South Dakota court rejects Indian Country argument

A town that was once part of Sisseton-Wahpeton Reservation is not Indian Country, the South Dakota Supreme Court on Thursday, upholding the state's prosecution of a murder.

Lance G. Owen was charged with stabbing Adrian Keeble, 30, to death. The January 19, 2005, incident occurred at a tribal housing unit in the town of Peever.

Owen said the state lacked jurisdiction to prosecute the crime because it occurred in Indian Country. But the Supreme Court said the land failed to meet the tests for a dependent Indian community.

"This case does not involve allotted land and the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation, which once included the town of Peever, was terminated in 1891," the court wrote in the February 28 decision.

Further, the court said the land where the tribal housing unit is located is leased from the town of Peever, so it was not set aside for Indian use. The city provides all services to the site, so it is not under federal superintendence, the court said.

The death occurred after a party at the tribal housing unit. The participants had been drinking and smoking marijuana and had talked about using methamphetamine, according to police.

After being stabbed, Keeble was pronounced dead at an Indian Health Service facility.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe's police department helped search for Owen, who was arrested in Minnesota.

Get the Story:
High court upholds murder conviction (AP 3/2)

Get the Decision:
South Dakota v . Owen (February 28, 2007)