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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White Earth Tribal Court dismisses trespass charges against 3 Native Water Protectors

A year ago June, Indigenous leaders set up Camp Fire Light, an eight-day ceremonial camp held near the Mississippi headwaters. They established it to exercise their treaty rights to hunt, fish, gather, and occupy lands they ceded to the United States. They invited non-Indigenous allies to participate in support of treaty rights.

Camp Fire Light participants camped on the wooden matting Enbridge Energy installed to build the Line 3 tar sands pipeline under the Mississippi and surrounding wetlands.

Many Camp Firelight participants received criminal trespass charges in Clearwater County.

Several Indigenous participants had their cases transferred from Clearwater County District Court to White Earth Tribal Court, including Nancy Beaulieu, Justin Keezer, and Todd Thompson.

These three defendants asked the Tribal Court to dismiss their cases “on grounds that their actions were lawful exercises of sovereign Indigenous rights reserved in the 1855 Treaty and protected nonviolent direct action pursuant to the White Earth Tribal Code,” according to a news release issued on their behalf.

Last week, White Earth Tribal Court Judge David DeGroat granted their motion and dismissed their case.

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Enbridge Line 3: White Earth Spirit Camp Forms; Upcoming Events

New Honor the Earth map on Enbridge Line 3.

A spirit camp has opened on the White Earth Reservation to carry on the water protectors’ traditions started at Standing Rock.  The camp is working to stop the Enbridge Line 3 proposal as well as promote unity among camps across the country doing the important work of protecting Mother Earth, according to William Paulson, Executive Director of the Oshkaabewisag Community Cooperative.

The camp is called MikinaakMinis-Turtle Island, and it has a Facebook page. Asked if the camp needed any support, Paulson asked only that people like and share the Facebook page and “be involved in the moment. Contact your elected officials and talk to them about this.”

Enbridge has an old and failing Line 3 (the black line on the map). Enbridge proposes to abandon that line in the ground and install a new, larger pipeline along a new route (the red line on the map.) That new route runs 337 miles across Minnesota, crosses the Mississippi headwaters and endangers clean lakes, rivers and wild rice beds, and all for nothing. Minnesota’s fossil fuel demand is actually declining.

Paulson said Enbridge Line 3 also crosses what is known as the “1855 Treaty area” (light green shaded area on the map). The Anishinaabe retain rights to hunt, fish and gather wild rice in this area. Enbridge and the state “are not discussing it on a government-to-government basis,” he said. [Enbridge is] trying to buy people off and go through.” The threat to the Mississippi’s headwaters is “unacceptable,” Paulson said.

According to the Facebook page, the camp is: “A support haven on beautiful land for community, culture, and traveling ambassadors for Mother Earth. Water is Life.” Paulson provided additional information about the camp in an email: Continue reading

Long Simmering Tribal Sovereignty Issues Flair Up in Mille Lacs County

According to an 1855 Treaty, the south shore of Lake Mille Lacs is part of the Mille Band of Ojibwe Reservation. So are the cities of Isle and Wahkon; Kathio State Park; the Bayview community
According to an 1855 Treaty, the south shore of Lake Mille Lacs is part of the Mille Band of Ojibwe Reservation. So are the cities of Isle and Wahkon; Kathio State Park  and the Bayview community. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Mille Lacs County and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe are in a contentious disagreement about  law enforcement roles and responsibilities, and more importantly, tribal sovereignty. The disagreement raises significant questions about the reach of tribal jurisdiction that goes back to an 1855 treaty.

The immediate dispute came on June 21, when, with no warning, the Mille Lacs County Board of Commissioners revoked the law enforcement agreement with the Band, an effort to severely restrict the band’s law enforcement powers. An article in the Mille Lacs County Times — County revokes policing agreement with Mille Lacs Band — provides important context:

While the action involves an eight-year-old law enforcement agreement, a generations-old land dispute over boundaries remains largely at issue. The band recognizes its territory as 61,000 acres established by the Treaty of 1855 made between the U.S. government and the Chippewa [Ojibwe] band. The county recognizes band territory as the 4,000 acres held in federal trust due to a number of acts and developments since the treaty. The longstanding conflict complicates a lot of things that are already complex.

Go back a few months, at a key part the dispute grew out of the Band’s request to get federal law enforcement help under the 2010 Tribal Law and Order Act. According to a media release from the Band, the federal decision sided with the Band’s view of its boundaries:

Last November, the Office of the Solicitor of the U.S. Department of Interior released Solicitor’s Opinion M-37032, a legal opinion concluding that the 1855 Reservation boundaries are still intact, contradicting claims by the State and the County that the reservation was diminished and disestablished by subsequent treaties and laws.

This generated  a strong reaction in Mille Lacs County.

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This Day in History: Ojibwe Cede Millions of Acres to U.S.

On this day in history, Feb. 22, 1855, two Chippewa bands agreed to a treaty with the U.S. government in which they ceded millions of acres in northern Minnesota. (The Chippewa are also known as Ojibwe and Anishinabe.) Like many other treaties, the United States did not live up to the terms of the agreement and made unilateral changes. This treaty was negotiated in Washington D.C.

The first line of Article I reads:

The Mississippi, Pillager, and Lake Winnibigoshish bands of Chippewa Indians hereby cede, sell, and convey to the United States all their right, title, and interest in, and to, the lands now owned and claimed by them, in the Territory of Minnesota …

The treaty was supposed to create nine reservations, according to a Wikipedia summary. The Pillager Band was to get three reservations: Cass Lake, Leech Lake and  Lake Winnibigoshish. The Mississippi Chippewa were to get six reservations: Gull Lake, Mille Lacs Lake, Pokegama Lake, Rabbit Lake, Rice Lake and Sandy Lake. According to Wikipedia,

Of these reservations, Rice Lake Indian Reservation was never established. Gull Lake, Pokegama Lake and Rabbit Lake Indian Reservations were extinguished. Later, the three Pillager Chippewa Reservations were consolidated to form the Greater Leech Lake Indian Reservation.

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