This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).







In Re:

 Application of Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative

Under Rule 67.02 MRCP.



Filed May 15, 2001


Harten, Judge


Beltrami County District Court

File No. C2-98-470


Clara NiiSka, P.O. Box 484, Bemidji, MN 56619 (appellant pro se)


Valerie L. Blake, 2629-18th Avenue South, upstairs, Minneapolis, MN 55405 (respondent pro se)


Francis G. Blake, Jr., 1504 Chicago Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55404 (respondent pro se)


Michael J. Blake, Red Lake, MN 56671 (respondent pro se)


Stephen P. Blake, c/o Valerie L. Blake, 2629-18th Avenue South, upstairs, Minneapolis, MN 55405 (respondent pro se)


Nee-gah-nee-benais-eke Blake, Jesse J. Blake, 2629-18th Avenue South, downstairs, Minneapolis, MN 55405 (respondents pro se)


Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Poritsky, Judge.*

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant brought suit seeking to inherit part of decedent’s property.  Because we see no abuse of discretion in the district court’s denial of appellant’s motions for amended findings or, in the alternative, for a new trial, we affirm.



            The decedent, known variously as Francis Blake, Jr., Francis George Blake, Sr., Sho-ne-a-wub, Francis George Blake, Jr., and Wub-e-ke-niew, was enrolled as a member of the Red Lake Indian tribe.  Decedent believed, however, that he was not an Indian but an aboriginal indigenous person of a sovereign nation called Ahnishinahbæótjibway.  In 1990, he renounced his enrollment as a member of the tribe. In 1995, he published a book, We Have the Right To Exist, expounding on his belief that his people, the Ahnishinahbæótjibway, were erroneously considered to be or erroneously transformed into American Indians. 

Appellant Clara NiiSka and the decedent participated in an Ahnishinahbæótjibway marriage ceremony.  They never obtained a marriage license, but lived together.  During this time, credits in the eventual amount of $3,048 were accumulating in a Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative account in the name of Francis Blake.  The co-op deposited the money with the court after decedent’s death.

Decedent’s daughter, respondent Valerie Blake, became personal representative of decedent’s estate.  She and her three brothers, decedent’s sons, were determined to be his sole heirs by both the Red Lake Nation Tribal Court and the Department of the Interior. Appellant and Valerie Blake each claimed the funds in the Paul Bunyan account.  Following a hearing, the district court divided the funds between them, finding that appellant, although not the decedent’s wife, by either the laws of Minnesota or the laws of the Red Lake Indian Reservation, was entitled to an equitable share.[1]

Appellant moved for amended findings and for a new trial.  The district court amended some of the findings but declined to amend others and denied the motion for a new trial.



1.         Denial of the Motion to Amend


            Motions to amend findings are brought under Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.02.  We review denials of such motions under an abuse of discretion standard.  See Stroh v. Stroh, 383 N.W.2d 402, 407 (Minn. App. 1986) (the purpose of the rule is “to permit the trial court a review of its own exercise of discretion”). 

            The only amendments appellant proposes are the omission of “Francis George Blake, Jr.” from the decedent’s names and the alteration of “microfiche” to “research material.”  She concedes that

for the purposes of the Trial Court, whether or not “Francis George Blake, Jr.” was “legally” among the decedent’s names is not particularly relevant * * * nor are several of the other apparently minor technical corrections which [appellant] requested.


(Ellipses in original).

Appellant argues, however, that these changes should be made because the district court’s findings become “de facto legal facts in the State of Minnesota, prima facie duly adjudicated by the Trial Court.”  (Emphases omitted).  The district court declined to make all the amendments appellant requested because “they are either not supported by the evidence or not material to [the] decision.”  Appellant cites no support for her view that a finding irrelevant to a district court decision becomes a legal fact.  There was no abuse of discretion in the district court’s denial of parts of appellant’s motion for amended findings.

2.         Denial of the Motion for a New Trial

The district court has discretion to grant a new trial, and this court will not disturb that decision absent an abuse of discretion.  Halla Nursery, Inc. v. Baumann-Furrie & Co., 454 N.W.2d 905, 910 (Minn. 1990).  Appellant asks this court to award her a new trial “in Consideration of the Legal Issues Pertaining to State of Minnesota Recognition of a Ahnishinahbæótjibway Mide marriage.”  (Emphasis in original).  But Minn. Stat. § 517.01 (2000) provides that “[l]awful marriage may be contracted * * * only when a license has been obtained” and abolishes common law marriages.  This court cannot override the legislature in this context.  See Ullom v. Independent Sch. Dist. No. 112, 515 N.W.2d 615, 617 (Minn. App. 1994) (holding that the court of appeals cannot supply what the legislature omits or overlooks).  Only a legislative body could change the statute and declare that marriages of persons not licensed to marry are valid.[2]

There was no abuse of discretion in the district court’s denial of appellant’s motion for a new trial on legal issues outside the court’s jurisdiction.


* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] The district court distribution of property is not before us on appeal.

[2] In the alternative, appellant asks this court to adopt the view expressed in decedent’s book that the Ahnishinahbæótjibway nation of which he claimed to be a member had jurisdiction to marry him and appellant.  Again, this court lacks authority to override the legislature.  See Ullam, 515 N.W.2d at 617.