewa bands, including Red Cliff. It is under this treaty that the current reservation was established at Red Cliff. In addition, under the various treaties the tribes, including Red Cliff, reserved certain “usufructuary” rights, namely, the right to hunt, fish, and gather on the lands ceded to the federal government. These treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather within the ceded territory have been upheld in a series of federal and state court decisions over the past three decades.

The tribe’s sovereign immunity from suit is akin to the immunity of the United States and is jurisdictional in nature. Sovereign immunity is an absolute bar to a lawsuit against the tribe. The doctrine of sovereign immunity from suit as it applies to Indian tribes has received continued and unqualified adherence by the U.S. Supreme Court for well over the last half-century. The tribe’s sovereign immunity from suit can only be waived by Congress, or by the tribe itself. Sovereign immunity from suit extends to state court subpoenas seeking to hail tribal officials and/or documents into state court.