Joe Fellegy, Mille Lacs Messenger,Jul 2, 2022

Bud Grant, longtime Vikings football coach and a famed outdoorsman, is very familiar to most Minnesotans. Vince Hill (1938-2008) was a grandson of Tom Hill, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe’s first chief executive after the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) became law.

Both Bud Grant and Vince Hill were featured speakers at a Proper Economic Resource Management (PERM) fundraiser at Lakeland Hall in Brainerd on June 28, 1997. Their speeches and informal chats are still relevant for Mille Lacs-connected folks today.

Tony Sailer, Outdoors Editor of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch, reported on that 1997 PERM event. His July 6 feature included a large headline: “Bud Grant: Treaty rights opposition doesn’t make someone a racist.”

Too often, back in 1997 and through the years, including now, the “race card” has been misplayed. Even those with great Indian-friendly histories are wrongly called anti-Indian if they question tribal-related government policies, including the extremist “treaty rights” state-tribal co-management quota system which rules Mille Lacs.

As Bud Grant emphasized 25 years ago, opposition to what some rightly call non-science-based political walleye regulations on Mille Lacs is not racist. As Tony Sailer reported, Grant spoke of his Wisconsin background. “I’ve been called a lot of things, among them racist. I was born in Superior, Wis. and had Indian friends for years. My father spoke fluent Chippewa.”

Bud Grant, who was obviously Indian-friendly, joined PERM when it was founded in 1993. He agreed with PERM’s questioning of separate and unequal race-based policies. He agreed with PERM’s call for protests to be non-violent, and with the organization’s non-racist policies.

The June 30, 1997 Brainerd newspaper featured a Tony Sailer headline story, “The tribe draws criticism from one of its own,” referring to Vincent Hill’s speech at the Jun 28 PERM event. While Vince never got to know the Tom Hills, his grandparents who were killed with a son in a 1939 car-train crash near Hinckley, he was happy to learn about how early Mille Lacs resorters spoke glowingly about Tom Hill’s social skills, friendships with non-Indians, and his work ethic.

Vince Hill was a rare full-blooded Ojibwe who could speak the language. He grew up at Mille Lacs, attended Onamia schools, and graduated with distinction at the University of Minnesota. He was employed by Hennepin County as a social worker for 20 years.

A founder of the Mille Lacs Anishinaabe People’s Party (MAPP), Vince called modern tribal governments, including the Mille Lacs Band’s government, dictatorships. He rightly touted issues of accountability, transparency, and tribal government control without Indian freedom to discuss, debate, and question government policies. He agreed with Chippewa journalist Bill Lawrence who had many negative takes on modern tribal governments.

The Brainerd paper reported how Vince Hill emphasized that MAPP was not allowed to meet in tribal facilities at Mille Lacs. “We have to meet in Garrison or Milaca,” he stated. He added that MAPP members were driven off the reservation, and that the tribal government denied Band members of many rights.

According to Tony Sailer’s June 30 piece on the PERM event, Vince Hill concluded by saying, “We want tribal members to get their rights back (from tribal governments) and become full-fledged citizens of the United States.”

If they were as politically lively today as they were 25 years ago, where and how would Bud Grant and Vince Hill come down on today’s tribal-related issues? The dollar flow via casinos, other tribal enterprises, federal and state funding, campaign contributions, and more, has grown big-time. Yep — “money talks!”

Both Bud Grant and Vince Hill were well-known for supporting equal rights. They opposed unequalfishing rights on Mille Lacs and on other lakes in the 12-county Minnesota portion of the 1837 Treaty ceded territory, and beyond.

Guest columnist Joe Fellegy studies history of the Mille Lacs Lake area.