This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998)




State of Minnesota,



John P. Graham,


Filed February 23, 1999


Lansing, Judge

Mahnomen County District Court

File No. K297345

Michael A. Hatch, Attorney General, Nancy Bode, Assistant Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)

Eric O. Boe, Mahnomen County Attorney, Courthouse, 311 North Main Street, Mahnomen, MN 56557 (for respondent)

John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Ann McCaughan, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Willis, Judge.



In an appeal from conviction, John Graham challenges the district court's subject-matter jurisdiction to adjudicate a charge for transportation of a loaded, uncased firearm and the sufficiency of the evidence to support the requisite elements of fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle. Because state courts have jurisdiction over criminal acts committed by non-Band members in Indian country, and the evidence supports Graham's fleeing conviction, we affirm.


Mahnomen County Deputy John McArthur observed a Chevrolet Blazer with a missing rear window and no taillights on a road near the Pinehurst Resort on the White Earth Indian Reservation. McArthur followed the Blazer and activated his squad car's lights and siren in an effort to stop it. The vehicle accelerated and McArthur gave chase. He briefly lost sight of the Blazer as he approached the Broken Arrow Resort, but when he reached the resort he saw it parked with no one in it, but the engine still running.

A license plate check identified the Blazer owner as John Graham, a resident of the Broken Arrow Resort. Looking inside the Blazer, McArthur found a loaded, uncased deer rifle on the front passenger seat; a loaded, uncased shotgun in the back of the Blazer; two empty cartridges on the floor; and fresh blood and deer hair inside the vehicle. At McArthur's request, the police dispatcher telephoned the Pinehurst Resort and spoke to the bartender, who told the dispatcher that Graham had left Pinehurst approximately 20 minutes earlier.

At the Broken Arrow Resort, McArthur spoke with John Graham's mother, Carrie Graham. McArthur testified that Carrie Graham told him she had seen her son at the Pinehurst resort that evening, witnessed him drive away in his Blazer, and noticed a sheriff's car following the Blazer. At trial, however, Carrie Graham testified that John Graham left Pinehurst before she did and she did not know what vehicle he was driving.

At the time of the incident, John Graham possessed a White Earth Reservation "green card" that entitled him to certain hunting rights as a descendant of an enrolled White Earth Band member. Five days later, on October 24, 1997, Graham became a full member of the White Earth Band of Chippewa Indians (Band) as the result of a tribal resolution that extended membership to the children and grandchildren of enrolled members.

The district court denied Graham's motion to dismiss the firearms charge for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, and a jury convicted Graham on both counts. Graham appeals, arguing (1) the district court did not have jurisdiction over the firearms charge because it occurred on reservation land, and (2) the evidence was insufficient to establish that he was the driver of the car.



The jurisdiction of courts is a question of law, which we review de novo. Cohen v. Little Six, Inc., 543 N.W.2d 376, 378 (Minn. App. 1996), aff'd 561 N.W.2d 725 (Minn. 1997). The question presented is whether Minnesota courts have jurisdiction over a non-Band member's hunting activities on reservation land.

The Band has the right to hunt and fish free of state regulation on all reservation lands, but its authority to condition entry or hunting by non-members does not extend to assertion of criminal jurisdiction over non-members. White Earth Band of Chippewa Indians v. Alexander (Alexander I), 518 F. Supp. 527, 534-35 (D. Minn. 1981), aff'd (Alexander II), 683 F.2d 1129 (8th Cir. 1982). The state has jurisdiction over crimes committed by non-Indians on Indian lands within the state. See State v. Holthusen, 261 Minn. 536, 548, 113 N.W.2d 180, 187-88 (1962) (state has jurisdiction over crimes committed by non-Indians against non-Indians on Indian land within the state). Indians who are not enrolled members of the Band stand on the same footing as non-Indians with respect to hunting on the reservation. Alexander I, 518 F. Supp. at 534 n.3 (citing Washington v. Confederated Tribes of Colville, 447 U.S. 134, 160, 100 S. Ct. 2069, 2085 (1980); Mescalero Apache Tribe v. New Mexico, 630 F.2d 724, 726 n.1 (10th Cir. 1980)). Therefore, Minnesota has jurisdiction over criminal violations of hunting regulations committed by non-member Indians on the reservation.

