Response to ‘Co-management for peace and friendship’

Mille Lacs Messenger Mailbag
Letter of the Week August 1, 2018

Messenger Editor Vivian LaMoore’s long July 25 editorial — “Co-management for peace and friendship” — is misleading and dodges historical facts. Her summary of nine years of legal happenings after Mille Lacs Band government sued Minnesota in 1990 blasts Bud Grant, Howard Hanson (who recently passed away) and PERM for helping defeat a 1993 out-of-court settlement effort.

That secretly-negotiated settlement was a deal struck by DNR Commissioner Rod Sando and Mille Lacs Band government. It had to be approved by the Minnesota Legislature, signed by the governor and later approved by a federal court. Editor LaMoore failed to list the many DFL and Republican legislators who wisely defeated that 49-page settlement bill. She never mentioned the many conservation groups and prominent Minnesotans who rightfully opposed it.

Know that seven other Chippewa bands were signers of the 1837 Treaty, and they threatened to seek similar settlements. So multiply the terms of that proposed agreement by eight! In the waning hours of the hearings, when it became obvious it would fail, many counter-proposals floated around.

That failed settlement included many costly provisions, like recognition of a long-disestablished 61,000-acre Mille Lacs Indian reservation, whose boundaries would include Isle, Wahkon, most of Onamia and a big portion of Mille Lacs County and the big lake. If passed, the settlement bill’s impacts on state and local governments, businesses, landowners and citizens would have been huge. The settlement bill included a $10 million payment to Mille Lacs Band government; a 6,000-acre tribal exclusive zone on Mille Lacs, 7,500 or more acres of state land to Mille Lacs tribal government; and many legal components that could have harmed state interests down the road.

PERM (Proper Economic Resource Management) was formed by hundreds of like-minded sportsmen and sportswomen after the landowners became official parties to the case. Our purpose was to finance landowners legal fees and to educate the general public. We succeeded in eliminating tribal-harvest trespassing on private property.

While the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that tribal harvest rights exist, they did not dictate the spawning-time gillnetting or the co-management mess — only that state officials and tribes must come to an agreement. And never forget that the Supreme Court’s majority opinion stated, “We do not mean to suggest that a President, now or in the future, cannot revoke Chippewa usufructuary rights in accordance with the terms of the 1837 Treaty.” In other words, they were meant to be temporary.

Years to remember: In 1850, President Zachary Taylor revoked those temporary privileges; 1924, American Indians became U.S. Citizens; 1946 Congress created the Indian Claims Commission (ICC) to resolve all Indian Claims; 1965 and 1973, Minnesota Chippewa, including Mille Lacs, accepted millions to settle claims. Weren’t off-reservation treaty harvest claims included?

PERM has, does, and will honor Indian treaties as written — their plain meaning and clear intent, not off-base interpretations that harm state and citizen interests, as at Mille Lacs. We believe all citizens, tribal and non-Indian, should fish, hunt, and gather under one set of laws. That’s equal rights.

Douglas J. Meyenburg, PERM President