PERM supporters joined by CERA in meeting with political leaders


Editor's note:

Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) is a national coalition of individuals and organizations like PERM, working for solutions to problems caused by federal Indian policy. PERM appreciates CERA's role in helping PERM supporters get their message across to our political leaders last May. Testimonials from both tribal and non-tribal members were presented, and the attendance of groups and individuals from across the country gave our local area citizens great support and increased credibility. The following piece was excerpted from a June 2000 CERA update and 5/19/00 Ojibwe News. You can contact CERA through their web site at www.citizensalliance.org .


On May 5th and 6th 2000, CERA had it's annual meeting in Minneapolis, MN. Organizations from New York, Wisconsin, Connecticut, South Dakota, Montana, New Mexico and Minnesota were present. A highlight of the two day meeting was lending CERA's support to a bus load of 80 Mille Lacs Lake, MN area residents in a meeting with the staffs of Senator Paul Wellstone, Governor Jesse Ventura and Attorney General Mike Hatch. Resort owner and defendant landowner in the Mille Lacs Treaty lawsuit, Joe Karpen, organized the event with the help of his local State Representative Sandra Erickson and State Senator Dan Stevens, and CERA President Howard Hanson. Among the issues discussed were; the expansion of reservation boundaries at Mille Lacs Lake; tribal jurisdiction on former and existing reservations; a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa on regulation of sewer systems for the expanded reservation area; a joint public sewer project for the Mille Lacs Band and the city of Garrison, MN; and the lack of civil rights for both band members and non-members on Indian reservations. Several members of the delegation of 80 area residents voiced their concerns including Joe Karpen, Mary Jevne and Clarence Fitz.

Mr. Fitz summarized the problem this way, There is no reservation in Mille Lacs County at this time. However, the EPA, the BIA and the Mille Lacs Band all say it still exists. It does not exist. That is our number one problem in Mille Lacs County."

Marina owner Keck Melby from Cook County, MN noted that "According to the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa Tribal Court, any business conducted with the tribe or tribal members, from selling gas or a fishing license, to allowing a tribal member to launch a boat from your dock, constitutes a "consentual relationship" with the Band and therefore gives the tribal government jurisdictional authority to zone your property and impose a tax on your property and business. Yet, if a business owner were trying to protect himself from this tribal control by denying service to a tribal member, he would be charged with discrimination." Keck went on to state that "The Band has admitted that this is not just a zoning issue, but that it's about control." He added, "To make matters worse, the State of Minnesota is willing to tax us, but will not defend us against these attacks by tribal government on our constitutional rights. We are pawns in a struggle between counties, states, tribes and the federal government.

Vincent Hill, CERA member and tribal member from the Mille Lacs Band, stated that tribal members are being deceived. Civil rights do not exist for them on the reservation. He cited several incidents of how freedom of the press and freedom of assembly have been denied on the Mille Lacs Reservation. He said that, "On the reservation, you can't discuss ideas openly or criticize the tribal government."

Roland Morris, a tribal member of the Leech Lake Band and Vice-Chair of CERA told of how the focus of tribal government is on money and power not the welfare of tribal members.

Russ Wheeler, a member of Upstate Citizens for Equality (UCE) from New York, spoke about how casinos in their area are not legally approved by the state legislature. He suggested that the governors and attorney generals get together at the next governor's conference and come up with a consensus and press the federal government to clean up this unconstitutional mess called federal Indian policy.

CERA Chairman Howard Hanson added that "Citizens across the country, both Indian and non-Indian, are being forced to live under jurisdiction of an unconstitutional form of government in which they have no voice."