PERM & Tea Party to join forces on Mille Lacs Reservation boundary dispute

Members of the PERM Board of Directors met with representatives of the Mille Lacs County Tea Party, an adhoc committee of the Lake Mille Lacs Association, on June 20, 2002. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways of combining forces in an effort to assist Mille Lacs County in the dispute over the continued existence of a reservation established at Mille Lacs Lake by a treaty in 1855. The Mille Lacs Band and several federal agencies maintain that the original reservation remains. Mille Lacs County believes it no longer exists, and has asked a federal court to decide. PERM and members of the Tea Party agree with the County, and want to show their support for the area residents and county commissioners on
this issue.

The dispute has far reaching consequences for citizens within the old reservation, residents and business owners throughout Mille Lacs County, and people who live on or near other Chippewa Reservations in Minnesota that were sold and disestablished over a century ago, such as the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac Indian Reservations.

Other citizens have reason to be concerned too. People who visit the area to enjoy it’s natural environment must understand that if the former reservation is re-established, the Mille Lacs Band will control the hunting, fishing and other recreational use of the natural environment in and around Mille Lacs Lake. Sportsmen and conservationists are concerned about letting Mille Lacs Lake become another Lower Red Lake, where sportsmen who mistakenly enter onto tribal lands or waters are arrested, have their equipment confiscated, and are forced into tribal courts to pay their fines and purchase their equipment back. Just this past winter, a Pine River man temporarily lost his airplane to the Red Lake Band because he was misled into thinking that is where the “big crappie bite” was going on. Will boaters on Mille Lacs who wander across this imaginary line into reservation waters be arrested and have their equipment confiscated? Will hunters and fishermen be forced to purchase a tribal license to fish on Mille Lacs Lake? In addition, a Minnesota District Court judge has ruled that Band members’ right to hunt on the reservation extends to privately owned property! Landowners can not prevent tribal members from trespassing to hunt on the White Earth Reservation, where a sizable majority of the land is in private ownership.

Everyone from both the Tea Party and PERM agreed that a cooperative effort would yield the most effective results. In that spirit, the PERM Board of Directors voted to combine forces with the Tea Party on our Annual Fall Auction at Karpen’s Resort on the east shore of Mille Lacs Lake just north of Isle, Minnesota, on Highway 47. This year’s event will be held on September 14, 2002. Proceeds from the event will be placed in a dedicated trust account set up by the Mille Lacs County Commissioners to be used exclusively for the reservation boundary lawsuit. Members of both organizations felt it was important to make a financial commitment to show area citizens the groups are committed to successfully defeating the Band’s attempts to take jurisdiction over our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. We can not allow unconstitutional, non-republican, unaccountable tribal government to continue to broaden control over land, resources and citizens’ lives.

Both organizations realize there is much that needs to be done to win this battle. A great deal more needs to be done in the area of education. Too many people are unaware of what is going on at Mille Lacs and across the nation. We currently have a federal policy that allows these private organizations called Indian tribes, who often operate outside the law and claim immunity from local, state and often federal oversight, to control air quality, regulate water quality, manage fisheries, set zoning laws and control the very fabric of life in communities that fall within their claimed territories. Our members, and the public at large, must take action. If you live in Mille Lacs County, write your county commissioners and let them know that they are doing the right thing. If you’re not a resident, but enjoy the Mille Lacs lake area, write your state elected officials and let them know that they should be supporting Mille Lacs County in this lawsuit. If you live on or near one of the several other reservations in Minnesota, urge your county to support Mille Lacs County. Everyone of us must do what we can to raise awareness of this issue. Talk to your friends and neighbors. Urge them to get involved. Urge them to join PERM!

PERM has plans to do everything possible to help strengthen Mille Lacs County’s case. We have compiled extensive information about this issue over the past ten years and are in an excellent position to file legal briefs supporting the County’s arguments. Amicus briefs, or “friend of the court” briefs, as they are often called, allow a broad range of interested parties to share their concerns and expand on legal arguments laid out by the litigants in a lawsuit. More than likely, there will be many Indian tribes and tribal organizations filing briefs in support of the Mille Lacs Band. Wouldn’t it be great if several counties from Minnesota and across the nation filed briefs in support of Mille Lacs County? Wouldn’t it be great if the State of Minnesota filed briefs supporting one of it’s member counties? Quite likely, at some point in this case, other states will file supporting briefs, just as they did in the 1837 Treaty hunting and fishing rights lawsuit. Interested organizations who support Mille Lacs County’s position in this case should be prepared to get involved too. Wouldn’t it be great if PERM would be joined by several area groups, with dozens of affidavits from area citizens, in filing legal briefs to help the County win this important decision?

PERM has had to turn down more than one request to file supporting legal arguments from parties to important cases across the country because of limited financial resources. In this instance we must get involved. There is too much at stake. We must do everything within our power to ensure Mille Lacs County prevails. A win for Mille Lacs County is a victory for all citizens.