NEWS BRIEFS: Sept 2017



ST. PAUL, MN – The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has released its proposed changes to Minnesota rules that are meant to protect wild rice from certain types of pollution. The MPCA is proposing rule changes that take into account the newest evidence about how sulfate and sulfide affect wild rice. Peer-reviewed agency research begun in 2011 found that:

  • Sulfate in wild rice waters enters the sediment in which wild rice is rooted, and bacteria convert it into sulfide.
  • Higher levels of sulfide in the sediment create an environment that reduces wild rice growth and survival over time.

The existing rule limits sulfate to 10 milligrams per liter in water used for the production of wild rice. However, the MPCA’s new research indicates that sulfide in the sediment in which wild rice grows is the pollutant of concern. The proposed rules are designed to limit sulfide to 120 micrograms per liter.

The sediment sulfide originates from sulfate in the water, but certain factors change the rate at which sulfate is converted to sulfide in the sediment. Most significantly, higher levels of iron in the sediment can lead to less sulfide, and higher levels of organic carbon can lead to more sulfide. So while sulfate may create conditions that negatively affect wild rice, no single level of sulfate can be protective of wild rice in all bodies of water. The rule proposal sets up a process to identify the level of sulfate that is protective for each wild rice water.

The proposed rules also:

  • Identify the lakes, rivers, and streams to which the standard applies, termed “wild rice waters”.
  • Set out procedures for collecting and analyzing sediment to determine carbon and iron levels.
  • Address some issues around implementing the standard, particularly at facilities with water discharge permits.

The MPCA is soliciting public comments on the proposed rules now. Public hearings on the rule proposal are scheduled at locations around the state between October 23 and November 2. Comments will be accepted until at least five days after the last public hearing.(The final comment deadline is deter-mined by the hearing judge.)

For information, see their website at:


DOUGLAS COUNTY, WI – On August 29, six Water Protectors were arrested in Douglas County, Wisconsin, while engaging in peaceful, non-violent direct action to stop construction of the Line 3 pipeline project.

One Water Protector locked his body to construction equipment, while dozens of Water Protectors provided support and protection via media. When police arrived onsite, they gave a 10 minute warning but immediately began arrests, targeting anyone holding a camera or cell phone. One water protector was pulled out of a vehicle while attempting to comply with dispersal orders.

Line 3 is a proposed Enbridge tar sands line from Alberta, Canada, that is capable of sending 900,000 barrels of tar sands per day through the headwaters of the Mississippi River to the shores of Lake Superior.


CASS LAKE, MN – The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe officials and representatives from the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance unveiled a new solar array at the Prescott Community Center. The walls of solar panels at the community center are one of five spread throughout the reservation, with others at the Palace Casino, Leech Lake Tribal College, the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance office in Pine River and a fifth in Jackson Village.

The project began about two years ago with the goal of making energy more accessible to low-income communities. Leech Lake partnered with the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance and other sources to obtain the funding.

The project also provides opportunities for training and renewable energy employment to area residents. For example, Leech Lake Tribal College students were involved and select construction trades trainees obtained licenses with hands-on training.

The project is the first, 100 percent low-income community solar installation in the state, as well as the first in the country on tribal lands.


DULUTH, MN – The Minnesota Department of Transportation is redesigning its Highway 23 road and bridge project after the agency damaged a Native American burial site in May.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council has started working to determine the boundaries of the cemetery and the location of remains, as well as recover the graves that have been damaged and find remains – which entails sifting with a screen through 600 cubic yards of soil that has already been disturbed.


CASS LAKE, MN – Leech Lake Tribal College was  named the best community college in the U.S. The study by personal finance website WalletHub ranked more than 700 college and technical schools across the U.S. based on affordability, student-faculty ratio, graduation rates and job placement.

The Cass Lake college was established by tribal resolution by the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in July 1990.

The college had a campus in Red Lake on that tribe’s reservation until this past spring when they split off on their own.

The school offers classes like forestry ecology, law enforcement, Ojibwe language, carpentry, Anishinaabe studies and tribal administration. Its liberal education programs with an emphasis on sciences are the most popular.

College marketing specialist Ryan White said the school was ranked 54th in the study last year, so it has moved up a ways in rank.

