From the Chairman


By Mark Rotz

Let's get back to the Supreme Court to reverse the Mille Lacs decision.

At the June board of directors meeting, it was decided that it was time to take the first step in our legal effort to reverse the outcome of the Mille Lacs 1837 Treaty lawsuit. A motion was made and approved to begin work on developing and writing a complete and authoritative treatise on the Indian Claims Commission (ICC). Remember, this was the argument raised by PERM and the Landowners, but was never ruled upon by the U.S. Supreme Court in the lawsuit. We have always believed that this is one of our strongest defenses against treaty rights claims. While we and a handful of others across the nation have done a great deal of research on the ICC, currently there is no one highly-regarded, well-researched document tying it all together. As a result, there is a great deal of misunderstanding and ignorance among lawyers, and more importantly members of the judiciary, about the intent, jurisdiction and impact of the Indian Claims Commission. One judge in the Mille Lacs case even thought the ICC rulings were rescinded. The goal is to have this treatise published as a law review article in some of the Country's most respected journals. This information would be readily available to attorneys and judges across the country, for them to reference and cite in legal briefs and opinions.

The next step will be to find the proper lawsuit with which to utilize this argument. Whether PERM uses a case here in Minnesota, or some other group or individual from half way across the Country uses the ICC argument successfully, it will have far-reaching impact for everyone including those of us concerned with the outcome at Mille Lacs.

State/tribal court forum.

Officials from the State of Minnesota judiciary and representatives from every Indian tribe in the state, are working on a plan to give "full faith and credit" to tribal court rulings. Full faith and credit means that Minnesota courts would recognize tribal court rulings in much the same way the state does with Wisconsin or Iowa. This means that if a person is convicted of a crime, or has a judgment against them in tribal court, they would have no right to contest it in state court. The forum subcommittee on full faith and credit did acknowledge that there would have to be some limited right to contest due process in state court for tribal court rulings. The operative word here is limited. No citizens of Minnesota, whether Indian or non-Indian, band member or non-member should be subject to a "foreign" court system with no checks and balances and no form of accountability. Not in the United States of America. Not in Minnesota.

One only needs to briefly study the issue to find countless examples of corruption, nepotism, incompetence and unaccountability in the tribal court systems across the state. Remember, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of appeals has recently ruled that civil rights laws do not apply to sovereign Indian tribal governments, their courts or their businesses. There is no guarantee of due process in the tribal justice system. They are accountable to no one. I suggest you read the commentary by lawyer, newspaper publisher and Red Lake tribal member, Bill Lawrence, in the April 28, 2000 edition of Ojibwe News. He cites several documented examples of tribal court proceedings and actions that should concern every citizen of this state. Ask Keck Melby, marina owner from Grand Portage, how the tribal justice system operates.

And as if to confirm that this would be a bad deal for all Minnesota citizens, the subcommittee is working on a plan to implement full faith and credit without going to the Legislature. They hope to implement it as a Minnesota Appellate Court rule to avoid the public hearing process involved in passing a law. That's right, they do not want public scrutiny or testimony from Indians and non-Indians who have dealt with the tribal courts. We need to blow the whistle on this State/Tribal Court Forum, especially with the recent efforts to expand tribal law enforcement and the increasing number of compacts between tribes and local units of government that could ultimately place more non-Indians under tribal court jurisdiction. Where is the media coverage of this issue. Other than Ojibwe News, I haven't seen or heard a word! Could it be that they were too busy touting their darling Marge Anderson, who despite the efforts of the Twin Cities media was soundly defeated in the recent tribal elections at Mille Lacs?

Some people aren't getting their newsletters.

If you're reading this, obviously you are receiving your quarterly PERM Newsletter. In fact some of you are probably getting more than one. If that's the case, and you don't want to give your extra copy to a friend or co-worker, or maybe accidentally leave it lying at the coffee shop or something like that, please let me know, and I will do my best to remove the duplicates from our data base.

A more disturbing problem is those members who are not receiving their newsletter. One problem is that the post office will not deliver our third class mail to old route and box number addresses if they have switched over to the new street addresses. They simply throw them away. If you know of a PERM member who does not receive their newsletter, please have them give me a call at (763) 441-6869. We may have to pay the extra postage and mail out our newsletters at the normal first class rate. This would cost us several hundred dollars more for each issue.

We'll miss you Don and Smokey.

While we mourn the loss, it is with joy that we remember our dear friends and long time PERM volunteers who passed away earlier this year. Emil (Smokey) Simonson and Don Curtis were two of the most dedicated PERM members I've known. They worked tirelessly at every event we ever had in the Mille Lacs Lake area. Don, who farmed North of Mille Lacs, would even leave his hay down if there was something that needed to be done for PERM. Smokey, and his wife Virginia, usually collected dinner tickets at our fundraisers. Smokey was fond of sweepstakes, and often tried to convince me that PERM should try doing a national sweepstakes like the one with Ed McMahon. I never could quite figure out how to make it work for us, but that's the kind of dedication Smokey had for PERM. He was always looking for a way for us to make a few bucks for the cause. I know I'm not alone when I say, we are glad to have known you both, and honored to have called you friends and fellow PERM members.

A final thought.

One of our members passed on a famous quotation to me the other day. I think it sums up how we at PERM feel, and why we do what we can do. The noted anthropologist Margaret Mead, who studied cultures around the world, said these inspired words: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." She also said, "We have to make our voices heard. That's how democracy works. We get what we deserve if we don't speak up."