DNR chief: No guarantees for Mille Lacs winter walleye season
Friday, October 02 2015
Written by Dan Kraker/MPR News,
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Despite Gov. Mark Dayton’s call for a walleye ice fishing season this winter at Lake Mille Lacs, it’s still not clear if the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will allow it.

An ice fishing season is vital for many resorts and businesses around the lake, especially after the open water walleye season was cut short this summer after the state exceeded its quota for how many fish anglers could take from the lake.

Many resort owners say winter months account for up to 75 percent of their business.
In late September, Dayton told reporters it was “crucial that we have a good winter fishing season for Mille Lacs, and I will insist that there be one.”

But in September, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr said Dayton’s insistence does not guarantee the DNR will OK Mille Lacs walleye ice fishing.

Instead, DNR biologists will survey the walleye population in Mille Lacs over the next three weeks, he said. That includes setting 52 gill nets throughout the lake to determine the population size of spawning adult walleye, the size and distribution of those fish, and reams of other data.

“We’re going to wait until we get the data to make any decisions,” Landwehr told MPR News. “There’s no proposals we’re going to be putting out there before we really get a chance to sit down with the data, with the bands, and come up with what's biologically justifiable.”

Asked how the DNR would respond if the data suggest there aren’t enough walleye to allow any ice fishing harvest this winter, Landwehr said, it was too soon to speculate.

“The big danger we have to be aware of in our desire to provide a lot of opportunity is we do not want to ding that population further, because that just hurts us in the future,” he said.

Dayton, he added, is not proposing the DNR bypass its scientific work “but rather work within the process to get the maximum opportunity for Minnesota anglers.”

In mid-October the DNR will meet with biologists representing eight Ojibwe Indian bands that have treaty rights to harvest fish from Mille Lacs, to analyze that data and determine a safe allowable harvest of walleye from the lake.

Landwher says in those discussions the DNR will insist on as much fishing opportunity as possible for Minnesota anglers.
“We’re hopeful that the data will support a season of some sort,” he said.

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe has taken a different approach to the upcoming season. The band announced last month they will forego netting walleye on the lake next year. The other seven bands with treaty rights to the lake, including the Fond du Lac Band in Minnesota, have not yet announced their plans for next year.

In recent years the safe allowable harvest of walleye from Mille Lacs that’s been identified by DNR and tribal biologists has plummeted, from 500,000 pounds in recent years to only 40,000 pounds this year.

Of that total, 28,600 pounds were reserved for state anglers with 11,400 pounds for the bands.

Biologists are perplexed by what’s driving the decline in walleye in one of the state’s largest and historically most productive walleye fisheries. They say plenty of young walleye are hatching, but many of those walleye are failing to reach adulthood, for what they suspect is a variety of complex reasons including invasive species, climate change, water clarity, and predation.

Tribal and state officials are anxious to see what data the survey nets reveal in Mille Lacs this fall, said James Zorn with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.

“We’re in a situation now where I think everyone’s going to wait with baited breath to see whether or not there would be enough walleye to even have a fishing season, for both the state and the tribes,” he said.

Minnesota  Public Radio News can be heard on MPR’s statewide radio network or online at .

Pipestone Superintendent walks cultural tightrope
Friday, October 02 2015
Written by Jon Lurie,
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pipestone_waterfall.jpgOn the high prairies of Southwestern Minnesota one site, and one man, provide a textbook study of the spiritual and political complexities of America’s cultural imposition upon Native American lands.

For the past 15 years, Glen Livermont, the Oglala Lakota superintendent of Pipestone National Monument, has spent his days walking a precarious tightrope of competing visions. As a career Park Service employee, Livermont says he is obliged to act first in the interests of his employers.

“People will often ask me, ‘As an American Indian, what do you think should happen here?’ While I may have an opinion, and I may have feelings about what should happen, I am still a park service manager, and I need to accommodate that first and foremost.”

The sacred red stone quarries have been visited by indigenous peoples for at least 3000 years. Research indicates the earliest quarrying began around 200 B.C. The Yankton Sioux controlled the pipestone quarries from approximately 1700 until the 1920s, at which time stewardship of the area was transferred to the U.S. government.
Today, no fewer than 23 indigenous nations claim affiliation with the site, each of whom rely upon the red stone for crafting the ceremonial pipes central to their spiritual ways.

