This day in history, Congress creates the ‘White Earth Roll Commission’
The White Earth Nation (Gaa-waabaabiganikaag) is invoking its treaty rights to stop the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline from being built. To date, it’s had no success. For White Earth and other Ojibwe bands and nations, it’s the latest in a long string of treaty abuses.
Let’s look at one other example. On this day in history, June 30, 1913, Congress created the White Earth Roll Commission to determine which White Earth Band members were “full blooded” and which were “mixed blood.” This was not a distinction Native communities made. Congress created these designations so businesses could “legally” steal White Earth’s valuable pine lands.
On one hand, it’s a typical story about people with money and power abusing the system to enrich themselves. On the other hand, it’s a little known story about how the United States decided, in its hubris, that it could dictate who is an “Indian” and who is a “mixed blood.”
Minnesota leaders still disregarding treaties today
The Red Lake and White Earth nations are suing in the Minnesota Court of Appeals to stop the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline, arguing it violates their long-standing treaties with the U.S. government. The treaties of 1854 and 1855 guaranteed them the right to hunt, fish, and gather in lands they ceded, they say. Line 3 construction and future oil spills threaten those rights.
The state of Minnesota has turned a blind eye, approving Line 3 permits and allowing Enbridge to begin construction before courts resolve the treaty rights dispute. The failure goes all way up the ladder to Gov. Tim Walz.
It should come as no surprise. Minnesota was born of broken treaties.
On this day in history, Feb. 6, 1850, President Zachery Taylor signed an executive order that broke several treaties with the Anishinaabe (also known as Chippewa and Ojibwe in treaties). Taylor took that action at the behest of Minnesota’s Territorial Gov. Alexander Ramsey and other Minnesota leaders.
This executive order — and a corrupt scheme by Ramsey to advance his own financial and political fortunes — would lead to the deaths of 400 Anishinaabe people.
Last week, Healing Minnesota Stories’ blog passed a milestone, publishing its 1,000th post since we started writing in 2015. Below, we provide links to some of the best-read blogs.
Healing Minnesota Stories’ mission is to create dialogue, understanding, healing, and repair between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, particularly with those non-Indigenous people who belong to faith communities.
Since our organization launched in 2011, Healing Minnesota Stories Founder Jim Bear Jacobs became Program Director for Racial Justice for the Minnesota Council of Churches. The blog has followed suit, expanding its coverage of racial justice issues, such as the recent protests over George Floyd’s murder.
We have 377 followers so far. Please consider following the blog if you don’t already, and sharing it with friends and networks so we can expand our reach.
The blog’s main author is Scott Russell of Minneapolis, a volunteer with Healing Minnesota Stories. He can be reached by posting comments in the blog, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments, criticisms, and questions always welcomed. Thanks for your support over the past five years! Continue reading →
On this day in history, July 29, 1837, the Ojibwe and Dakota signed the first treaties ceding significant amounts of their land to the U.S. government in what would become the state of Minnesota. White businessmen got the better end of the deals. Continue reading →
In one of the more blatant examples of broken treaties, the United States tried to unilaterally end the existence of Tribal Nations and their treaty rights during what is known as the Termination Era. Forced assimilation policies spanned the 1940s to the 1960s.
The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin was one of the first tribes officially terminated by an Act of Congress, and one that pushed back. On this day in history, May 27, 1968, the Menominee Nation won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case reestablishing its hunting and fishing rights, the first step in reestablishing its status as a sovereign nation. Continue reading →
On this day in history, May 15, 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Winans v. United States, a case that set important precedents for how the Court would interpret treaty rights.
This case has echoes of the current debate in Minnesota over the proposed Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline and its impact on the Anishinaabe people’s rights under the treaties of 1854 and 1855 to hunt, fish and gather on the lands they ceded to the United States. Continue reading →