Proper Economic Resource Management NEWSLETTER
Vol. 3, No. 2 JUL/AUG 08

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‘Co-management’ challenges conservation, equal rights
Mille Lacs spawning walleye hit by gillnetters and lost nets

  Netters ignored risky conditions in the rush to net spawning Walleye. They put conservation in the back seat. Some of the 170 to 180 gillnets they used went missing. These 100-foot long “ghost nets” keep catching and killing fish until they are found. Two are still lost.

Ghost nets keep catching and killing fish until they are found and retrieved
Photos: Dave Quast

Looking at the bigger picture, the Mille Lacs fishing resort industry, a major sport fishing and tourism asset, has been devastated in recent years. This is due in part to the volatile “co-management” of the lake’s resources, which evolved from a Supreme Court decision preserving tribal harvest privileges.

This means a complex arrangement with a federally funded special interest group, the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission defines the harvest privilege. Millions of taxpayer dollars fund this bureaucracy.

Decisions under this unwieldy arrangement are laden with politics. For example, it produces arbitrary quotas and practices alien to conservation, such as gillnetting spawning walleye—something allowed nowhere else in the country. This year “co-management” lowered total allowable harvest of walleye on Mille Lacs. First, the tribal quota was raised from 100,000 to 122,500 pounds; then the angler quota lowered 449,000 to 307,500 pounds.

The harvest privilege is about more than subsistence, cultural identity, race relations, or even reparations. While there is plenty for tribes to be aggrieved about, numerous efforts at reconciliation, the Indian Claims Commission in particular, all seemed to have turned into fodder for the concept of “tribal sovereignty.”

It is more about reinforcing, and then leveraging, the concept of “sovereignty.” Far beyond the original “political self-determination,” the sovereignty concept provides opportunities for negotiating potential “settlements,” expanding gambling monopolies, and tax exclusions. That’s much bigger than 100,000 pounds of fish.

A solution to the discord from separate and unequal rules under tribal harvest privileges was built into the 1837 Treaty. The harvest clause was never considered perpetual, stating as it did, that the privileges would continue “during the pleasure of the president.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling in the matter dealt with an improperly structured Presidential Order. The Court ruled that the termination-of-harvest-privileges component could not be considered separately from a problematic component of the 1850 Presidential Order. The Supreme Court’s decision did “not mean to suggest that a President, now or in the future, cannot revoke the Chippewa usufructuary rights in accordance with the terms of the 1837 Treaty,” only that the 1850 Order, “was insufficient to accomplish this revocation.”

Even beyond ending discord, the foundational principle of “equality before the law” should compel Minnesota leadership and Congressional delegation to seek a properly executed Presidential Order ending the harvest privilege.

That may not be such a stretch, as it often appears that rank and file tribal members have the same view as ordinary Minnesotans. Both groups recognize we are all created equal and deserve equal protection under the law. They believe it is entirely possible to maintain sustainable relationships with our neighbors.

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Rice Area Sportsmen event draws a full house

  The annual Sportsmen to Save Minnesota Fundraiser and Banquet has again drawn a full house. Tickets were sold out well before the event.

Attendees enjoyed dinner, auctions, raffles, friends, and commentary. They come every year to defend the property and civil rights that ensure the hunting and angling heritage of all Minnesotans.

A featured auction item is the PERM Commemorative Rifle. Its engraving, medallion, and autographs make it a collector’s item. This year Lance Enneking came up with the winning bid for the Marlin 30-30.

Rice Area Sportsmen, who have sponsored this event since 1996, raised $15,000 for PERM. Many thanks for their hard work and generous support!

Friends of PERM, from left, Mitch Fiedler, Jeff Popp, and Steve Scapanski
Joe Karpen shows Commemorative rifle

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‘Native Peoples Deserve More Thans an Apology’
Activist’s challenge highlights injustice to Indians

  A Canadian government apology to aboriginal Indians has prompted a similar request from the American Indian Movement. Now Howard Hanson, local activist and publisher of the Resource Sentinel, is challenging AIM’s call for a similar apology in the U.S. Hanson says AIM is missing the real and continued injustices faced by Indian people in America.

