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    May 14, 2021

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    Indian Removal Act of 1830 Expands the Story of Land Rights in the U.S.

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    In any piece of history writing, where to begin the story is a difficult question. Proper context is necessary for understanding, but a decision must be made on how much and what type of context is necessary for such understanding. In “A Fight Over Beloit Land Rights: Lincoln Versus Carpenter” (Wisconsin Lawyer, April 2021), the historical context for this interesting story of a property dispute in Beloit in the 1850s starts with reference to the federal Preemption Act of 1830, described as one of “a series of laws authorizing the sale of government land in the then ‘western’ United States.”

    Some of these other unnamed “series of laws” bear mentioning to provide further context to the story. Three days before passage of the Preemption Act of 1830, another law was passed related to government land sales called the Indian Removal Act, which was officially titled “An act to provide for an exchange of lands with Indians residing in any of the States or Territories, and their removal west of the Mississippi river.” The Indian Removal Act and policies in furtherance of that Act resulted in the government engaging in actions that can be described, at best, as forced migration, and at worst as ethnic cleansing or genocide of thousands of Native Americans. The best known of these actions was the forced removal of the Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole from the southeastern United States, commonly referred to as the Trail of Tears.

    Other unnamed laws furthering the Indian Removal Act include the treaties made with Tribal Nations, by which tribes were forced to cede their lands to the United States. In 1832, a treaty was signed with the Ho-Chunk Nation (Winnebago), and in 1833 a treaty was signed with the Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Chippewa nations. The land subject to dispute described in the article was ceded to the United States pursuant to these treaties. These treaties were entered into in the immediate aftermath of the Black Hawk War during which the U.S. Army, state militias, and tribal allies “removed” Sauk, Fox, and Ho-Chunk people out of northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, killing over 500 men, women, and children in the process.

    When the context of any story of land rights in the United States is expanded, it reveals the fundamental unjustness of how the land was obtained from its original owners. Such expanded context is necessary not only for a fuller understanding of the past, but also to inform current thinking related to the relationship between the federal, state, and tribal governments. Tribal governments that exist in Wisconsin today, east of the Mississippi, despite the Indian Removal Act, and later policies of assimilation, relocation, and termination.

    John Wilhelmi
    Shawano, Wisconsin

    Specific Forms Required for Fee Waivers for Indigent Persons

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    In “New Form Reduces Burdens on Indigent Persons to Obtain Fee Waivers” (WisBar News, March 12, 2021), the author explained that a new form available through the Wisconsin Court System website makes it less burdensome for indigent individuals to obtain a waiver of court fees and costs by allowing their pro bono, legal aid, or public defender attorneys to submit a petition requesting the fee waiver.

    A reader posted a comment to clarify which forms are required:

    Reader: To be clear, though, the form that indigent litigants can submit themselves (CV-410A) also has a box they can check to indicate that they qualify for a program that appoints them an attorney based on indigency. And prisoners seeking to commence a civil action are still required to use the prisoner-specific form (CV-438 or CV-440), even if they qualify for appointed counsel.

    Douglas Bauman
    Marathon County Circuit Court, Wausau

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