From the Chairman
PERM to file briefs with Supreme Court!
We've got good news for all our supporters dealing with questions of tribal jurisdiction over non-tribal members on or near Indian reservations. PERM has agreed to file amicus briefs supporting the position of Atkinson Trading Co. in its lawsuit before the United States Supreme Court this session. This is an important case for all who are concerned about the ever-expanding reign of tribal jurisdiction, whether it be taxation, environmental regulation, local zoning, etc. For more details on this particular case please refer to the "Other News..." section of this paper. Once again this demonstrates PERM's commitment to protect the interests of property owners and sportsmen confronted with tribal issues. No other organization in Minnesota is better equipped and more willing to deal with Indian related environmental and jurisdictional issues than PERM. We feel we can contribute substantially toward winning this case and, in turn, protect Minnesota residents dealing with these issues here at home.
A lottery to fish on Mille Lacs Lake?
According to a report by Shawn Perich in the Outdoor News, one of the more radical options proposed by experts at the Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference as a means of lowering angler pressure and fish harvest on some lakes would be to limit access for sportsmen. Reducing limits and conservation practices like catch and release will not be enough to sustain area fisheries. According to Sean Cox from the University of Wisconsin, "Quality is determined by access." Options to limit access include limited entry permits under which anglers would have to apply in a lottery type system for an opportunity to fish on certain public waters.
"Possibly a lottery might be the only solution in the future," said George Spangler from the University of Minnesota in a presentation entitled The Malignant Myth of Catch and Release. Spangler suggested that this common conservation tool (catch and release) may not be a panacea for protecting important fisheries and that fishing for enjoyment raises philosophical questions. "Those among us who are fishermen should ask yourselves why we should intervene in the lives of fish, in a relatively benign way. Are we playing with our food as Native Americans suggest? Or are the animal rights people right after all?" asked Spangler.
George Spangler's comments should come as no surprise to those of us following the treaty rights debate. One might assume that he was just throwing these ideas out as food for thought, and that special permits to fish public waters were just put out there as another option on the table for natural resource managers and policy buffs. I'm not so sure. Dr. Spangler was an expert witness on behalf of the Chippewa tribes in the Wisconsin battle over off-reservation hunting and fishing rights in the 1837 Treaty area. I believe he has completely adopted the view of the federal government and Indian tribes on treaty rights.
Is it just a coincidence that the two speakers who proposed limiting access as a means to reduce sport fishing pressure and harvest are from states that have extensive tribal interests and treaty harvest? I think not. The tribes and their allies have been working toward this for over 30 years. What is troubling is how well established they have become in the academic and public policy arenas. Do you think that a lottery to obtain the chance to fish will never happen? I'll bet you never thought that Indian tribes would be allowed to commercially gill net public waters either.
State/Tribal Judges Conference
PERM is continuing to monitor the meetings between state court and tribal court judges being held quarterly. The last meeting was at the Red Lake Indian Reservation back in September, 2000. The December meeting was canceled. PERM is very concerned about one particular item on the agenda at these joint forums. One of the things they are trying to accomplish is to grant full faith and credit to tribal court rulings by state courts. What is just as disturbing as the prospect of full credit given to courts that are not part of our constitutional governments, is the means by which some members of the panel would like to accomplish their goal. Rather than bringing the issue to the legislature for debate and possible approval, they are attempting to implement this radical policy idea through judicial rule. We will keep you posted on further developments.
DNR gives away land only to lease it back.
According to a report in Outdoors Weekly, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa announced an agreement that gives Grand Portage State Park land to the federal government to hold in trust for the Band. Grand Portage State Park lies completely within the boundaries of the former Grand Portage Indian Reservation. It has historical significance because Indians and fur traders needed to portage several miles around the 130 foot waterfall, thundering rapids, cliffs and rocky terrain, hence the name grand portage. The natural and historical treasure was once in Chippewa ownership, then lost through tax forfeiture and subsequently sold to a private individual. The property owner later sold some of the land and donated the rest to the Minnesota Parks and Trails Council.
Under the agreement, the State of Minnesota will give the land to the Grand Portage Band and then lease it back from the Band to be managed jointly as a state park. This will become the only state park in the nation managed jointly by a state and Indian tribe. It will also be the only state park in Minnesota not owned by the State.
One has to wonder whose interests the DNR had in mind when they made this unusual deal? It sure doesn't make a lot of fiscal sense to give away public land and then lease it back, even at the cost of $1 per year. Doesn't the legislature need to approve the giveaway of public land? The DNR said that this was the culmination of a 10 year partnership with the band. This is the first I have heard about this deal. I wonder if the donor knew or knows that the property that they donated for public use was going to be given away?
Illinois willing to take on tribal claims.
According to the New York Times, the State of Illinois is attempting to intervene in a lawsuit filed against Illinois property owners in which the tribe lays claim to 2.6 million acres of land in 15 counties. The Miami Tribe claims that it never sold its lands in Illinois and that it still belongs to them. They want the court to eject the property owners unless they agree to pay the tribe a fee. The State of Illinois was not named in the suit but has attempted to intervene on the side of the property owners. The District Court denied the state's motion to intervene, but it appears that the decision will be appealed. Meanwhile, Illinois lawmakers are proposing a bill that would create a legal defense fund to pay the legal fees of the property owners.
The State of Illinois has demonstrated quite a different attitude compared to the way the State of Minnesota has handled similar matters involving tribal issues. Take the Keck Melby case for example. Mr. Melby was sued by the Grand Portage Band because he did not follow tribal zoning regulations on his fee-patent private property. Keck is fighting to protect private property rights and maintain state and local jurisdiction on fee land in and near Indian reservations in Minnesota. This is an issue heating up at every Indian reservation in the state. Has the State asked to intervene to protect state and local jurisdiction on issues like taxing, zoning, water quality or other environmental regulation? No. Is anyone in the legislature proposing to set up a fund to help our state's citizens who are being sued by so-called sovereign nations who want to take away our constitutional rights? No. Instead, the state proudly rewards the Grand Portage Band with a gift of public land.