Black Elk explained why the red stone is so revered by his Lakota people. “When you pray with this pipe,” he said, “you pray for and with everything.” This quote stands at the top of the Monument’s webpage, one of the myriad ways Livermont has influenced interpretation of the quarries. To manage such a venerated place under the banner of a colonial government would be difficult for a commission of officials, and yet a single Park Service employee is tasked by federal authorities with its care. Livermont seeks commonalities between the Park Service’s mission and the visions Native people maintain for the quarries.

"It is the mandate of the Park Service to preserve and protect natural places for future generations,” he says. “That’s a philosophy that matches so well with many American Indian belief systems. Is this place sacred? I think it is, and as such, it needs the protections that the park service can give it. Fortunately there’s enough of those protections that fall in line with what American Indians believe.”

That doesn’t mean the visions of Native people and the Park Service have never clashed during Livermont’s tenure. The superintendent says sometimes federal employees don’t understand the “special relationship the government has with American Indians.”

Livermont says he runs up against colleagues who have been indoctrinated into the park service so thoroughly they feel they must always strictly follow regulations without regard for that special relationship. “These bureaucrats are not willing to compromise for executive orders that mandate American Indian access to sacred sites; they’re not even sure how to talk with Indians. American Indian employees here must straddle the fence, trying to figure out the right thing to do without jeopardizing our careers. It’s sometimes a major conflict, and I’ve experienced it a number of times.”

The son of an Oglala Lakota mother and white father, Livermont grew up on his family’s ranch in a remote district of the Pine Ridge Reservation, some 20 miles south of Interior, South Dakota. His family did not participate in Lakota spiritual ways. When he was 15 years-old, however, his mother brought him to the town of Pine Ridge, where the first openly celebrated Sun Dance in generations was being held.

“Fools Crow and a few of the other elders were bringing the Sun Dance back. There was a lot of excitement over that,” he says. “Having grown up in an era when there was a prohibition on American Indian spiritual practices, my mother had never seen a Sun Dance before, and so she was eager to go.”

Livermont’s uncle lived in Pine Ridge and told them they should avoid the Sun Dance. He had heard that members of the American Indian Movement were in town from Minneapolis and planned to “disrupt things.” Livermont recalls the electricity in the air as a crowd “waited around the arbor for something to happen.” He also remembers a carnival atmosphere surrounding the dance grounds, complete with circus music, and vendors selling snow cones and cotton candy.

Around noon, a priest arrived wearing beaded vestments. He entered the Sun Dance grounds intending to perform communion. In those days, the ceremony could not proceed without the consent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the church. Livermont watched as two men followed the priest, held a quiet conversation, and “guided” the priest off the grounds. Soon BIA police arrived and escorted the men off the reservation.

Young Livermont didn’t know who the AIM men were, or that he had just witnessed the rebirth of the Sun Dance. In the years that followed, dozens of Sun Dances would spring-up across Lakota country.

Nearly three decades later, Livermont gathered with his employees at Pipestone National Monument for a cultural sensitivity presentation by American Indian Movement leader Clyde Bellecourt (in advance of the annual Sun Dance Bellecourt oversees at the site). Bellecourt told the story of how he and Lehman Brightman removed a priest from the Pine Ridge Sun Dance in 1971. It was then that Livermont understood the significance of the events he had witnessed. The two men now work cooperatively to provide accommodations for the dozens of dancers and supporters who converge on the red stone quarries each summer. Livermont credits the events of 1971 with shaping his understanding of who he is as a Lakota person, and with influencing his understanding of his role as superintendent.

One of Livermont’s most important duties is interpretation of the pipestone quarries so that visitors of all backgrounds can grasp their significance. Livermont personally writes much the content included on the Monument’s website, within its visitor’s center, and on its signage.

To help guide this potentially contentious work, Livermont enjoys the advice of an informal council of elders, who, from throughout Indian Country, will knock on his office door and sit down for extended chats. One of these elders, Oglala spiritual leader Wilmer Mesteth, was a particularly welcome site across the superintendent’s desk. Livermont calls the recently deceased Mesteth a mentor and a good friend. The two met while Livermont worked in the South Unit of the South Dakota Badlands.

“Wilmer held a sun dance over in Venture Table. I would stop in and visit with him every year and got to know him that way. When I moved to Pipestone he would visit me. I really respected and liked Wilmer,” Livermont says.
Unlike some of his predecessors, Livermont says he takes his responsibilities under the National Historic Preservation Act quite seriously. Section 106 of the Act requires him to consult with leaders of the 23 tribes historically affiliated with the pipestone quarries whenever changes to the site are under consideration.

