From the Chairman
By Mark Rotz
Well, the dust has now settled from the Mille Lacs 1837 Treaty case. The initial shock and disappointment over the Supreme Court decision is wearing off and reality is starting to set in. The natural question on many of our supporters' minds is what will PERM do PERM now? Or, is it all over for PERM?
We began to touch on this question in our April newsletter, and have now had a few months to try and expand on some of the answers. No, it's not all over for PERM. There is even more work to be done in light of recent events.
As I stated in our last issue, no other organization is more knowledgeable about environment, natural resource management or property rights issues arising from the onslaught of expansion in tribal jurisdiction and authority. Further more, no other group has the courage and will to take on these difficult and complex legal and social issues.
Here are just some of the objectives and goals in the wake of Mille Lacs.
Work for fair resource allocation: We continue to have a voice in resource allocation disputes in the treaty area. The Landowners, as parties to the lawsuit, will be able to participate in future proceedings as the federal court exercises it's ultimate regulatory authority over disputes arising from co-management under the 1837 Treaty. For example, at Mille Lacs Lake we are currently in the middle of a five year phase in of tribal harvest. What will happen after five years? Will the tribes elect to up their portions of the harvest? Will they allow full scale commercial fishing? Many questions like these may ultimately end up before a federal judge. The Landowners and PERM will be there to fight for you.
Pursue other legal options: There are other legal avenues to correct the mistake made by a slim majority of the Supreme Court in Mille Lacs. PERM is already committed to supporting two landowner citizens in the Fond Du Lac 1854 treaty case. As you recall, this lawsuit, similar to Mille Lacs, was launched against Minnesota by the Fond Du Lac Band of Chippewa from near Duluth. They are seeking similar claims as were upheld in Mille Lacs, for the entire Arrowhead Region of Minnesota. The case is currently pending in federal court and could move on to a phase two at the District Court level or possibly on to appeal any time. While the Supreme Court has raised the bar with their ruling in Mille Lacs, a victory on Fond Du Lac could have the effect of reversing Mille Lacs. There were very good legal arguments not ruled upon by the Supreme Court in Mille Lacs like the Indian Claims Commission Act, and equal protection under the 14th Amendment that can be pursued in Fond Du Lac or even by some other state or group in another case in some other part of the Country. Like it or not, the tribes will continue to push expansion of their authority and power, and like it or not, the legal battles will have to be fought.
Fight the expansion of tribal environmental control: There are a growing number of environmental and jurisdictional disputes arising on and near most every Indian reservation in our State. Up at Grand Portage, the tribe is claiming zoning authority over non-Indians who live on land that has not been part of a reservation since the late 1800's. (See the Keck Melby story in this edition.) Right here at Mille Lacs, the tribe is claiming they do not have to comply with the local sewer and water permitting process. At the same time, the Mille Lacs Band is seeking supremacy over the State for enforcing federal EPA standards in a several township area that hasn't belonged to the tribe since the 1860's. Remember, the tribes claim sovereign immunity, we can not vote in their elections and they are not even accountable to their own members. How can we allow them to regulate our environment, let alone govern us? How long will it be until they levy taxes on us? They are already trying to do so in other parts of the Country. PERM has the courage to take theses issues on!
Expand education and build political support: There is still the immense job of education to enlighten and change the body politic. The Supreme Court which narrowly decided against us even recognizes that the President could legally end the 1837 Treaty privileges. And of course, Congress, with it's plenary power over tribal governments could put an end to this insanity a number of ways. In order for a political solution, PERM must expand our efforts to educate the public and our elected officials about these issues. We must continue to build our grass roots movement until we become a force our elected officials can not ignore. The outdoor community turned out in record numbers to vote on the hunting and fishing amendment in Minnesota. We helped elect a governor we thought would shake things up and make some real change. We must build on that momentum. We know that there are many many more Minnesotan's who share our gut feeling that separate hunting and fishing laws based on ones race are illegal, morally corrupt and terrible public policy. We must inspire these citizens to become involved and join us in our efforts.
Work with Indian people to effect change: There is another potentially powerful avenue toward resolving the many problems associated with federal Indian policy. We must renew and strengthen our efforts to build relationships with Indian people across the Country who are working to put an end to this destructive and corrupt agenda that has hurt so many Indian people. They rightly believe that the way to a better life for Indians lies in finally guaranteeing the Bill Of Rights to Indian people on the reservation. When you head down this road, uncountable tribal governments will no longer legally exist. Race based laws and policies will not meet the Constitutional tests securing individual liberty and rights. The policies of segregation and group rights that have failed so miserably will cease. The whole socialistic apartheid system that exists, but kept so well under wraps in the United States of America, will ultimately fall. True equality and opportunity for Indian people will then have a chance. We must unite with those from within the Indian community bold enough to take a stand, often with great personal risk and consequences. Citizens Equal Rights Alliance is a national organization of Indians and Non-Indians who are working on these issues. Native American Press/Ojibwe News publisher, Bill Lawrence has written eloquently on the subject. We support their efforts to bring true equality to Indian people and thereby all Americans.
In conclusion, we still have outstanding financial commitments to settle for the Mille Lacs case and we have pledged our support for the Landowners in Fond Du Lac. But our focus will now shift slightly more toward our educational efforts and building a grass roots movement. PERM must continue on because no one else will! As Howard Hanson so insightful wrote in our April newsletter, quoting Edmund Burke "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for enough good men to do nothing." As you read about the growing scope of the federal/tribal partnership destroying sate rights and individual liberty in places from New York to Alaska, remember those words. Don't give in. Don't give up. Renew your commitment to fighting for what is right.
New Membership Drive.
This brings me to my next topic. In an effort to strengthen our organization and become a more powerful force to be reckoned with, the PERM Board has initiated a "Millennium Membership Drive". We have new discounted multi-year memberships as well as a way to earn one or two of our fabulous collectible wildlife art prints. Please look for details later in this edition.