In his January 25 Outdoor News column, Joe Fellegy reported on what appeared to be the end of an illegal gillnetting saga by Chippewa tribal band members.

recall that tribal members purposely violated state law in August of 2015 by setting a 200-foot gill net in Gull Lake. Their intent, based on their actions and statements by tribal attorneys was to “get charged, appeal, and ascend the court ladder – claiming off-reservation harvest rights and co-management authority.”

Three years later their case finally went to trial. The lone remaining defendant was found guilty and sentenced to stayed jail time plus nominal fines. Being misinformed about an appeal deadline, Fellegy column stated that, contrary to expectations, no appeal had been filed.

But then the Crow Wing court told Joe Fellegy that tribal attorneys indeed filed a notice of an appeal on Jan. 22. That came after Fellegy’s article was sent to Outdoor News. Fellegy has submitted a letter to Outdoor News, stating the gillnetting “treaty rights” case is still alive. The true appeal deadline was apparently 90 days after the District Court’s last activity, the sentencing on October 23rd.

Now begins more court action, ruling, this time to affirm harvest-right claims that never existed in the 1855 Treaty—even on a temporary basis. Tribal attorneys are gambling on winning off-reservation harvest rights “across the huge 1855 Treaty ceded territory, millions of acres and hundreds of lakes, from Mille Lacs to the Canadian border at one point.”

Also missing in the 1855 Treaty is any notion of “property rights,” which are being woven by tribal attorneys into any discussion of treaty harvest right claims. Such property rights were described by attorney Peter Erlinder as previously “undiscovered” and “undeveloped” treaty rights.

That makes this appeal and pursuit of “treaty rights” an even higher stakes gamble for all non-tribal Minnesotans living in the 1855 ceded territory.

Excerpted from Outdoor News, Vol. 52, No. 04, Page 11


How will new state leaders handle outdoor issues?

Rocking the Boat By Joe Fellegy

Minnesota’s Gov. Tim Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, and new DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen are settling into their leadership posts. Ditto for Attorney General Keith Ellison and other state officials variously connected to natural resources management.

Already we hear high praise and a few negative comments, especially about Strommen. In my view, these are premature judgments. Let’s wait and see.

Meanwhile, in news reports and interviews, the new leaders have stated general themes and vague outdoor-related goals. Recent headline stories have included “defending the public interest,” “success takes partnerships,” “robust public input,” “stakeholders talking to each other and to policymakers,” etc.

In Javier Serna’s Jan. 11 Outdoor News feature about Strommen’s appointment, Gov. Walz remarks that she “knows how to build consensus among citizens and stakeholders.”

OK. Such mushy generalities are good for now. But in coming months, how will the Walz-Flanagan-Strommen team promote and defend state and citizen interests regarding Minnesota’s natural resources? We’ll see.

A Jan. 10 Pioneer Press feature by Christopher Magan reported on Gov. Walz’s first official action, an executive order creating the One Minnesota Council on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity, thereby renewing Walz’s promise that “the state will strive to be more equitable and inclusive and for the first time making geography a focus of those efforts.”

What specifically does that mean regarding policymakers, power-players, dollar flows, and Minnesota geography? Impacts on natural resources, state agencies, and stakeholders?

In an extensive 16-minute audio with Outdoor News Managing Editor Rob Drieslein (, and in Rob’s Jan. 11 edited print version, Strommen discusses her management style, background, and vision for the next four years. She’s worked closely with the DNR’s Fish and Wildlife Division for the past four years on matters such as chronic wasting disease, the state’s deer plan, Lake Mille Lacs, and other issues. She sees an advantage in knowing “how the processes work” and being “familiar with the issues, because I’ve been working on them.”

Bottom-line questions: Given her experience, what positions and actions will her DNR take on such high-stakes matters? Will she boldly push for changing the processes that work against state and citizen interests – like the extremist and unethical state-tribal co-management of Mille Lacs?

In a Jan. 12 Forum News Service feature by Brad Dokken, Strommen said she spent most of her first two days calling stakeholders.

“I talked to tribal governments, local governments, conservation organizations, industry groups – a whole variety of folks – to let them know I look forward to working with them.” She referred to the “fantastic partners the DNR has in this work.”

Nice, friendly diplomacy. But which partners and positions will her DNR support and oppose on what issues?

1855 ceded territory

Anglers, hunters, conservation groups, and government folks discuss and debate the many aspects of “resource management.” Fine. But increasingly at issue across Minnesota is the very reach of state resource-management authority. Recall how in August 2015 Chippewa tribal enrollees from various bands, in league with tribal attorneys and tribal leaders, purposely violated state law north of Brainerd by ricing in Hole-In-The-Day Lake and by setting a 200-foot gill net in nearby Gull Lake.

Their intent: get charged, appeal, and ascend the court ladder – claiming off-reservation harvest rights and co-management authority across the huge 1855 Treaty ceded territory, millions of acres and hundreds of lakes, from Mille Lacs to the Canadian border at one point.

With that case’s early-January appeal deadline gone, are similar anti-Minnesota treaty rights claims in the works?

Before and after the November election, Walz- Flanagan websites reported their support for “tribal sovereignty” and “treaty rights.”

From the Arrowhead to Park Rapids to the Brainerd lakes and beyond, whose interests will they defend and promote? Do they support the 1855 treaty-rights quest? Minnesotans deserve answers.

Misplayed race card

A believer in the public’s right to know, Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, has worked diligently to obtain documents and info from the too-secret state-tribal Fisheries Technical Committee meetings, where Minnesota DNR personnel and members of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission review data and set fish-harvest quotas for Mille Lacs. They shape management policies for east-central Minnesota’s 12-county swath of the 1837 Treaty ceded territory.

During the last legislative session, Erickson chaired House Education Innovative Policy and Ethics committees. At a hearing last April, she questioned the flow of Minnesota tax dollars to sovereign tribal governments for tribal schools.

In response, Rep. Peggy Flanagan, DFL-St. Louis Park, now lieutenant governor, plus almost 40 DFL House members, including present House Speaker Melissa Hortman, signed a formal protest, accusing Erickson of anti-Indian bigotry, unconscionable language, and speaking in derogatory and disparaging tones. Flanagan and the other protesters wanted Erickson removed from education committee chairmanships, calling her biased toward American Indians.

Erickson is well-schooled in the humanities and is not anti-Indian! Flanagan and cohorts wrongly defamed her. Like or dislike a legislator’s positions on tribal-related issues, it’s not racist to weigh in, pro or con, on policy and funding matters.

Is there a principle in government, politics, or journalism that exempts today’s tribal governments from transparency, accountability, and relevant public discussion and debate?

The late Chippewa journalist Bill Lawrence emphasized that the modern “Indian industry” is a rich and powerful corporate-political-legal force. It impacts state and federal politics, citizen interests, and the public treasury. It isn’t anti-Indian to watch and critique what tribal governments do.

The Flanagan-Walz-Strommen team and other state officials must deal with tribal-related matters that affect Minnesota resource management and citizen- stakeholders. Hopefully they won’t misplay the race card to thwart the information flow, limit due discussion, or smear those raising legitimate issues.

How will Walz’s “One Minnesota” theme play out? From wild rice, pipelines, aquatic invasive species, and fish limits to deer, guns, water quality, and the state’s positions on big treaty-rights issues – and so much more! – Strommen has taken on a challenging job.

At this early stage, we can wish her well and hope Minnesotans are well-served.