College president Pat Broker said they are doing a lot of things right at the campus, but she said it boils down to the students. She said she is amazed by their resiliency and perseverance.

As for cost, Broker said they try to get as many students as possible to be debt free after completing their two-year programs through keeping tuition low, financial aid and help from the tribe.

For more about the study, see: edu/best-worst-community-colleges/15076.


Mille Lacs, MN – The Tribal Wildlife Grant, a federal grant, of almost $200,000 will help the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe identify walleye habitat in Mille Lacs Lake. The grant comes from the  U.S. Department of the Interior.

The fragile walleye population in Mille Lacs Lake has been the subject of studies, disputes and special regulations for a number of years. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources regularly studies the fish population.


PRIOR LAKE, MN – After discovering a piece of land might be an old Native American burial site, the city of Shakopee has decided to sell the land to the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

The site is a part of the historic village on the prairie, or the Mdewakanton Dakota Tinta Otunwe. The property near Highway 101 is part of a much larger site, much of which has already been disturbed by developments in the past, according to the Minnesota archaeological site form.

The resolution was approved on the condition that easements would be specifically outlined before the finalization of the sale so the city would be able to repair or replace the utility lines on the land, while trying not to disturb the site.

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community plans on seeding the land with native grasses to have “the property return to a more natural appearance,” according to a city memo.


RED LAKE, MN – Red Lake’s Tribal Council officially established a protocol in August to be used when banishing tribal members who sell drugs.

The council unanimously voted to approve the new process, which was created in response to the opioid epidemic sweeping the reservation. Banishment has been a potential consequence facing Red Lake drug dealers since 2003, according to the tribe’s legal adviser Michelle Paquin, but a protocol was never put in place.

The tribe declared a state of emergency July 11 following a handful of overdoses across the reservation. For a banishment to take place, tribal police or prosecutors must submit a petition to the tribal secretary alleging that an individual is engaging in some sort of drug-related activity. Once the petition is filed, it would kick off a proceeding similar to a civil hearing, where law enforcement would have to show that it is more likely than not that the subject of the banishment was dealing drugs.

The Tribal Council would then choose whether to banish the person, and for how long.


MILLE LACS, MN – A court order issued by Mille Lacs County District Court Judge Sarah Hennesy on Aug. 17 states Mille Lacs Band Tribal Police have “the power of a law enforcement agency and jurisdiction to enforce the laws of this state in the geographical boundaries of the property held by the United States in trust for the Mille Lacs Band.”

Judge Hennesy said the Mille Lacs Band has the powers of a law enforcement agency and concurrent jurisdictional authority with the Mille Lacs County sheriff, if four requirements are met. Summary of the four requirements are: 1) the Band agrees to be subject to liability for its torts and those of its officers, employees and agents acting within the scope of their employment or duties…, 2) the Band files with the Board of Peace Officers Standards and Training a bond or certificate of insurance for liability coverage…, 3) the Band files with the POST board a certificate of insurance for liability of law enforcement officers, employees and agents for lawsuits…, and 4) the Band agrees to comply with the laws of the state relating to data practices.

By issue of the court order Judge Hennesy is satisfied those requirements are met by Tribal PD. “As a law enforcement agency, tribal police have the authority to arrest… Nothing in the lan-guage of Minnesota statute 626.90 makes these powers contingent upon the existence of a cooperative agreement between the Mille Lacs Band and the Mille Lacs County Sheriff,” Judge Hennesy wrote.


RED LAKE, MN – A Groundbreaking Ceremony was held for the new Red Lake Retail Center on August 14 at their new location across the street from the current one, commonly referred to as the Red Lake Trading Post.

The new 27,000-square-foot project will replace the smaller Red Lake Foods. It will also have a new laundromat, a new deli, and a Subway restaurant. The project will cost $10.2 million dollars.

The project has been funded using a U.S. Department of Agriculture guaranteed loan and the tax credits from the New Markets Tax Credit Program, which is administered by the U.S. Treasury Department and is meant to increase business’ investment in low-income communities.

The new facility will be over three times as large as their current building, with one goal of stimulating Red Lake’s own economy, instead of having their dollars travel off the reservation to such cities as Bemidji.