Defending Treaty Fishing Rights (Again); Augsburg Native Film Series; Buy Native/Think Local Campaign

Treaties — and their implications for Native American hunting and fishing rights — are always a contentious topic. Many people are unaware of treaty language, or chose to ignore it when they clash with their business interests. The latest flare up centers on Ojibwe fishing rights on Lake Mille Lacs and its dwindling walleye population.

In spite of a U.S. Supreme Court decision which holds the Mille Lacs bands hunting and fishing rights, the state of Minnesota set up a process that guaranteed the band would have a weakened voice in the debate over fishing limits.

Last year, the state created a 17-member panel to advise the state on walleye fishing on Mille Lacs. There was a single tribal representative on that panel: Jamie Edwards, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe’s director of government affairs. Edwards just resigned by letter, according to a story in Minnesota Public Radio. He sited the committee’s disrespect for tribal sovereignty.

The Edwards resignation letter said that the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee, “had devolved into anti-science, anti-treaty-rights forum subsidized by state resources.” It continued:

To say that I am a minority on this committee is an understatement. Rather than representing a diversity of interests and perspectives, the overwhelming majority of [committee] members are persons who own businesses dependent upon walleye fishing. [The committee] does not include conservationists, owners of businesses dependent on other species of fish, representatives of other types of businesses or any of the other myriad stakeholders of Mille Lacs fisheries.

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Minneapolis City Council to Declare Oct. 10, 2016 “Coldwater Springs Protection and Preservation Day”, Pipe Ceremony Planned

Coldwater Springs (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Coldwater Springs (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Minneapolis City Council is expected to pass a resolution this Friday that will declare Oct. 10 Coldwater Springs Protection and Preservation Day. Everyone is invited to attend a pipe ceremony and celebration at Coldwater Springs on Indigenous Peoples Day, Monday, Oct. 10, starting at noon.

The resolution was authored by 12th Ward Councilmember Andrew Johnson, whose south Minneapolis district abuts Coldwater Springs, which is in on unincorporated Hennepin County land. The springs are located just east of the intersection of Hiawatha Avenue and the Crosstown Highway.

Coldwater Springs is near the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers and is sacred to Dakota people, the original people of the area. (The Dakota name for the spring is Mni Owe Sni, which translated means Coldwater Springs.) Camp Coldwater also was the first European-American settlement in the Minnesota Territory; the spring furnished water to Fort Snelling.

The resolution states in part:

That the City of Minneapolis reminds all government agencies to respect the 1805 treaty and honor both the spirit and the letter of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 and the 2001 state law relating to protection and preservation of Coldwater Springs.

Click here for the full text of the Coldwater Springs Resolution.

Those expected to speak on behalf of the resolution at the Minneapolis City Council meeting Friday include: Sheldon Wolfchild of the Lower Sioux Reservation, Sharon Lennartson, chair of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Tribal Community, and Clyde Bellecourt, a founder of the American Indian Movement.

Wolfchild will conduct the pipe ceremony at Coldwater Springs on Monday. Lennartson and Bellecourt are expected to speak, too. Coffee and cookies to follow. Bring family and friends!

For more on the First Amendment and treaty issues surrounding Coldwater Springs, read on.

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Caucus Resolution; Indigenous Food Share; Honor The Earth’s Enbridge Recap; Treaty Rights Dispute

Caucus Resolution: American Indian Nations Should Have Access to Outdoor Heritage Fund

With Minnesota’s political caucuses coming up March 1, consider proposing this resolution:

Resolved: the Minnesota Legislature shall ensure that American Indian nations in Minnesota have equal access to the Outdoor Heritage Fund without diminishing their treaty rights.

Here is the background, provided by a recent Star Tribune editorial: The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council has voted twice to approve $2.2 million to buy about 2,000 acres from Potlach for preservation. White Earth would buy the land and transfer it to a federal trust. The project was included in a 2015 omnibus bill, but funding got stripped out at the end of the session for dubious reasons, raising “regrettable questions about bias toward American Indian communities.”

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News Wrap: Pow Wows, National Catholic Reporter ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ Series, Treaty Rights Update

There are two upcoming pow wows on the weekend of Sept. 12-13.

Click on the links for more.

National Catholic Reporter Shines Light on the Doctrine of Discovery and its  ‘Shocking Cruelty’

Cudos to the National Catholic Reporter for launching a six-part series called “The Trail of History,” which puts the spotlight on the harm done to Native Americans by the Catholic Church and Americans in general. In particular, the series focuses on the Doctrine of Discovery, Papal bulls (or edicts) issued back in the 1400s that gave European monarchs the religious and legal justification to take lands from Native peoples and subjugate them.