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently expressed regret to the Assembly of First Nations for the forced placement of aboriginal children into residential church schools from the 1870’s to the 1970’s. AIM’s Clyde Bellecourt called the next day for a similar apology from Governor Pawlenty and other elected officials. Bellecourt referenced stealing of land, violating treaties, as well as sending children to boarding schools.

Separate and unequal

Hanson recognized the numerous and great injustices to the Indian people by the Federal government. But Bellecourt’s call for an apology “perpetuates a backward-looking mentality which ignores the real and continued injustices faced by Indian people,” according to Hanson. “The Indian people deserve more than an apology. They deserve their constitutional rights.”

Hanson notes that Americans would be shocked if they knew that Indian people living on reservations are not protected by the Constitution and its Bill of Rights. That’s because tribal governments are based on constitutions coming out of the Department of the Interior in the 1930s. There were no provisions for separation of powers or access to U.S. courts. The Indian Civil Rights Act, which formally extended the Bill of Rights to Indian people, “can only be enforced in the same tribal courts that lack the independence necessary to assure that they are not beholden to the tribal governments that create them,” according to Hanson.

Hanson reinforced William Lawrence’s recent call for an end to the “Noble Savage Mentality.” That view puts tribes in a position of being wards of the federal government, while supposedly being considered sovereign nations. Lawrence, a member of the Red Lake Band and the publisher of the Ojibwe News, said that Indian people, whether tribal members or not, should be recognized as full U.S. citizens. This includes “all the rights, responsibilities and protections” that goes with being a U.S. citizen.


Hanson also pointed out that the United States acknowledged its responsibility to the Indian people under the Indian Claims Commission Act. Wrongs and injustices done to Indian people were recognized under a Claims Commission tribunal in the early 1950s. Legal, equitable, and moral claims were compensated.

The most pressing issue today for Indian people living on reservations, according to Hanson, “is the ongoing need to grant full constitutional rights, and access to the Federal Courts to vindicate those rights.”

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Sportsmen to Save Minnesota – Sold Out

Rice Area Sportsmen’s Club
Friday, April 25
Henry’s Banquet Center, Foley

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Title 5
Joint Fundraiser and Informational Meeting
Sunday, April 27th
Noon at Wahkon Inn

Live Auction Raffles Silent Auctions Live Music — Edgar Lee and Friends
Chicken and Rib Dinner — $12 (Includes Dessert) — Starts at 12 noon

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Mille Lacs: Don’t blame high court or ‘the Indians’

By Joe Fellegy (First published in Outdoor News, February 9, 2008. © Outdoor News, Reprinted with permission.)

  Recent news about the Mille Lacs walleye population and the annual state-tribal agreement on a “safe allowable” walleye harvest have prompted interest and chatter about the workings of treaty fisheries management. Expect more media commentary, too, especially since Dennis Anderson’s breakthrough column in last Friday’s Star Tribune.

  Breakthrough? Yes. While Outdoor News readers get news and opinion about treaty management at Mille Lacs, the broader media have offered little commentary questioning the beast. Anderson’s column may help legitimize long-overdue scrutiny of the whole works and its costs. He admirably pointed to the double standards involved. For example, while everything else is down (walleye population down, overall allowable walleye harvest for ’08 down, sport fishing allocation down), the tribal walleye declaration goes up. He also cited the tribal spawning-time gillnetting, economic impacts, and how the release of tons of walleyes forced by treaty management may be counterproductive. He properly called the whole kaboodle a “mess.”

  Anyway, with a 2008 Mille Lacs safe allowable angling harvest lower than in ’07, and with last season’s dramatic July 9 emergency slot-tightening still in mind, there’s plenty of curiosity and speculation about the approach DNR managers will take in setting the coming season’s walleye rules. How restrictive will they be? We’ll know soon.

  Meanwhile, if you’re into a new game of post-Super Bowl Mille Lacs Watch, consider a few notes to guide you through various facts and fictions.

  • A NO-WIN DEAL Perhaps the biggest negative of the treaty fisheries management system is that it places Mille Lacs in a perpetual no-win hot seat. If there’s a fast bite, the fishing is “too good” (DNR’s spin last July), anglers might “exceed” something, and there’s a crisis. (Where else is good fishing a crisis?) Every wiggle of the statistical needle is forced into the management mix, and into the public relations arena as well. Mille Lacs news lurches from safe harvest levels to reg changes; from tribal harvest declarations to “dead fish” from regulation-forced angler release; from how close the Indian bands and sport anglers are towards their respective fish allocations to the latest Mille Lacs “study.” It never ends.

  • NO 50-50 COURT RULING Watch out for misstatements about what federal courts ordered and didn’t order. Contrary to Anderson’s assertion, neither the Supreme Court (1999)—nor other courts—ever ruled that “eight Chippewa (Ojibwe) bands reserved the right to half the game and fish over a wide swath of east central Minnesota in an 1837 treaty they signed with the federal government.” That’s not in the treaty. Also, Phase I of the Mille Lacs lawsuit, the case that rose through the courts, dealt with “rights”—whether or not the Chippewa retained an 1837 treaty fishing, hunting, and gathering privilege—not with dividing fish and game. Phase II of the case, sometimes called the allocation phase, dealt with resource management, harvests, how state and tribal sides must collaborate, etc. Even there, in Judge Michael Davis’s Phase II opinion, there was no final resource allocation, let alone a 50-50 split. Judge Davis (1997, p. 72): “The court will not make any allocation determination of resources at this time because there has been no showing of a need for allocation.” Rather, the state and bands were to reach “consensus” on annual harvestable surplus determinations, according to various protocols “stipulated” (agreed to) by the parties.

  • DNR’S ROLE In the mid-1990s, DNR and Attorney General’s Office personnel agreed to protocols governing treaty management. These folks, not the Supreme Court or other courts, caved in on 50-50 splits of Mille Lacs pike, perch, tullibee, and maybe other species—ill-advised precedent perhaps—but not on walleyes. Nevertheless, beware. DNR Fisheries personnel too often run cover for the Chippewa walleye declarations (like 122,000 pounds, or 61 tons, this year), by suggesting things like, “You know, they could declare up to 50 percent!” Really? Says whom?


No court ordered a single spawning-time gill net in Mille Lacs. While the eight 1837 treaty Chippewa bands retain a privilege to run a fishery apart from the state’s, it is tribal politicos who determined harvest methods. It was tribal and state bureaucrats and lawyers who stipulated to the madness. You see, Minnesota could authorize citizen walleye harvests by gill net, dynamite, 100 tip-ups, or 500 hooks, with bag limits of 25 or 50 walleyes per fisherman. But our cultural norms and conservation values preclude such extremism. Well-funded tribal DNRs and the political Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), cogs in the broader Indian Industry, make the “tribal” decisions and do much of the so-called tribal fishing. “The Indians,” the rank and file, had no say in launching the original lawsuit and never pushed for it. Participation in the political subsistence net fishery by tribal enrollees is proportionately low.


For now, I’d dismiss Dennis Anderson’s suggestion that the state consider some Leech Lake-style agreement (ransom payments) to end the Mille Lacs mess. More on why that’s a bad idea later...

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PERM 2008 Legal Fund Gun Raffle
Winners’ Drawing September 8, 2008

ENTER TO WIN! And support PERM’s Legal Defense Fund to
ensure equal protection of the law regarding land and managing natural resources for the benefit of all citizens.

Browning       Tikka       Mossberg       Winchester       Remington

$5      PERM LEGAL FUND RAFFLE      $5

2.    TIKKA T-3 WALNUT 30-06
3.    MOSSBERG MDL 702 22 CAL
6.    REMINGTOM MDL 597 22 CAL
8.    MOSSBERG MDL 702 22 CAL
9.    1 SET OF PERM PRINTS (unframed)

Drawing will be held on September 8, 2008
8:30 pm at the Cinema Professional Building, 657 Main St., Elk River
Need not be present to win.

Call for Tickets! 763-360-3777

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