“The previous superintendent didn’t believe in consulting with the tribes. But it’s the law, and we have to do it. Because of that spiritual connection they have with the pipestone quarries, it’s also the right thing to do.” Livermont says at first the tribes didn’t take him seriously. They were used to the old way of doing business, where they were told how things were going to change, rather than asked how they should.

Last year, in attempt to educate his colleague on the intricacies of working hand-in-hand with the tribes, Livermont sponsored a training in Omaha. The session drew 25 participants who learned about the rewards and challenges of folding tribal input into Park Service policies. The event, Livermont says, was a tremendous success in transmitting “the American Indian way of thinking.” While he would like to hold annual sessions, the first one may well be the last due to budgetary constraints, which Livermont calls “unacceptable”.

“We in the National Parks Service need to reach out and develop meaningful relationships with the tribes,” he says. “If we don’t, we aren’t meeting our obligations under the law, and we are not doing right by American Indians or the best interest of the sites under our stewardship. We’ve got to start working in a different way.”

Runners cover 200 miles on Anishinabe Spirit Run
Friday, September 04 2015
Written by John Enger/MPRNews,
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Sam Strong is running.  He left Redby, Minn., in the Red Lake Nation on July 29 with 50 other runners. Then, he and a smaller group headed for Leech Lake, aiming for Duluth. On July 31 they ran straight into a pow wow on the Fond du Lac reservation.

They ran 200 miles to encourage sobriety as part of the Anishinabe Spirit Run. It's the 19th run of its kind, and Strong’s seventh in as many years. “This run is huge for me,” he said, resting on the side of State Highway 89.

Alcoholism landed Strong, 31, in some life-threatening situations when he was a teenager. He didn’t want to elaborate, saying only that he ended up in a rehab facility with doctors telling him he was lucky to be alive.
Running became a form of therapy – the Spirit Run, a way to share its positive impact on his life.

Event coordinator and former Red Lake Chairman Floyd “Buck” Jourdain said runners “crow-hop” the 200 miles. On long stretches they take turns, running two or three at a time for about half a mile. The goal, he said, is to carry four “Eagle Staves” all the way to Fond du Lac on foot. “The staves are vital,” Jourdain said.

Addiction is a major problem on many Indian reservations – a fact brought home by a recent drug bust which netted 41 arrests on the Red Lake and White Earth reservations.

Jourdain said the staves – which represent sobriety, suicide prevention, youth and the Ojibwe language – are meant to bring healing to native peoples.

For Strong, those staves carry a special meaning this year. Last fall he was diagnosed with Stage Three testicular cancer. He went through surgery and chemotherapy. His long hair fell out.

After nine years of sobriety, he found himself revisiting the same dark places alcohol once brought on.
“When I was first going through chemo,” he said, “I told my mother, ‘It’s kind of like you’re drunk without all the good feelings.’”

He credits his traditional spirituality and prayer with carrying him through. For most, the run is about staying clean. For Strong, it’s about something he called mino-bimaadiziwin. “It means the good life,” he said.

As he spoke, the staff runners jogged past. He caught up to relieve them, gripping a staff in each hand. One of his friends did the same. They raised staves overhead and together let out a scream.

Minnesota Public Radio News can be heard on MPR’s statewide radio network or online at .

Bands Assert Treaty Rights within Ceded Territory
Friday, September 04 2015
Written by Jon Lurie,
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Citizens of Minnesota’s Ojibwe tribes sent notice to Gov. Mark Dayton last month of their intention to expand wild rice harvesting in a vast swath of off-reservation territory in northern Minnesota.

Over the past few years, Ojibwe people have harvested wild rice without state licensure within the boundaries of these ceded territories. Many hoped their actions would draw legal enforcement, allowing them a case to test their rights to land and water resources under the 1855 Treaty. Members of the 1855 Treaty Authority and other Ojibwe people in the state contend that, while their forefathers sold off large tracts of northern Minnesota to the government, those sales never included giving up the right to gather, hunt, and fish.

While some citations have been issued in past encounters with law enforcement, the government chose to drop the charges rather than allow the treaty to be contested.

The 1855 Treaty Authority, the independent oversight body which penned the notice to the State of Minnesota, say they want much more than to reaffirm their rights to gather wild rice inside the  treaty area, which runs from about 40 miles west of Duluth to the North Dakota border, and from near the Ontario border to near Brainerd. They say they want to enter into an agreement with the state that recognizes their right to establish a regulatory power to protect the environment within the treaty boundary – including authority over major projects that threaten the environment, such as mines, powerlines and pipelines. 

