1855 Ceded Territory potential lawsuit UPDATE

By Tim Spielman Outdoor News, November 8, 2018
[Reprinted from Outdoor News]

It’s been just over three years since four people were cited for testing the bounds of Indian treaty rights in Minnesota–in this case the illegal setting of gill nets in Gull Lake near Brainerd in August 2015. On Oct. 23, a judge sentenced defendant James Warren Northrup on four counts. The 50-year-old was found guilty in September.

Fines for Northrup total $235, according to Doug Meyenburg, president of Proper Economic Resource Management, a watch group whose particular interest tends to be tribal in the realm of hunting and fishing rights.

As most tribal protest cases go, this one, too, holds much intrigue.

Northrup was one of four original defendants in the demonstration on Gull–a gathering that was promoted by attorneys and covered by media both during and after. The cases against three of the defendants were tossed out.

Also, according to Meyenburg, three judges recused themselves before the current judge, Jana Austad, of the 9th Judicial District, agree to hear the case.

Interestingly, Northrup’s fines on the four counts for which he was found guilty total $235. He has, however, nearly two years – until Oct. 12, 2020–to pay the fine.

“I don’t understand that,” Meyenburg said.

Me, neither. But, it probably doesn’t matter much in the greater scheme of things. Northrup had jail time stayed (as long as he remains law-abiding), had some fish-netting charges dropped, was fined $50 for not having boat registration, was fined $50 for not having a personal flotation device, and a couple of surcharges totaling $85.

I’m sure if Northrup endures any financial hardship, there are plenty of folks, including possibly his attorneys, who happily take up a collection. After all, legal folks for the Indian bands in the 1855 Treaty territory have much greater aspirations. Unlike other treaty areas in Minnesota, the language in the 1855 Treaty didn’t offer explicit hunting/fishing/ricing rights. But that’s not to say they weren’t implicit, tribal lawyers have said. In fact, there already exists case language that’s drawn parallels between the 1837 Treaty (known by most for its leading to Lake Mille Lacs “co-management”).

Regarding an appeal in the Northrup case, Meyenburg said, “I haven’t seen anything, but usually..when it’s a tribal (matter) and they’re out to make a point..they want to get it up into the appeals court.”

Three years after the original protest/net-setting in Crow Wing County’s popular Gull, we still very well may be in the early stages of another tribal rights saga regarding the state’s natural resources, this time across a massive swath of northern Minnesota.