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8th US Native American tribe allows same-sex couples to wed

The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe have become the 8th federally recognized Native American tribal grouping to allow same-sex couples to marry, wedding Arnold and Matthew Dahl-Wooley on their reservation Friday afternoon
Leech Lake in Minnesota
Photo by US Army Corps of Engineers

8 US federally recognized Native American tribes now allow same-sex marriage, with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe marrying their first same-sex couples on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation on Friday.

Arnold and Matthew Dahl-Wooley have been living on the reservation as a couple for a decade after meeting in Oregon 15 years ago, and had been campaigning for same-sex marriages to be performed on Arnold’s traditional tribal lands for the last two years.

On Wednesday they learned that their efforts had been successful and that they would be allowed to marry on Friday.

Their marriage ceremony was performed by Leech Lake Tribal Court chief judge Paul Day.

You’ve brought out the best things in me,’ Arnold said to Matthew during the ceremony, according to the Grand Forks Herald.

‘I never thought I’d reach this point in my life, and the obstacles that we’ve overcome on our journey, and the things that we’ve accomplished over the years, and the stuff that we’ve been able to get back, it just overwhelms me, the positive things that you’ve brought out in me. And I never would have been able to achieve that without you.’

The couple operate the Lake Winnibigoshish General Store, which previously was run by Arnold’s father and grandfather and constructed by his great-grandfather in 1932.

The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe are one of six bands in the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and their Leech Lake Reservation has the largest population of any Native American reservation in the state of Minnesota.

Same-sex marriage was legalized in Minnesota in August of this year but federally recognized Native American tribes have the same right to pass their own laws within their territories as US states do.

The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe join the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Oklahoma in allowing same-sex couples to marry this year.

Washington state’s Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation council voted in September to legalize same-sex marriages on their lands, becoming the sixth US Native American tribal nation to publicly do so.

Oregon’s Coquille tribe began marrying same-sex couples in 2009 and Washington state’s Suquamish Tribe began doing so in 2011 while Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians did so in March this year.

Michigan's Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians also began marrying same-sex couples earlier this year.

Pokagon, Coquille and Odawa lands are the only parts of Oregon and Michigan where same-sex couples may wed as the states have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.

There are reports that the Santa Ysabel Band of Diegueño Mission Indians in California are also allowing same-sex couples to marry.

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