Graham does not dispute that he was not an enrolled member of the Band on October 19, 1997. Accordingly, the district court correctly determined it had jurisdiction over the offense charged, a criminal violation of state hunting regulations, unless the state's authority has been preempted by federal law or the exercise of state authority would unlawfully infringe on the right of the Band to make and be ruled by its own laws. See id. at 536. Whether the state may exercise its authority in this situation requires (1) a particularized inquiry into the nature of the tribal, federal, and state interests at stake and (2) a determination of whether, in the specific context, the exercise of state authority would violate federal law. White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker, 448 U.S. 136, 145, 100 S. Ct. 2578, 2584 (1980); Alexander I, 518 F. Supp. at 536.

The Band has a strong traditional interest in hunting and in exercising its sovereign authority over its territory. Alexander I, 518 F. Supp. at 536. Minnesota has a strong legitimate interest in regulating hunting because of its investment in and historic management of resources within the White Earth Reservation. Alexander II, 683 F.2d at 1137. Minnesota also has a public policy of enforcing game and fish laws against non-members on all lands within that reservation. Alexander I, 518 F. Supp. at 536-37. There is no federal intent to preempt state hunting and fishing laws' applicability to non-members on the reservation. Id. at 537. Thus, although a concurrent structure of state and tribal regulation must always result in some conflict, the proper inquiry is whether the conflict infringes on the Band's right to govern itself. Id.

The White Earth Reservation Conservation Code prohibits the carrying of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle and prohibits the carrying of an uncased firearm in a motor vehicle before or after legal hunting hours. White Earth Reservation Conservation Code § 400.06, subds. 1, 2. Minnesota hunting laws prohibit the carrying of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, but also prohibit the carrying of an uncased firearm in a motor vehicle at any time. Minn. Stat. § 97B.045, subd. 1(1) (1996). Although Minnesota hunting laws diverge from and are more stringent than the Conservation Code in this respect, the conflict between state and tribal law is de minimis, especially given that the stricter regulations apply only to non-members. Thus, under Alexander I and II, the application of state law to non-members does not interfere with the Band's right to self-government.

Graham bears the burden of showing that the state's hunting regulations were unreasonable and unrelated to its regulatory authority. See Alexander II, 683 F.2d at 1138. He has not met this burden because he has neither alleged nor demonstrated that the instant dual regulation of hunting will result in any economic hardship to the Band because of non-member reluctance to utilize Band resources. Alexander I, 518 F. Supp. at 537; see also Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544, 566, 101 S. Ct. 1245, 1259 (1981). Because the state's authority has not been preempted by federal law and the exercise of state authority does not unlawfully infringe on the Band's right to self-government, the district court properly asserted subject-matter jurisdiction over Graham.

Graham argues in his pro se brief that his lack of membership in the Band violated the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. This court's scope of review is limited to issues that were presented to and considered by the district court. Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 1988). Graham's equal protection argument was neither presented to nor decided by the district court and will therefore not be addressed on appeal.


Evidence is sufficient to support a conviction if, given the facts in the record and legitimate inferences drawn from those facts, a jury could reasonably conclude the defendant committed the crimes charged. State v. Wilson, 535 N.W.2d 597, 605 (Minn. 1995). We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict and assume the jury believed the witnesses whose testimony supported the verdict and disbelieved contradictory evidence. State v. Merrill, 274 N.W.2d 99, 111 (Minn. 1978). Circumstantial evidence is entitled to as much weight as other evidence. State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). A conviction based on circumstantial evidence merits stricter scrutiny, but is proper if the circumstances proved are consistent with guilt and inconsistent with any other rational hypothesis. State v. Walen, 563 N.W.2d 742, 750 (Minn. 1997).

The jury found that Graham fled from Deputy McArthur. Graham contends the state's evidence is insufficient to establish that he was the driver of the Blazer. It is undisputed that he owns the Blazer. McArthur testified that Graham's mother told him she saw Graham enter his Blazer, drive away from the Pinehurst resort, and turn onto the road on which the chase occurred. McArthur testified that Carrie Graham also said she saw a sheriff's car turn onto the road behind the Blazer. Although Carrie Graham testified at trial that McArthur's statements were incorrect, the credibility of the witnesses is an issue for the jury and will not be revisited on appeal.

In addition to McArthur's testimony, circumstantial evidence indicates Graham was the driver of the Blazer: (1) the Blazer was registered in his name and had not been reported stolen; (2) the chase ended at Graham's residence; (3) a witness observed Graham leaving the Pinehurst Resort at about the time the chase began; (4) McArthur testified that Carrie Graham expressed no doubt that Graham would be able to elude the deputy's car because he was familiar with the road on which the chase occurred; and (5) Graham signed for and received possession of the shotgun and rifle that were seized from the vehicle. The evidence sufficiently supports Graham's conviction for fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle.