From the Chairman
by Mark Rotz
I received a call the other day from one of our members. I am always glad to hear from you, and this person brought to my attention a very important point. He said that he was a long time supporter of PERM and continues to believe in what we were fighting for in the Mille Lacs Treaty case, but said we needed to do a better job of explaining why people should continue to support PERM given the Supreme Court ruling last spring.
Well I think he was right. Since that time I've sensed others, even some of our most active members are not quite sure how to answer that question. Many people believe that since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Chippewa in the Mille Lacs case, that everything was over, that all was lost, that there was nothing that could be done now.
I can assure you, that nothing could be further from the truth. To use a common phrase, we've lost the battle, but the war is far from over. As you can gather from other articles in this newsletter, and past issues as well, the tribes and the federal government are not resting with the status quo. They continue to be on the attack. The Mille Lacs case was just one step in the agenda to "....take it all back." We must not let them steal our rights. We must fight on. That's why we should continue to support PERM.
There is still great hope that the errors made by the slimmest majority of the Supreme Court can and will be reversed. The Supreme Court has erred in the past, only to correct itself at a later date. Remember that slavery was once upheld by the Supreme Court. Segregation and the concept of separate but equal treatment were once the law of the land. But the High Court one day came to realize that it had been wrong, and changed it's position. The same can, and I predict will, happen with regard to the Mille Lacs case.
There are a couple of ways that our current situation can be reversed through the judicial branch of government. The first is the simplest and probably the most likely. The State of Minnesota, in all it's wisdom, for some reason chose not to include the Indian Claims Commission as a defense at the Supreme Court. The ICC was set up by Congress to settle all Indian claims once and for all in the 1940s. This argument was advanced by PERM and the Landowners in the lawsuit, but the Supreme Court chose only to decide the case on the issues presented by the State of Minnesota. What this all means is that if some other case were to reach the Supreme Court on the issues of whether or not the ICC payments ended any further claims by the tribes, or if the statue of limitations imposed by the act ended the possibility of any future claims that were not brought to the Commission before the allotted time period had ended, the Mille Lacs case could in effect be reversed! And guess what, we may have just the case right here in Minnesota. It's known as the Fond Du Lac 1854 Treaty case. PERM has standing in the lawsuit as a friend of the court and we are also financially supporting two Landowners who are parties to the case. We will do everything humanly possible to bring the ICC argument to the Supreme Court. That's why we should continue to support PERM.
The second possibility is that if the right person is elected President, he will appoint Supreme Court Justices who will adhere to a constructionist's view of the Constitution and not practice the liberal ideal known as judicial activism. The next President will likely appoint several new justices to the bench, not to mention hundreds of lower court positions. It is important we elect someone who will appoint judges who will follow the principles upon which our Country was founded. If that happens, the next case that reaches the Supreme Court will have a reverse outcome from Mille Lacs. Remember, we only lost by one vote at the Supreme Court, and the four Justices who voted in our favor said we should have won on all counts. The Chief Justice said that the majority "...invalidated for no principled reason a 149-year-old Executive Order, ignored the plain meaning of a 144-year-old treaty provision, and overruled sub silentio a 103-year-old precedent of this court..." We only need one more Justice like Rehnquist, Thomas, Scalia and Kennedy to be able to win hands down. PERM's job is to educate our members, all citizens and our elected officials about the failures of federal Indian policy and the havoc it is causing across our nation. With knowledge people can effect change. They can make intelligent decisions and cast their votes based on a candidate's stand on issues. We will continue to host events, attend sports shows, publish our newsletter, and maintain our web site. All in an effort to educate people and thereby influence public policy. That's why we should continue to support PERM.
The Supreme Court clearly spelled out the possibility for a solution to the Mille Lacs case through the legislative and executive branches of government. They noted that Congress, with it's complete power over Indian affairs could act to end the special privileges of the Chippewa. The Court went so far as to say that even the current or future President could, under the terms of the 1837 Treaty, end the Chippewa's privileges to hunt, fish and gather outside state law. Again, this demonstrates the need for PERM to continue to be the lead voice in Minnesota speaking out about the errors of the Mille Lacs decision and the need to educate voters and elected officials to effect a positive change. We need money to continue, but just as importantly, we need members.
The greater our numbers, the stronger our voice. That's why we should all continue to support PERM.
Finally, we need to get our financial house in order, so that we can be in a position to fight the next battle. Whether that means taking the Fond Du Lac case to the Supreme Court on the ICC argument, or helping out with some other case that addresses the issues, we must be ready to fight for our rights. We currently have financial obligations of about $100,000 resulting from the Mille Lacs case. We also owe about $50,000 for work done already on the Fond Du Lac case. In addition we have another $3,000 in legal expenses for briefs PERM had in the Menomenie case in the U.S. 7th Circuit, which was won by the State of Wisconsin. And $8,000 for legal work done for the Cass County case at the Supreme Court. All together we are behind $161,000. We need to eliminate this financial burden. We can't just raise taxes or ask for the government to bail us out. We pay our own bills and we stand behind our obligations. That's why we should all continue to support PERM.
Joe Karpen of Isle, Minnesota, sent me the following two quotations which I think sum up why we need to support PERM. Abraham Lincoln said, " To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men." Speak out, get involved, join PERM. The United States Supreme Court wrote in (332 U.S. 382 442) that, "It is not the function of government to keep citizens from falling into error. It is the function of the citizens to keep the government from falling into error." We have let our government fall into error. It's time we got involved and become part of the solution.
As we've said before, if you care about your freedom, your property rights, your voice in government, your quality of life and the pursuit of fish and game, you had better join PERM today!