Brief showing flimsy legal basis is a call for action

Friends, I do a lot of my thinking while I am out enjoying nature. While sitting in my deer stand in the far northern reaches of MN on Veterans Day, I reflected on the commitment my family, friends, and those Vets I have never met made in the name of freedom. A whole lot of gals and guys who signed on the dotted line for Uncle Sam to use as he sees fit. Many paid the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives or limbs. During my 4-year adventure I worked side by side with folks of every race, religion, and economic upbringing. At no time did we feel that at some point there would be special rights based on ethnic background. “Whenever special rights are given to someone, rights are taken from others.” Deer sign? More Wolf, Bobcat, and Bear sign!

Can you imagine waking up one morning and finding out you now live in a land where you have no say in some laws that regulate you? Thousands of residents on the South side of Mille Lacs Lake just did that when Eighth Circuit Judge Susan Nelson ruled that the long disestablished Mille Lacs Chippewa Reservation Boundary still exists.

PERM along with Mille Lacs Equal Rights Foundation has jointly filed an Amicus Brief in support of Mille Lacs County’s appeal of this ruling based on “Equal Rights for All.” The ruling changes the boundary of approximately 3,500 acres to 61,000 acres. The smaller sized area has been recognized by Federal, State, and Local governments for over 160 years! Our brief is based on PERM’s belief that Equal Rights are being violated on the basis of different laws for different people. If these boundaries remain a large portion of Mille Lacs Lake could be turned into an exclusive tribal use zone. In a conversation with a Wahkon resident, he pointed out that nowhere on his property abstract does it show any tribal ownership. Your support as in the past is appreciated as we anticipate incurring additional legal fees when court hearings begin this spring.

One of our main arguments in our brief is Congress under its exclusive authority under the Territory Clause, Art.IV, Sec Cl. 2, on December 19, 1854 passed “An Act to provide for the extinguishment of the title of the Chippewa Indians to the Lands owned and claimed by them in the Territory of Minnesota, and State of Wisconsin, and for their Domestication and Civilization.” 10 Stat. 598. The Fourth Section of this Act specifically states that with the cession of lands as was executed in the Treaty of 1855, all of the Chippewa Lands will cease to be “Indian Country” and will be subject to the laws of Minnesota and the United States. This Act has never been repealed by Congress. Download/Read the complete brief HERE.

In a 1989 speech Mille Lacs Band Chief Art Gahbow declared, “As of right now we are on the offensive. We are on the attack. To state it simply we will take back…the original Mille Lacs, Sandy Lake, and Rice Lake reservations.” The old Sandy Lake reservation encompasses all of Big Sandy Lake! However, as history shows the Mille Lacs Band were not the first occupiers of the area, actually the Dakota Sioux inhabited this area from pre-historic times until 1740-60 when through vicious battles they were driven from their homeland to the South and Western territories by the invading Chippewa. The lands were never stolen from the Chippewa by the Federal Government, the land was purchased from the tribal leaders through treaties and acts of congress. The acts of congress made tribal members full citizens of the USA to assure them that they were in fact citizens not to be discriminated against.

We have seen that co-management of Mille Lacs Lake doesn’t work, 20 plus years of co-management is a complete failure! Maybe in 5 years the anglers of Mille Lacs Lake may be able to keep a second walleye? We the tax payers of Minnesota pay the MNDNR to manage all natural resources for all citizens, they are in fact the agency ultimately responsible for maintaining “Equal Hunting and Fishing Rights For All” under direction of the Governor and Legislature. They Have All Failed!

Since all land west of Plymouth Rock at one time was considered “Indian Country” we must remember that as the New World became colonized and spread westward, pioneers harvested wild game in the same methods as American Indians. It was for survival! Many of those harvest practices, by today’s standards are considered unethical. As agriculture progressed the dependance on wild game became less critical and game laws swept the nation to conserve a balance of nature.

Throughout Minnesota many large tracks of land are being given to American Indian Tribes in the name of cultural/historical value. What area of Minnesota is the next to come under tribal jurisdiction? All it takes is for an Indian Tribe to convince a Federal Judge that a particular area has some cultural/historical value and poof it’s gone. Non-tribal citizens of Minnesota also have cultural historical connections as well.

If you are a member of a sportsman’s group or veteran organization, please share this letter with the membership. Please consider a donation to PERM Legal Fund to protect “Equal Hunting and Fishing Rights for All.” Thank You!!

Douglas Meyenburg, 
President, PERM