This Day in History May 27, 2020: Menominee Tribe wins landmark case to preserve hunting and fishing rights in spite of official “termination”

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

MPCA offers PR spin about what ‘meaningful’ tribal consultation means in Line 3 review

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) commitment to environmental and racial justice is being tested and it’s not doing that great. It gets an incomplete at best.

At issue is the MPCA’s environmental review of Enbridge’s plans to build a tar sands crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota. To proceed, Enbridge needs the MPCA to approve a water crossing (Section 401) certificate. The proposed Line 3 crosses a lot of water — more than 200 streams and other water bodies and 79 miles of wetlands.

Native Nations have offered strong opposition to Line 3 for violating treaty rights and its threats to clean water and wild rice. Both the pipeline’s construction and future spills would endanger northern Minnesota’s environment.

So what were the MPCA’s goals for engaging Tribal communities in this important decision, and how well did it meet them?

Continue reading

This day in history, May 15, 1905: U.S. Supreme Court upholds tribal sovereignty, sets important precedents for interpreting treaties

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

PUC reissues orders approving Line 3, Commissioner Schuerger dissents, lawsuits now back in play

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) released orders today reapproving Enbridge Line 3’s Route Permit and Certificate of Need. This now opens the door for legal challenges to the tar sands crude oil pipeline, including suits from Native Nations who say the project threatens their treaty rights, their sacred wild rice, and their clean waters.

The PUC’s actions today again put pressure on Gov. Tim Walz to decide where he stands on the Line 3 project, and whether he will reaffirm a lawsuit against the project by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Continue reading

COVID-19 highlights the U.S. government’s failure to meet health care obligations to Indian Country

The current coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the many failings and disparities in the U.S. heathcare system.

Dr. Mary Owen, President-Elect of the Association of American Indian Physicians, recently wrote a column for Indian Country Today where she highlights the fact that Native Americans are the only population with a “legal right to health care,” and how the system is failing them.

“Despite the guaranteed provision of health care that is in part, payment for millions of acres of land, the Indian Health Service is chronically underfunded,” said Dr. Owen, an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School-Duluth and the Director of the Center of American Indian and Minority Health. Continue reading

This day in history, April 7, 1866: Bois Forte Band forced into treaty to open land for Minnesota’s ‘Gold Rush’

History offers several examples of white settlers’ greed for gold and how it led to violence, disease, land theft, and genocide of Indigenous peoples, the California and Black Hills gold rushes being prime examples.

Less well know is that it happened in Minnesota, too. Reports of gold in northern Minnesota led state business and political interests to seek the U.S. government’s help in securing a treaty to force the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe to cede lands coveted by gold speculators and prospectors. That treaty was signed on this day in history, April 7, 1866.

Continue reading

White Earth to Walz: Live up to your pledge of ‘meaningful consultation’

Michael Fairbanks, chairman of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, has written Gov. Tim Walz reminding him of his promise of “meaningful consultation” with Native Nations, and urging him to intervene on a key Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline permit. In the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, he’s asking Walz to direct the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to deny Line 3’s water quality permit, allowing Enbridge to refile after the health crisis passes. This would allow time for meaningful engagement.

It’s the latest example of efforts to stop environmentally damaging projects that are moving forward while much of the country is being required to stay at home. Continue reading