The Editor’s Note to the series reads:

It may seem like papal statements from 500 years ago are ancient history. But Native American activists and scholars insist that Catholicism’s past continues to affect the present. Papal bulls from the 1400s condoned the conquest of the Americas and other lands inhabited by indigenous people. The papal documents led to an international norm called the Doctrine of Discovery, which dehumanized non-Christians and legitimized their suppression by nations around the world, including by the United States. Now Native Americans say the church helped commit genocide and refuses to come to terms with it.

The first article in the series is headlined: Intergenerational Grief on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.  It gives the following context for the Papal bulls.

In 1493, one such bull, the pronouncement Inter Caetera, granted Spain “full and free power, authority, and jurisdiction of every kind” over non-Christian people in the new land. It declared that “the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself.”

This bull and others like it gave license to the domination of native peoples, arguing that because they were not Christian, they lacked human rights. Instead of being encountered like human beings, native people were said to have been “discovered,” like some new species of animal.

The article goes on to highlight the crushing poverty and despair on the reservation and connects it back to the Doctrine of Discovery.

Deep psychological wounds hammer life in Cheyenne River today. The wounds may appear fresh, but are in fact quite old — originally inflicted at a time when the doctrine and its thinking permeated the effort to deal with America’s “Indian problem.”

The second article, published today (Tuesday), is titled: Boarding Schools: A Black Hole of Native American History. It discusses how boarding schools — an effort “Westernize” and “Christianize” Native American children — were an outgrowth of the Doctrine of Discovery. Many contend the boarding schools were a collusion between church and state, “to stamp out Native American identity, affecting generations of children,” the article said.

To follow subsequent stories in the series, click on: “The Trail of History.”

Treaty Rights Protest Also Targets Mining, Pipeline Expansion

The Twin Cities Daily Planet offers an interesting insight into the Ojibwe treaty rights protest in northern Minnesota. We wrote earlier how protesters both harvested wild rice and fished outside the reservation without a state permit. They were successful in getting citations–exactly what they wanted to pursue a court challenge. The new twist from the Daily Planet story is a quote from Frank Bibeau, an attorney for the protesters, who said: “We were intentionally looking to target a lake along the pipeline corridor,” a reference to the proposed Enbridge oil pipeline.

The article discusses the group’s concern about the impact that current and future mines and pipelines have on lakes and rivers.

“We are not just talking about the pipeline but also about mining–there’s quite a bit of pollution,” says Robert DesJarlait. “There’s a 140-mile stretch of the St. Louis River which are wild rice dead zones because of all the sulfates, and now they want a copper mine. Our wild rice will be affected by the pipeline and the mines,” he said. “… wild rice is a sacred plant to us. It’s a spiritual issue and a cultural issue.” For many, harvesting wild rice doesn’t make a whole lot of money–maybe enough to provide clothing for their kids. “Nobody gets rich off it,” he said.

Check out the article by Sheila Regan. It has some excellent photos, too.









News Wrap: Denali; Treaty Rights; Pope Francis’ U.S. Visit

Mount McKinley Now Officially Renamed Denali

President Obama is visiting Alaska to highlight the alarming signs of climate change that exist in that state, but he started his visit by renaming Mount McKinley “Denali,” CNN reports, “an historic nod to the region’s native population, which the White House says is under threat from the already-present threat of climate change.”

Treaty Rights Protest Presses Forward in Northern Minnesota

Two Ojibwe men got ticketed last week in northern Minnesota for using gillnets to fish, a violation of state law, Minnesota Public Radio reports. It was exactly what the men wanted. This opens the door for a court challenge to argue for broader fishing and gatherting rights the men argue exist under an 1855 treaty.

Earlier, members of the Ojibwe group tried to get the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to cite them for harvesting wild rice on Hole in the Day Lake without a state permit. Trying to avoid the conflict, the DNR issued a special one-day permit for the ricing. The group, however, persisted with more activities to get the citation they wanted.

Ideas for Pope Francis During his U.S. Visit

Activist lawyer Libby Comeaux wrote a thoughtful blog titled: “Five Ways Pope Francis Can Overcome the Irony that Threatens Laudato Si’” Her ideas including delaying or canceling the canonization of Father Junipero Serra, and “renouncing and withdrawing the three 15th century papal bulls implicated in the Doctrine of Discovery.”

