From the Chairman

By Pat Doroff

IIt’s been a busy three months since I last reported to you from the chairman’s desk. We have had a hearing on a motion to dismiss by the Mille Lacs Band in the lawsuit over the reservation boundaries. A ruling could come at any time. If the Band is successful, Mille Lacs County will have to appeal the dismissal. If they are not, the case will proceed to trial. It becomes even more obvious how critically important this issue is, as we learn about tribal governments’ plan to strengthen and expand the scope of their powers through federal legislation. This legislation will overturn recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have narrowly defined the scope of tribal governments authority and tribal sovereignty. Please read the CERA/CERF letter and associated news articles on the so called “Hicks fix." The Mille Lacs Band says they have no plans to exert jurisdiction over non-members within their former reservation boundaries. Has anyone asked them if they support S.578, the new legislation in Congress that would give them these powers? Does anyone think that they would hesitate to use them if granted by Congress? All U.S. Citizens, especially citizens on or near Indian reservations, should be deeply concerned about this latest attempt by the tribal establishment to thwart the Constitution and exert control over the people and communities of our nation. I urge you to get involved! Learn what’s happening with regard to the tribes’ plan to “take it all back”.

On a more encouraging note, the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected a proposal by the tribes and their allies to greatly expand the powers of tribal courts. PERM was instrumental in halting this scheme. This proposal was as an attempt to change the status of tribal court rulings through the court rule-making process. It was moved along “under the radar” of public awareness, until it was exposed by PERM and a few other individuals. We were the only organization to stand in opposition to this process at the outset. We raised public awareness and stalled the process enough so that eventually, groups like the State Sheriff’s Association and Association of County Attorneys came out and opposed the effort as well. We can be proud that our work has protected thousands of Minnesota citizens who live or do business on Indian reservations from the threat of being subjected to the jurisdiction of illegitimate tribal courts.

Please take note of our latest proposal regarding the Mille Lacs fishery. While we have made great strides in the last year by working with the DNR to achieve a safe harvest level (SHL) that is more consistent with the historical average and biologically accurate according to current data, we believe there is more progress to be made. Let’s start talking seriously about a further relaxation of the regulations for non-tribal anglers at Mille Lacs. The current regs continue the path toward decimating fish in the harvest slot and continuing a build-up of fish in the protected slot. This type of skewed harvest will continue to cause biological problems with not only the walleye population, but the entire predator/prey balance of the fishery. Given the progress made so far with the SHL, we now have the flexibility to consider allowing some harvest of the larger fish that are above natural and historic levels. Not only will this help restore balance to the fishery, but under the existing management plan, anglers do not achieve full credit for underages in harvest levels. We are penalized for every pound we go over our allocation, but only receive credit for shortfalls to the extent they can be used to offset past overages. Its a use ‘em or lose ‘em type of situation that is unfair to sport fishermen. So if fishing is a little tough this spring, and anglers are falling short of expected harvest levels by mid-June, we think it would be reasonable to relax the regs at Mille Lacs this summer. Please help us continue our effort to restore common sense to the Mille Lacs fishery management plan. We need your help. Continue to educate yourselves about this issue. Let the DNR and your elected officials know what you think. Get involved with PERM.

We have a special opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the new administration. Our special guest speaker at the Annual Spring Pig Roast will be new DNR Commissioner Gene Merriam! I encourage as many of your as possible to attend this event in Wahkon, MN on April 27, 2003. For more details see the ad on page 8. Let’s give the Commissioner a warm welcome and encourage his continued support for Mille Lacs anglers, area residents and local businesses. I’ve pondered how state and tribal governments (with plenty of outside help) have sentenced Mille Lacs to ongoing controversy. I refer to the hassles, costs, and uncertainties over the playing out of “treaty fishing,” plus the tribal/federal effort to resurrect the old long-off-the-maps, three-township 1855 Mille Lacs Indian reservation.