PERM board supports Mille Lacs County decision on reservation boundary

At the December meeting, the PERM Board of Directors voted to adopt a resolution of support for a recent decision by the Mille Lacs County Board to pursue litigation to resolve the boundary dispute with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe over the Mille Lacs Reservation.

On November 20, 2001, the Mille Lacs County Board unanimously adopted a motion "To initiate litigation to resolve the Mille Lacs Reservation issue at the appropriate time and in the appropriate forum..." The County and Band have been meeting for several months trying to resolve some of the many issues related to the existence and size of the Mille Lacs Lake Reservation. The talks have not produced any satisfactory results, thus the decision by the County to prepare for litigation.

The Mille Lacs Band and several federal agencies claim that the Mille Lacs Reservation of approximately 61,000 acres continues to exist on the south end of Mille Lacs Lake. Mille Lacs County contends that the reservation no longer exists, but was disestablished through treaties, Acts of Congress and U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Currently, the federal government has title to over 3,000 acres held in trust for the Mille Lacs Band.

PERM has been at the forefront of tribal issues at Mille Lacs Lake since its involvement with the 1837 Treaty hunting and fishing rights lawsuit. Part of a deal worked out by the State of Minnesota and the Mille Lacs Band in the early 1990’s would have recognized the continued existence of old reservation boundaries created in an 1855 treaty. Not only would the resurrection of a long-since disestablished Indian reservation affect a host of jurisdictional issues for state and local government, the existence of the 1855 Mille Lacs reservation would impact natural resource management in the area, in particular, the Band's claim to fish in Mille Lacs Lake. For these reasons, PERM has been very concerned about the dispute over the current size of the Mille Lacs Reservation or whether the reservation still exists at all. PERM contends it does not.

According to PERM Board member Howard Thurber of Wahkon, Minnesota " The PERM Board felt it was necessary to adopt a resolution in support of the Mille Lacs County decision to resolve this dispute, and reiterate PERM’s commitment to prepare for possible litigation over the issue." PERM Chairman Pat Doroff pointed out that PERM has acquired a wealth of information that has a direct relevance to the reservation boundary issue from our involvement in the 1837 Treaty lawsuit. This information will be helpful as the reservation dispute heads to court.