Appeals court upholds DNR decision to deny permit to bear researcher
Tuesday, August 04 2015
Written by Dan Kraker, MPR News,
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A three-judge panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld a state agency's decision to keep researcher Lynn Rogers from putting radio collars on black bears.

But Rogers is claiming partial victory, saying the ruling allows him to once again place cameras in bear dens to broadcast the hibernating animals over the Internet.

Two years ago, the state Department of Natural Resources declined to renew Rogers' research permit to feed bears in Eagles Nest Township to gain their trust so he could observe their behavior. DNR officials argued that his work threatened public safety by making the bears comfortable around humans and teaching them that people can be a source of food.

At issue before the appeals court was whether Rogers needed a DNR permit to place tracking collars on bears. Rogers first applied for a research permit in 1999, and the DNR granted him one.

In the court's ruling, Judge John Rodenberg concluded that "feeding a bear and habituating it in order to keep it in one place while a radio collar is affixed to it" amounts to legal "possession" of the bear, which under Minnesota law requires a permit.

DNR Communications Director Chris Niskanen said the agency is "very satisfied" with the court's decision. It "confirms the agency's belief that it's the responsible agency for permitting wildlife research, and managing wildlife populations," he said.

But Rogers also praised the ruling, which stated that he does not need a DNR permit to place cameras in bear dens while they are hibernating.

"I am just thrilled that the judges saw the value of the den cams, and gave me the right to broadcast them to the world again this winter," he said.

Rogers conceded that it would be more difficult to find active bear dens without the use of radio tracking collars. But he said he already knew the locations of many dens, which bears often reuse.

Federal officials reject threatened status for wolves
Tuesday, August 04 2015
Written by Dan Kraker, MPR News,
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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on June 30 rejected a petition to classify the gray wolf as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

In most states, wolves are listed as endangered and can only be killed for threatening a human life. But in Minnesota, where there are about 2,400 wolves, they are listed as threatened, and federal trappers can kill wolves within a half mile of a verified attack on pets or livestock.

In 2012, the Fish and Wildlife Service removed federal protections for the wolf in the Great Lakes region. But in December a judge reversed that decision.

When proposals emerged in Congress to remove wolves from endangered species protection altogether, the Humane Society of the United States asked the federal government to classify wolves everywhere as threatened.

The group called that a compromise between the more restrictive endangered listing for wolves and removing wolves from that list.

"This is something that we think you could extend throughout the country," said Ralph Henry, a Humane Society attorney. "It would alleviate a lot of the pressure that we're seeing, especially in the most populated areas like Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin."

The Fish and Wildlife Service said the petitioners didn't demonstrate that reclassifying the wolf was warranted.

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

Mille Lacs diversifies with ties that bind
Monday, July 20 2015
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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mille lacs band diversifies with ties that bind.jpgWhen his peers in the Native American Finance Officers Association honored Joe Nayquonabe, Jr. this spring as their Executive of the Year, attention was given to the progress the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is making in diversifying its investments and business enterprises.

Nayquonabe is Commissioner of Corporate Affairs for the Band and is chief executive officer of Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures (MLCV), the Band’s business investment arm that operates like a holding company with management responsibilities.

MLCV now has more than 35 different business entities. Together with the Band’s government and earlier investments in enterprises, the Mille Lacs Band is responsible for creating more than 3,500 jobs on and off the reservation.

The two anchors of the Band’s enterprises at the reservation, Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Grand Casino Hinckley, have 2,648 employees while non-gaming businesses located there have 225 employees. Other businesses are scattered around neighboring communities in East-Central Minnesota, in the Twin Cities metro area and now include a hotel in Oklahoma City.

The Mille Lacs Band entered the gaming business 24 years ago. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) then listed reservation unemployment at a staggering 80 percent. The Band now assesses its unemployment rate at 14 percent, a rate derived from knowing who is still in need of a job. That is a more simple, accurate but unofficial formula than methods used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to measure unemployment for states, counties and cities.

“We are continually evaluating opportunities and looking for the next potential deal,” Nayquonabe said. No new deals are imminent, he added, “but I can share that we have our eye on a few properties throughout the country that would possibly make nice additions to our portfolio.”

