Before getting caught up in tribal activists’ demand for fabricating new 1855 Treaty rights, Minnesotans should consider the plain language of the 1855 Treaty. The treaty states that the Indians “do further fully and entirely relinquish and convey to the United States, any and all right, title, and interest, of whatsoever nature the same may be, which they may now have in, and to any other lands in the Territory of Minnesota or elsewhere.”

Timeline Making the Case for NOT FABRICATING New 1855 Treaty Rights

1855 – Several Chippewa Bands including the Mille Lacs Band negotiate the treaty of 1855. In this treaty the Chippewa agree to relinquish “all right, title and interest in and to” all lands outside their reservations. This language included any special hunting and fishing privileges.

1858 – Minnesota enters the Union. The State begins to enact laws including fish and game regulations.

1896 – U.S Supreme Court rules in Ward v. Racehorse that when a State enters the Union, preexisting treaty rights are subject to state law.

1924 – All American Indians granted citizenship.

1838 – President Franklin Roosevelt affirms Taylor’s 1850 Presidential Order in a letter to the Chippewa.

1946 – Congress creates a tribunal, the Indian Claims Commission (ICC), to hear and resolve all types of Indian claims, including treaty rights claims by Indians against the United States. The Indian Claims Commission Act (ICCA) was designed to correct any mistakes made by the U.S. in any treaties and agreements with the tribes. The ICCA is unusual in that Congress gave the Commission authority to also hear claims that were moral in nature. Therefore, tribes could bring cases claiming that the federal government had coerced them into signing treaties, or misrepresented agreements, or acted in other ways that could be seen as violating fair and honorable dealings that were not recognized by any existing laws. 50 years past the deadline: Why are Indian tribes still suing over ancient treaties?

Also important was Congress’ understanding that no one should be allowed to litigate a claim forever. In return for the elimination of any statute of limitations on claims filed under the Act, tribes understood that the ICCA would provide complete, final closure to their complaints.

1965 – ICC awards the Chippewa, including the Mille Lacs Band, $3.93 million for insufficient payment under the 1855 Treaty. As with all ICC cases, the Chippewa, by accepting payment, were forever barred from future claims under the 1855 Treaty.

1973 – ICC awards the Chippewa, Including the Mille Lacs Band, $9.02 million for claims under the 1837 treaty, including claims for lost hunting and fishing rights. The ICC payments were based on the maximum value of the land, which was the timber, and acquired “recognized title,” the most complete form of ownership.

1980 – U.S. District Court rules in a Red Lake case that clear language like that in the 1855 Treaty extinguishes all off reservation hunting and fishing claims. This ruling is later upheld by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

1985 – U.S. Supreme Court rules in a Klamath Indian case in Oregon, that similar language to that in the 1855 Treaty as well as ICC payments, extinguish any hunting and fishing rights.

1999 – The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Mille Lacs1837 Treaty case concluded the Chippewa did not give up their 1837 rights under the 1855 treaty. But the 1855 treaty doesn’t specifically mention hunting, fishing and gathering as retained rights.

Time to Act

Minnesotans have the opportunity to become informed at the beginning of this unwarranted attempt to expand treaty rights–and especially the creation of “tribal property rights” never imagined, mentioned, and far beyond anything authorized by treaties!

If ignored, expanded treaty rights would open the Brainerd lakes and Gull Lake area, and most of northern Minnesota, to hunting and gathering outside state law. That would just be in addition to asserting management or regulatory rights “related” to environmental issues over the entire 1855 Treat area.

Stay involved. Monitor the process. Let your legislators know you want them involved and showing leadership in ensuring equal protection of the law for all Minnesotans.

CONTACT: Douglas Meyenburg 763-843-1039
President, Proper Economic Resource Management (PERM)