From the Chairman

by Pat Doroff

At our annual meeting on March 23, 2004, PERM members elected the new Board of Directors for the coming year. The Board then elected officers at their next meeting on March 30, 2004 (See sidebar). I had decided not to seek another term as chairman. I thought it was time for fresh ideas and new leadership for PERM. After three years as chairman, I felt I needed to move on to other things in my life also. Unfortunately, the Board of Directors and I were unable to recruit someone to take over the position. As a result, at the March board meeting, I agreed to stay on temporarily. The Board decided that if we could not find someone to take over as chairman, that we would have to consider dissolving the organization at the next meeting in June, 2004.

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PERM has evolved into an important and well-respected conservation and natural resource management organization over the years. One of the areas of most notable progress has been the change in the way we are regarded among political leaders in Washington D.C. and St. Paul. Another is our improved relationship with the leadership at the Department of Natural Resources. Much of this hard-earned respect has come about as a result of our persistent and professional work to change treaty fisheries management at Mille Lacs Lake. Former DNR biologist Dick Sternberg, released the findings from his initial study of DNR data and management practices at Mille Lacs in the spring of 2002. In his report; The Mille Lacs Fish Management Plan: Threat to Minnesota’s Premier Walleye Fishery, Sternberg made the following observations and recommendations advocating for a “common-sense approach” to managing the lake. “Not only has treaty management created the problems now facing Mille Lacs, the problems are self-perpetuating and could become worse…. With so much riding on their management decisions, the DNR should not have to rely on unproven computer models but rather should be permitted to use traditional management tools that have worked well in the past.” He also recommended that the DNR explain to the court that the current management plan does not work, and that it seek approval of a new plan based on a more traditional approach. The funding for Dick Sternberg’s work on fisheries management at Mille Lacs has not only lead to real and positive change in the way the DNR is handling things, it has had the added
effect of providing our organization with a degree of credibility and respect that we would not have otherwise been afforded. I am proud of our work in this area over the past few years. Please read the lead article of this issue for a complete overview of what we have accomplished.

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Of course other issues rage on, both here in Minnesota and across the Country. We have a very interesting commentary that appeared last October in the Detroit News about an ongoing problem in Michigan over Native American hunting and fishing rights. We were first made aware of this issue by a piece in the February – April edition of Joe Fellegy’s Mille Lacs Fishing Digest. These types of issues are gaining national attention, and the Michigan case has since appeared in the April issue of Petersen’s Hunting Magazine. The question at heart of the case is much the same as what we faced here in Minnesota. Do temporary rights or privileges granted in centuries old treaties still exist today? In the case of Michigan, an 1836 treaty granted several Native American bands the right to hunt and fish in the area they were selling to the United States until the land was “…required for settlement.” Here in Minnesota, the intent was the same, but the language used in the 1837 Treaty was “…during the pleasure of the President.” Please see the editorial by the Detroit News for more details about the case in Michigan. It seems to me there are a couple of interesting but positive contrasts to the way the situation in Michigan is playing out as compared to how things were handled here.

1. The State of Michigan is taking a proactive and positive step to ensure
equal hunting and fishing laws for all citizens. They are putting the Native American special interests on notice that the State of Michigan will fight to protect its Constitutional charge to manage the State’s natural resources in a way the protects them and benefits all citizens equally.

2. If the editorial position taken by the Detroit News is any indication, there is a remarkable difference in the way the “press” thinks these issues should be handled. Here in Minnesota, those of us who wanted the State to aggressively defend its responsibility to manage our State’s natural resources were shut out from the opportunity to express our views. We were marginalized and even labeled racist by the media. There was almost unanimous opposition to fighting the case in court among media elite. In Michigan, we have a newspaper praising the State for filing a lawsuit in order to resolve the issue.

Both these differences point to what many people across the country dealing with the problems of Federal Indian Policy see as a growing awareness among the broader public, news media and elected officials that a real and growing problem exists with the way we treat Native Americans and tribal governments in this Country.

PERM has sent a letter to the Michigan Attorney General asking for more information about the facts surrounding their lawsuit, and whether or not they intend to raise the Indian Claims Commission Act as a part of the case. Our hope is that they plan to use the ICCA as one of the arguments. As we have said in the past, a favorable ruling which was based in part on the ICCA could lead to a reversal of the 1837 Treaty ruling here in Minnesota.

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It was disappointing to learn the 8th Circuit decided to uphold the lower court’s decision to dismiss Mille Lacs County’s lawsuit to determine if the old 1855 Mille Lacs Reservation still exists. I understand the court system’s rules only allow them to decide disputes where an actual act, or crime has been committed. After all, they would be endlessly bogged down with hypothetical situations and possibilities which may never happen. But it is hard to believe, given all the statements and actions by the Mille Lacs Band and the federal government, that their intention to reconstitute the old reservation is not a real problem. Although I believe real and measurable harm has been demonstrated already, why must the court system subject area citizens to continued uncertainties and strife, until things are so bad that some judge, who has probably never been to the area, can see that there has been measurable harm? The court should have decided the case on the merits.

However, if one looks at the cup half full, rather than half empty, it must be understood that this court ruling dismissed the case on a technicality. It did not in any way, shape or form uphold the Mille Lacs Band’s position that their old 61,000 acre reservation continues to exist! It does mean that those of us who are onto their scheme to “take it all back” must continue to be vigilant and keep up the good fight.

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Again, I would like to thank you all for your support over the past few years. I look forward to working with our new Chairman and helping our organization move forward into the future.

God Bless you all.

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At the Proper Economic Resource Management 2004 Annual Meeting on March 23, 2004, Mark Rotz, Stan Visser, and Pat Doroff were each elected to another 3-year term on the PERM Board of Directors. The complete list of board members is as follows:

Douglas Kolodzienski
East Bethel, MN 463-434-6008

Stanley Visser
Ogilvie, MN 320-272-4702

Jim Wille
Blaine, MN 763-757-6996

Lisa Mueller
Albertville, MN 763-497-4682

Douglas Meyenburg Jr.
East Bethel, MN 763-434-3973

Pat Doroff
Anoka, MN 763-427-5694

Scott Ebner
Zimmerman, MN 763-856-4223

Henry Dombovy
Pierz, MN 320-277-3539

Mark Rotz
Elk River, MN 763-441-2529

At the March, 2004 PERM Board of Directors’ Meeting, the following officers were elected for this year:

Chairman – Pat Doroff
Vice-chair – Jim Wille
Secretary – Doug Meyenburg, Jr.
Treasurer – Scott Ebner