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.

Dayton: Mille Lacs walleye woes require special session
Tuesday, August 04 2015
Written by Tim Pugmire, MPR News,
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DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is proposing a special legislative session in August to consider an emergency financial aid package for resorts and other businesses in the Lake Mille Lacs area. But House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, says he thinks it may be too early to talk about bringing back the Legislature.

Dayton is concerned about the economic hit that the popular fishing destination will suffer if state officials close the walleye season early due to a dwindling fish population. He discussed the idea with Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, on July 28, and they agreed to the following week to begin planning.

No decisions have been made, but Dayton told reporters on July 29 that the state assistance could include zero interest loans, property tax abatements and additional tourism promotion. He said “time is of the essence” to address a potentially “catastrophic” situation.

“We need to get the loan program under way,” Dayton said. “The resorts up there need working capital so they can pay their employees and just keep open, especially if the walleye fishing has to be closed beginning next week.”

Before a special session area legislators, lawmakers who oversee natural resource issues and state commissioners should meet to talk about the problem and ways to respond, Daudt told MPR News.

“We’re very concerned about the situation. We want to make sure we do what’s right by these resorts. We don’t want to see them suffering because of this closing of the season early,” Daudt said. “But we also want to make sure we’re doing the right thing. And we want to look at all options.”

Dayton met on July 29 in St. Paul with Mille Lacs area officials and business owners. He plans to visit the area later in the week.

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.

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