"We have offered to meet to initiate co-management of the natural resources of the 1855 territory previously, but Minnesota has continuously declined," the letter to Dayton says. "We remain willing to meet and work toward the goal of meaningful co-management and thoughtful environmental protection of our Chippewa treaty territories. However, we can be idle no more."

The letter also expressed apprehension about plans by the Canadian company Enbridge Energy to construct oil pipelines across the territory, as well as the struggling walleye population on Mille Lacs Lake. It stated that the Treaty Authority has sent a request to the environmental protection agency asking it to take immediate measures to protect the natural resources within the ceded areas.

“Wild rice the most important gift from the Creator that we are all taught to protect and respect as a sacred food and medicine,” Arthur “Archie” LaRose, the Authority's chair said. “This is why we are seeking federal action to protect our essential freshwater resources and wild rice, forever.”

The 1855 Treaty Authority is independent of and unaffiliated with the state's tribal governments and includes citizens of the Leech Lake, White Earth and Mille Lacs bands and the non-recognized Sandy Lake Band. Its chair, LaRose is also the secretary-treasurer of the Leech Lake Band, has accused the state of looking the other way when it comes to environmental abuses perpetrated by big business.

"From pipelines, to wild rice and walleye, the State of Minnesota does not appear to be protectively regulating the natural resources or pipelines, but rather defining acceptable levels of degradation in the land of sky blue waters for the profits of foreign corporations," said the letter signed by LaRose and Sandra Skinaway, the group's secretary-treasurer and chairwoman of the Sandy Lake Band.

One state judge has already ruled against the notion that Chippewa tribes may assert regulatory authority in the ceded territories. An administrative law judge ruled in May 2014 that the 1855 treaty "does not forbid creation of new rights of way on the land that was sold in 1855," and that the treaty couldn't be used to stop construction of new pipelines.

This is not likely to be the last word on the matter. Because the treaty of 1855 was signed by the federal government, the matter is likely to be decided in the near future in a federal court.

Frank Bibeau, attorney for the Authority, told the Duluth News-Tribune the group is looking for a test case to bring to federal court. “We will undoubtedly prevail the same way we did with the 1837 case for Mille Lacs and the 1854 case for the Lake Superior region.”

A 1999 federal court decision that focused on the 1837 treaty between the Ojibwe and the United States concluded the Ojibwe did not give up their 1837 rights under the 1855 treaty. While the 1855 treaty doesn't specifically mention hunting, fishing and gathering as retained rights, Bibeau said the rights are inherent. "If there's no wording that we gave them up, we still have them; that's the way the treaties are interpreted," he said.

As of press time, Dayton had not yet responded to the 1855 Treaty Authority. DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, however, replied for the state in a letter to LaRose. Landwehr said band members are welcome to harvest wild rice within the ceded territory, but wrote that they must purchase state licenses or risk criminal prosecution and seizure of their rice and equipment. Landwehr said the bands have no special hunting, fishing or gathering rights within the ceded territory.

New language learning method training held at Red Lake
Thursday, September 03 2015
Written by Michael Meuers,
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More than 30 people from the Red Lake School District, the Immersion School, and Red Lake Community attended training on a unique way to learn language on Aug. 14 at Seven Clans Casino and Event Center.

The group came together to learn more about the Accelerated Second Language Acquisition (ASLA) training with the program's creator, Dr. Neyooxet Greymorning. ASLA is a language teaching method Greymorning developed and has been sharing around the world.

With Ojibwe language revitalization high on the agenda for both the Red Lake Band and Red Lake School District, professional development of language teachers was identified by both the school district and the Ojibwe Language Revitalization Committee as a priority.

The training was for both first speakers and for those learning or second language speakers. The goal of the training was to strengthen first speakers as teachers and increase second speakers' language ability.
"Through the use of pictures and forced problem solving, the teacher guides students through a landscape of pictures placed on a wall," Middle School teacher Tami Liberty said. "Also it goes well with our art grant by using pictures as its mode of instruction."

"I am so glad to have the training," she continued. "When I used my idea of his method last year the students learned at an extremely fast pace with long lasting retention. Now that I have the training I am excited to teach using it this year."

"Greymorning likes to call people working with saving the language — language healers — he used to use language warriors," Liberty said, "I really like that concept of healing vs. warriors, I just thought that was pretty cool."

The ASLA training was sponsored by Red Lake Nation, Red Lake School District along with a grant from the Blandin Foundation's Leadership Program.

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