Diversification was a stated goal at Mille Lacs when Band chief executive Melanie Benjamin named Nayquonabe to the commissioner’s post three years ago. With acquisitions and business expansions along the way, Mille Lacs leaders have insisted that gaming revenue is flattening out. Future economic growth must come from non-gaming enterprises.

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar Visits Red Lake
Friday, July 17 2015
Written by Michael Meuers, Red Lake News,
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us_senator_amy_klobuchar_visits_red_lake_tribe.jpgOn July 2 the Red Lake Tribal Council reconvened after a morning Special Council meeting as U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar visited with the Red Lake Tribal Council about issues of concern to the tribe. Several tribal council members participated in a conversation about Indian Country and the government to government relationship between Red Lake Nation and the United States. Tribal Council Officers Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr., Secretary Donald Cook, and Secretary Annette Johnson, were joined by council members Gary Nelson and Randy "Jiggs" Kingbird of Ponemah, Little Rock council member Robert "Charlie" Reynolds, and Red Lake reps Roman Stately and Robert Smith. Chief Billy King also attended.

The informal meeting began with the tribal council expressing concerns to the Senator and two accompanying staff. Several council members echoed an issue Red Lake Chairman Darrell G. Seki brought up in his inaugural address and continues to be on the council's agenda. "We need to be able to prosecute non-members who bring drugs to our reservation. They come up from the Twin Cities with their drugs and endanger our youth. We need to be able to deal with this," said Tribal Secretary Don Cook.

Klobuchar said she understood, pointing out that; "the Senate passed legislation that enables Indian tribes to prosecute non-members for domestic violence, maybe drugs comes next," she said.

"We've had a bit of trouble in this area of debate," Klobuchar noted. "There is a perception that non-members cannot get a fair trial in any Indian court. We need to deal with that issue. Passing this kind of legislation is even more difficult," she said, "because so many states do not have Indian Reservations and simply do not understand the issues. We will continue to educate them."

(The Tribal Council has passed a resolution a few months ago to allow banishment of non-members who bring drugs on the Red Lake Reservation.)

First Leech Lake Two Spirit Awareness Day held
Friday, July 17 2015
Written by Jacqueline White,
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first leech lake two spirit awareness day held.jpgJune 17 marked an historic moment in Minnesota Indian Country: the first Two Spirit LGBT Awareness Day on the Leech Lake Reservation and the first visit by OutFront Minnesota, the state’s leading organization supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, to a Minnesota reservation.

The celebration, which drew more than 50 guests took place on the front lawn of the Leech Lake Housing Authority in Cass Lake, Minn. Under sunny skies, guests listened to speakers and guitarist Michael Lyons, while eating a buffet lunch of BBQ pork, wild rice, baked beans, fresh fruit and vegetables and fry bread – all topped off by a colorful rainbow cake.

The festivities were the brainchild of tribal member Julie Kurschner-Pineda, an attempt – she explained – to counter some of the suffering she has seen Two Spirit tribal citizens endure. “A lot of our people are striving to be loved and that’s what this is all about,” she said.

The celebration was not without controversy. Kurschner-Pineda, who manages the Leech Lake Homeless Resource Program, reported that she received a number of complaints but prominent tribal leaders attended the event, including council member LeRoy Staples Fairbanks, III, who said he was encouraged to attend by a tribal elder and Megan Treuer, who spoke in her official capacity as an associate tribal judge.

Treuer explained that while the Leech Lake legal code does not explicitly address LGBT issues, “We are required to use traditional teachings and can seek input from spiritual advisors.” So when tribal member Arnold Dahl sought to marry his long-time partner Matthew Wooley in November 2013, Treuer explained that Leech Lake’s chief tribal judge was able to officiate at the marriage by relying on traditional teachings that hold that, “everyone is equal and everyone should be treated with respect.” She noted that the Leech Lake tribal court was one of the first tribal courts to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony.

“It wasn’t a shameful thing long ago. It was a gift. Before we were colonized, we understood Two Spirit people are chosen by the Creator,” Eric Shepherd, a member of the management team of Leech Lake Housing Authority who has a brother who is Two Spirit, said.

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