Court: Mille Lacs County improperly limited the Mille Lacs Band’s inherent law enforcement authority

Almost all people, regardless of race or income, agree that it’s important to honor your agreements.

Yet all too often, local, state and federal governments seem incapable of living that value when it comes to honoring treaties with Native Nations.

Native Nations received very little in treaty agreements. Native Nations have relatively small populations, making them easy targets for bullying. At every turn, when treaty disputes arise, Native Nations have sue to enforce what benefits they have.

The latest case comes from Mille Lacs County, where the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe won the latest legal dispute with the county over the Band’s reservation boundaries and the extent of Tribal police authority.

Perhaps county leaders are pressing the case to hold onto power through division, treating the Mille Lacs Band as an enemy.

In all likelihood, the county will continue challenging the Band’s treaty boundaries.

Everyone in Mille Lacs County has the opportunity to honor the treaty agreements that have not, and are not, being followed. They can encourage county leaders to drop any further litigation.

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This day in history: The Ghost Dance begins, and other news and events

In this post:

  • This Day in History, 1889: A prophetic vision for the Ghost Dance
  • Under treaties, the U.S. has a ‘Duty to Protect’ Native Nations — and it should be court enforceable, author says
  • Indigenous and Faith Leaders United in Climate Justice Zoom event, Tuesday, Jan. 10
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Thousands of captured Ukrainian children sent to Russia for adoption

As horrific as that is, it’s happened here, too

Russia troops have absconded with thousands of Ukrainian children who were separated from their families during the war, the Washington Post reports. While the numbers aren’t clear, Ukraine’s top children’s rights official said family and friends have reported more than 10,000 unaccompanied Ukrainian children have been sent to Russia.

For example, Oleksandr, a 12-year-old boy injured in a Russian attack in Mariupol, was separated from his grandmother while seeking medical help, the Post story said. Troops took him to a hospital in Donetsk, in Russian-occupied Ukraine, where he was told Russian parents would adopt him.

Lyudmila, the grandmother, somehow was able to save him before he left for Russia. She shared her grandson’s experience: They “told him that Ukraine is bad and Ukrainians are evil,” she said. “They forced the children to speak Russian.”

I couldn’t read this story without thinking about the legacy of Indian boarding schools and other U.S. assimilation policies.

We rightfully condemn Russia’s actions, which are war crimes. At the same time, we need to take a hard look at our own history, and our failure to repair the deep harm U.S. actions have inflicted on Indigenous children, families, and communities.

We can’t condemn the one, and ignore the other.

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MPCA tries to restart Environmental Justice Advisory Group amid significant trust issues

This Tuesday, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is hosting an information session for those interested in applying for its Environmental Justice Advisory Group (EJ Advisory Group).

This is vitally important work. Potential applicants be warned, however, that the MPCA has not taken this group seriously in the past. The majority of its members (12 of 17) resigned in November, 2020 because the agency’s decision to permit the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline. The advisory group opposed the permits because of the project’s disproportionate impact on Anishinaabe Tribes located in northern Minnesota.

The fact that the MPCA has taken this long to reconstitute the group is a troubling sign.

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Minneapolis American Indian Center expansion breaks ground, climate change forces Tribal relocation, and more

In this post:

  • Minneapolis American Indian Center breaks ground on expansion
  • Three Tribes get $75M for relocation due to climate change
  • Michigan Gov. Whitmer appoints first member of Tribal Nation to state Court of Appeals
  • Biden to declare sacred Indigenous lands in Nevada a national monument
  • U.S. promised Tribes they always would have fish to eat, but those fish now carry toxins
  • Native Hawaiians still dealing with unexploded WWII munitions
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Court to hear challenge to biased policing of water protectors during Line 3 construction

Corrections: An earlier version of this post misidentified Winona LaDuke’s attorney. She is being represented by Frank Bibeau and Claire Glenn. It also failed to list all of the open cases against LaDuke, which have been added.

