The most asked questions I get about PERM are: With no major case in court why is PERM still operating? And, what is done with funds raised?
Every chance to speak up, challenge, inform, organize citizen response, initiate or sign on to a lawsuit all vary in timing and scope. (And depend on resources available.) Ebb or flow, PERM has to maintain a continuous presence. Returning after mothballing or shutting down until a big headliner issue comes up could take months, even years. That would certainly cancel any chance for an effective response.
So, we stay nimble. We maintain a much-downsized office, monitor the issues, and respond as we can. Help PERM keep the goal of “Equal Hunting and Fishing Rights for All” moving forward. If everybody pitches in, we can do this.
Honoring Treaties as Written
Restoring equal hunting and fishing rights for all starts with honoring all treaties as written. We’re in good company. In 1946 President Truman signed the Indian Claims Commission Act. It recognized that there were legitimate claims against the Federal Government by Indian tribes or members. In its 32-year life span the commission paid out $1.3 billion. (All payments were in addition to treaty payments. Claimants accepted all payments as final.)
Back in the day harvest practices by Indians and pioneers alike were based on the need for survival. Treaty harvest rights recognized this need when they were written. As populations grew, resource management became a necessity. Until recently, treaty harvest rights did not conflict with conservation. Treaties were written on the basis of all parties being equal.
Remember, treaties with Indian tribes were written in plain language of the time. Now, lawyers are dissecting these treaties to determine what the “intent” of the treaties were. Treaty harvest rights can then be redefined. And that’s what drives exploitation of these rights. The end result is inequality and outright discrimination. Whenever someone is given special rights, then others are giving up some of their rights! Help PERM end this discrimination!
Conservation and Mille Lacs Walleye
The original issue for PERM is still in play. How can Mille Lacs walleye populations be managed under overlapping claims of entitlement? The Supreme Court did not address this when they ruled on the 1837 Treaty Harvest case. The Court affirmed the existence of harvest rights. But only on the basis of meeting cultural needs—not subsistence, or survival. Meeting cultural needs would have had only a tiny impact on Mille Lacs walleye population.
The Court then offered a follow-up hearing on an allocation of harvest. Both parties rejected it. The Court then agreed to negotiations under a “co-management” arrangement. The Court did not order any specifics such as the use of gillnets or a 50/50 split of harvest.
Since then, state-tribal co-management agreements have allowed gillnetting spawning walleye. Chippewa tribes can gillnet in 137 lakes in the 1837 Treaty Area including Mille Lacs Lake—a practice banned everywhere else in the country. Mille Lacs went from a natural-reproducing 6-walleye-limit lake, to catch-and-release for non-tribal anglers. Only rarely can a single walleye be kept. Yet tribal anglers can gillnet during the spawn and enjoy a 10-walleye-per-day limit the rest of the year!
These co-management “agreements” allow different regulations for tribes and non-tribal Minnesotans. How can conservation work if everyone is not hunting and fishing under the same rules? They have created special interest groups, inequality, and discrimination.
Exploitation of Treaty rights
Here are more examples of separate-but-not-equal agreements that discriminate:
** Treating Red Lake as a tribal preserve—The Supreme Court’s 1926 Holt decision, ruled that Minnesota owns the waters, lakebed, and shoreline of Red Lake. Yet the DNR regulates Upper and Lower Red Lake as if the Red Lake Tribe owns all of Lower Red Lake and about 50% of Upper Red Lake. (When asked about the Holt decision, a past DNR Commissioner said “we’ve been doing it this way for 75 years. We’re not going to change now.”)
** Gillnetting spawning walleye—Gillnets are indiscriminate killers of Muskies, Northerns, other game fish, plus ducks, loons, and anything swimming underwater.
** Wild rice harvesting—Limited by the Legislature to ensure a local means of subsistence for Indians (mainly) and local residents. Expanded by Gov. Dayton to allow Indians (only) to harvest anywhere in the state.
** Expanding land subject to treaty harvest rights—The White Earth tribe claims harvest rights over the entire ceded territory. There is no basis for these claims in the 1855 Treaty.
** Expanding definition of treaty harvest rights—The White Earth tribe claims harvest rights include “property rights.” The tribe has announced plans for exercising these property rights.
** Harvesting Moose—under tribal laws only, while Moose season is closed for all Minnesotans.
** Hunting swans—allowed for the Mille Lacs band, while illegal for all others.
** Harvesting eagles—allowed to Harvest eagles by permit, while illegal for all others.
** Elk hunting—currently being negotiated asking the MN DNR, to establish a new Elk herd in NE Minnesota, and reserved by special harvest regulations for tribal members only.
Help Minnesotans resist the exploitation of treaty harvest rights. Help challenge the DNR to “co-manage” on behalf of ALL Minnesotans. Help support restoration of equal hunting and fishing rights for all.
Will you support PERM’s work? Then please donate today! The first $25 of any donation will create your annual membership.
Thank you for your support.
Douglas Meyenburg, President, PERM