Wisconsin Potowatomies of the Hannahville Indian Community v. Houston
United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan
393 F. Supp. 719 (1973)
The Hannahville Indian Community was an Indian reservation in Menominee County, Michigan, where the Wisconsin Potowatomies of the Hannahville Indian Community (Potowatomies) (plaintiffs) resided. Leroy Wandahsega was a Potowatomi member. Leroy and his wife, Faye Wandahsega, had three children, Leroy, Veronica, and Tyrone (the children). The children were also Potowatomies. Leroy, Faye, and the children lived on the Hannahville reservation for a short time until Faye left Leroy and took the children with her, off the reservation. Faye and the children lived temporarily with Faye’s mother, then a friend, and then in a rented trailer in Menominee County. On November 22, 1971, Faye left the children with family while Faye and her mother went to an appointment regarding Faye’s possible move to Milwaukee. When Faye and her mother returned to Faye’s trailer, Leroy arrived and fatally shot Faye, her mother, and himself. A juvenile officer for the Menominee County Department of Social Services filed a petition in Menominee County Probate Court, alleging that the children were dependent and without a legal custodian and asking the probate court to take temporary custody. Over the next few months, the probate court ordered the children to be made temporary wards of the court, then placed in foster care, then made permanent wards of the court, and finally, made available for adoption. The Potowatomies sued Bernard Houston (defendant), director of the Michigan Department of Social Services, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, seeking custody of the children and the right to determine the children’s custody, care, and control. The Potowatomies argued that the probate court did not have jurisdiction over the children because under federal law, jurisdiction belonged to the Potowatomies. Houston argued that the Potowatomies did not have jurisdiction beyond the borders of the reservation and that because the children were not within the reservation’s borders, the Potowatomies did not have jurisdiction over them.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Engel, J.)
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