Comeaux’s blog argues that the environmental themes the Pope writes about in Laudato Si are in stark contrast to the world view embraced in the papal bulls that created the Doctrine of Discovery:

Indigenous peoples have suffered over 500 years from intentional decimation of persons, communities and lands, accompanied by forced assimilation into a culture that insults and ridicules their most cherished ethical principles. In the process, by operation of these bulls over time, they are not the only ones who suffer. The entire planetary web of life is being devastated by massive extraction and dumping for profit. Laudato Si’ wants to bring forth a new paradigm that will heal this twin tragedy, but the irony is that the old paradigm finds its roots in these very papal bulls. Traditional indigenous scholars and elders have been asking for papal revocation for over 30 years, to no avail. Francis would be wise to get on with it, without delay.

Click on the link above to read more.

Native American Defendants Serve More Time For Same Crime; Treaty Rights Test Case Sidestepped For Now

The August 24 Minnesota Lawyer magazine wrote a cover story titled: “Blame it on Crow Dog: Indian defendants serve more time for the same crime than non-Indians.” The article is worth reading but it behind a paywall (and the “Blame it on Crow Dog” headline falls in line with blaming Native Americans for the laws that have been imposed on them).

The bottom line is this: for historical reasons, major crimes committed by Indians on a reservation are prosecuted in federal courts, not state courts. Federal laws impose tougher penalties than state laws for the same crimes, so Indians end up spending more time in prison. A federal panel is looking at the problem (again). Here is the quick history lesson and summary of the disparities that exist in Native American sentencing practices.

Start with the 1883 Supreme Court case Ex Parte Crow Dog. According to the Wikipedia summary:

The case concerned the murder of one Indian by another on reservation land. Crow Dog was a member of the Brulé band of the Lakota Sioux. On August 5, 1881 he shot and killed Spotted Tail, a Lakota chief; there are different accounts of the background to the killing. The tribal council dealt with the incident according to Sioux tradition, and Crow Dog paid restitution to the dead man’s family. However, the U.S. authorities then prosecuted Crow Dog for murder in a federal court. He was found guilty and sentenced to hang. [Upon appeal, the] Supreme Court held that unless authorized by Congress, federal courts had no jurisdiction to try cases where the offense had already been tried by the tribal council. Crow Dog was therefore released.

Congress responded to the Court’s decision by passing the Major Crimes Act of 1885, which preempted Native sovereignty in prosecuting crimes on the reservation. It placed specified major crimes under federal jurisdiction if they were committed by an Indian against another Indian on reservation land.

In 1953, Congress amended the law with Public Law 280, which allowed Minnesota and several other states jurisdiction over criminal and civil offenses committed by or upon Native Americans on reservations. According to the Minnesota Lawyer article, after P.L. 280 passed, only the Red Lake and Boise Forte reservations remained under federal jurisdiction. Then, in 2013, White Earth officials opted for concurrent federal jurisdiction. (There is more to the story here, and we need to do more research.)

But, again, the reason all this matters is that over the years, Congress has toughened penalties for federal crimes. So, according to the Minnesota Lawyer story, a study found that in New Mexico, Indians convicted of sexual assault in federal court received sentences three times longer than those convicted in state court. In South Dakota, Indians convicted of sexual assault received federal sentences that were almost double the state sentence for the same crime. (And prisoners held in federal prison don’t get time off for good behavior or parole eligibility.) Also, the number of Native American prisoners in federal court has increased 27 percent in the last five years, the story said.

The problem is under federal review. Earlier this April, the Wall Street Journal published an article titled: Federal Panel Reviewing Native American Sentencing. It opens with the following:

Spurred by concerns from judges, prosecutors and tribal leaders, a federal panel is reviewing whether Native Americans living on reservations face disproportionately harsher punishments for crimes than other Americans.

Ralph Erickson, chief federal district court judge for North Dakota and head of the U.S. Sentencing Commission committee conducting the review, is among those calling for an examination of the sentencing practices on the nation’s 325 reservations.

“No matter how long I have been sentencing in Indian Country, I find it gut-wrenching when I am asked by a family member of a person I have sentenced why Indians are sentenced to longer sentences than white people who commit the same crime,” Judge Erickson, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, wrote in a 2014 letter to a fellow jurist. …

Treaty Rights Court Battle Sidestepped … For Now

Dozens of White Earth and Leech Lake band tribal members went to harvest wild rice earlier this week at Hole in the Day Lake–off reservation and without a permit. Under state law, it is illegal for them to rice without a permit. This was an effort to provoke the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) into issuing them citations. The tribal members believe an 1855 treaty gives them much broader hunting and gathering rights than currently allowed by the state–and they should be able to rice at Hole in the Day Lake and other places without a permit. If they are cited for violating the law, they could go to court and and argue the treaty is not being fairly interpreted.

