Could all of the Arrowhead Region fall under tribal control?

According to a recent Associated Press (AP) story, State of Minnesota officials met recently to discuss the treaty rights lawsuit filed by the Fond Du Lac Band of Ojibwe for off reservation hunting and fishing rights under an 1854 treaty covering the entire Arrowhead Region of Minnesota. The Band, after having negotiated a compromise with the State in the late 1980's, backed out of the deal and filed suit in Federal Court.

According to the AP story, State officials say they need to have more input to ensure that anglers and hunters will be able to enjoy the area for years to come. Michelle Beeman, Department of Natural Resources legislative director said, "The Court will need to bring some finality to this. We'll need to have a code that governs treaty harvest." Officials from the Attorney General's Office and the DNR met late in June to discuss how to move forward with the second part of the lawsuit, which has been on hold pending resolution of the Mille Lacs 1837 Treaty case.

Tribal officials are quoted as saying they do not expect a full blown challenge to their claims. According to the Tribe's resource management director the Fond Du Lac are a "fiercely independent band. The regulation is not the contention. It's who's doing the regulation."

PERM chairman Mark Rotz, said their organization would continue to support two private citizens involved in the lawsuit to fight for the rights of all Minnesota citizens. PERM intends to push for a strong defense by the State of Minnesota. Arguments like the Indian Claims Commission Act, accountability and equal protection under the 14th Amendment were not ruled on by the Supreme Court in Mille Lacs, and therefore that case is not controlling hear. Furthermore a successful challenge on these defenses could overturn the unfortunate outcome of the Mille Lacs case.

Rotz said that, "Judging by comments from the DNR in the AP story, the State may not be planning a strong defense and appeal. PERM is very concerned that it may be left to carry the ball in it's own. According to the AP story, this has mushroomed from a hunting violation into a full blown sovereignty battle. Why wouldn't the State vigorously fight for it's rights and the rights of it's citizens?"

A court order outlining when the case would move forward is expected soon.