One of the hallmarks of this country’s democratic experiment is our aspiration for an impartial justice system, so it’s inexplicable how Minnesota leaders deployed law enforcement against water protectors who opposed the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline in the manner that they did.

The problem started with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), but other leaders remained silent.

The PUC approved a scheme allowing Enbridge — a multi-billion dollar, multi-national Canadian company — to fund state and local law enforcement agencies to monitor and police water protectors who opposed the pipeline.

The PUC created a Public Safety Escrow Account. Enbridge funded it. Law enforcement agencies submitted bills for their Line 3-related expenses.

It created bias in the justice system, giving law enforcement financial incentives to focus on, and go after, water protectors.

The scheme finally is getting challenged in court.

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Court: Creek, Choctaw, and Cherokee nations can regulate surface coal mining in Oklahoma, not the state

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma has ruled that the Creek, Choctaw, and Cherokee nations can control surface coal mining decisions within their expansive historical reservation boundaries.

The ruling follows from the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2020 decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which reinstated reservation boundaries before Oklahoma became a state. Today, under McGirt, approximately 43 percent of Oklahoma is “Indian Territory,” including much of Tulsa, the state’s second-largest city, PBS reported.

Indian Territory also includes all of the state’s coal deposits.

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Water rights battle in Southwest U.S. tests nation’s commitment to Indian trust responsibility

U.S. Supreme Court to hear Navajo Nation case with broad implications for Tribal rights

The phrase Water is Life is a self-evident truth. It’s readily apparent in the southwestern United States, where a growing population and the climate crisis are taxing water supplies.

The Navajo Nation spreads across three southwestern states: New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. Its been dealing with a water crisis for a long time. It sued the United States, saying the federal Indian trust responsibility requires it to assess the Navajo Nation’s water supply and to address the shortfall if it isn’t sufficient.

On April 28, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed, writing that the U.S. Department of the Interior and its Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), have ” an irreversible and dramatically important trust duty requiring them to ensure adequate water for the health and safety of the Navajo Nation’s inhabitants.”

The U.S. Department of Justice, and the state of Nevada and others appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to reverse that decision. On Nov. 4, the Court agreed to hear the case. The schedule hasn’t been set.

The central issue before the Supreme Court is whether the federal Indian trust responsibility includes guaranteeing Tribal access to water as an essential piece of its commitment to provide Tribes a permanent homeland.

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Camp Fire Light court case seeks to uphold treaty rights

Treaties are a two-way street, with rights and responsibilities on both parties.

Non-Indigenous landowners in this country might not think about it, but our land titles trace back to treaties between the U.S. government and Native Nations. We have benefited immensely from these treaties and their legacy of cheap land.

The U.S. government coerced treaties, got vastly disproportionate benefits from treaties, and yet still broke treaties. Native Nations have struggled to enforce the few treaty provisions that benefit them. They deserve support.

A case now before the District Court in Clearwater County reflects an attempt by non-Indigenous people to uphold U.S. treaty obligations, specifically, that Anishinaabe people retain rights to hunt, fish, gather, and hold ceremony on lands they ceded to the U.S. government under the Treaty of 1855. (Full disclosure, I am a defendant.)

While the U.S. Supreme Court already has ruled that the Anishinaabe retain such rights under the 1855 Treaty, Clearwater County Attorney Kathryn Lorsbach is trying to relitigate the issue.

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Judge dismisses charges against five of the ‘Shell River Seven’ who opposed Line 3

Honor the Earth envisions Line 3 exhibit in Park Rapids

Shell River Seven standoff

A District Court judge in Wadena County Monday dismissed gross misdemeanor charges against five of the “Shell River Seven” who peacefully tried to protect the Shell River and Anishinaabe treaty rights against the construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

“Criminalizing and over-charging protestors is a common tactic used by the State to scare activists and suppress movements,” Claire Glenn, an attorney for two of the defendants, said in a media release. “The criminalization of the Shell River defendants was no exception, and this dismissal is a powerful victory for water protectors.”

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