Minnesota Public Radio reported that the DNR issued a special event permit allowing tribal members to collect wild rice on Hole-in-the-Day Lake.  “The special permit skirts the court battle for the time being, but band members warned they might try ricing or netting on another off reservation lake tomorrow, or in the near future,” MPR said.

Stay tuned. And in the meantime, here is a link to the treaty language, and a link to a summary by the site Treaties Matter.


This Day in History: The Treaty of Prairie du Chien; Treaty Rights Test in Minnesota?; Federal Reserve Launches Center for Indian Country Development

On this day in history, August 19, 1825, the United States negotiated a peace treaty at Prairie du Chien between the Sioux, Chippewa, Sacs and Fox, and other tribes. Native nations were coming into increasing conflicts with each other as settlers moved west forcing tribes off of their traditional lands and into other tribal territories.

Article I of the Treaty states the goal:

There shall be a firm and perpetual peace between the Sioux and the Chippewas; between the Sioux and the confederated tribes of Sacs and Foxes; and between the Ioways and the Sioux.

The treaty attempted to set boundaries between tribes. It is not until Article 10 that the United States asserted itself:

All the tribes aforesaid acknowledge the general controlling power of the United States, and disclaim all dependence upon, and connection with, any other power.

The Treaties Matter website gives the following background to the treaty:

The U.S. was ostensibly concerned with violence among the American Indian nations on its western border, and insisted that living within set boundaries for the first time in history would solve the problem. American Indian delegation members pointed out that the game they hunted for their livelihoods did not recognize boundaries, and the arrangement would cause more problems than it solved. The treaty was a compromise: boundaries were set, but articles of the treaty acknowledged that American Indians would ignore the boundaries. …

The treaty gave the various tribes an opportunity to position themselves for access to trade goods. The long-term impact, however, was to make it easier for the U.S. government to acquire more land. According to Treaties Matter:

One affect of the treaty, however, was to “clear the title” to the lands of American Indians, making it easier to purchase specific tracts from single American Indian nations. Within 3 years, the U.S. was purchasing land within the boundaries set in 1825.

Chippewa in Northern Minnesota Announce Treaty Test, Draw Warning

Treaty rights are back in the news today. Minnesota Public Radio reports that a group of Chippewa in Northern Minnesota may test its rights under an 1855 treaty by harvesting wild rice without a state license. It already has drawn a warning from the state DNR.

The group is independent of the state’s tribal governments and includes members of the federally recognized Leech Lake, White Earth and Mille Lacs bands, and the non-recognized Sandy Lake Band, [group attorney Frank] Bibeau said. Its chairman is Arthur “Archie” LaRose, secretary-treasurer of the Leech Lake Band, who wrote to Dayton Aug. 7 to notify him of the harvest plans. …

[DNR Commissioner Tom] Landwehr said the state’s position continues to be that the bands have no special hunting, fishing or gathering rights off their reservations within the ceded territory — a position Bibeau disputes.

Click on the MPR link above for more details.

Minneapolis Fed Launches Center for Indian Country Development

On Monday, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis announced the creation of the Center for Indian Country Development, an effort to address the deep poverty in native communities. The opening paragraph in a Pioneer Press story on Center read: 

Only about 30 percent of 567 tribes in the United States have casinos and only about 20 percent of them are profitable enough to contribute a lot to their reservation residents, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. And many reservations are still rife with poverty. …

The Minneapolis Fed has been working with tribes for 25 years and said the Center is the next step. According to the media release, its mission is to help “self-governing American Indians communities to attain their economic development goals.” The Center will serve tribes in the Minneapolis Fed’s district, which covers Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, northwest Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 

The Minneapolis Fed established a Leadership Council for the Center. Members are:

  • Dante Desiderio, executive director, Native American Finance Officers Association
  • Sarah DeWees, senior director, Research, Policy and Asset-Building Programs, First Nations Development Institute
  • Miriam Jorgensen, director of research, Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy, University of Arizona, and Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, Harvard University
  • Elsie Meeks, board of directors, Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines; chairperson, Lakota Funds
  • Jacqueline Johnson Pata, executive director, National Congress of American Indians
  • John Phillips, executive director, First Americans Land-Grant Consortium; land grant program director, American Indian Higher Education Consortium
  • Jaime Pinkham, vice president, Native Nations Programs, Bush Foundation
  • Gerald Sherman, vice president, Bar K Management
  • Cris Stainbrook, president of the Indian Land Tenure Foundation
  • Sarah Vogel, Sarah Vogel Law

Minnesota Public Radio aired a 20-minute interview on the Center’s launch.