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More Indian rights protests possible, Treaty Authority says

The Anishinaabe treaty rights group behind wild rice and gill netting protests last week may stage more demonstrations depending on the outcome of an upcoming meeting with federal officials.

Anishinaabe ricer Michaa Aubid pushes the canoe into Hole-in-the-Day Lake in Nisswa Friday while Veronica Skinaway begins to select rice for harvesting. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls)
Anishinaabe ricer Michaa Aubid pushes the canoe into Hole-in-the-Day Lake in Nisswa Friday while Veronica Skinaway begins to select rice for harvesting. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls)

The Anishinaabe treaty rights group behind wild rice and gill netting protests last week may stage more demonstrations depending on the outcome of an upcoming meeting with federal officials.

The 1855 Treaty Authority plans on meeting with the federal government Wednesday regarding their claim to off-reservation harvesting rights, spokesperson Frank Bibeau said Monday. Bibeau declined to specify which federal officials.

Bibeau said the goal of the talks is to eventually have Minnesota officials join in, however.

"We know that we've got the state's attention," Bibeau said. "We're going to try to work this out through the federal officials first to see if there's some way to negotiate this agreement rather than go to court. That's what we're going to be asking those federal officials for, Wednesday."

Bibeau said more protests could be prompted depending on "the kind of support we do or don't get from our conversations with the feds." The Authority prefers negotiating with the government rather than a lengthy and costly legal challenge of DNR citations, Bibeau said, but if the federal officials can't adequately help them deal with the state of Minnesota then they may mount another protest.

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"If they're uncertain about what their next step is, then we're going to be more certain about what ours is," he said. "If they say, 'Well hey, let's see if we can't get Minnesota on the phone here and set up a meeting in a week or two and sit everybody down', well, then we're going to be inclined to be more cooperative."

The possible new protests follow two days of demonstrations near Nisswa last week - one day with the DNR's permission and one day where the DNR issued citations to protesters.

Bibeau said he didn't expect the state to press charges.

However, the DNR disagreed. Col. Ken Soring, head of DNR Enforcement, said Monday the state had requested the Crow Wing County Attorney to file charges against two gill net anglers who netted in Hole-in-the-Day Bay of Gull Lake on Friday. Todd Thompson of the White Earth Reservation north of Detroit Lakes and Jim Northrup III of the Fond du Lac Reservation east of Cloquet set the net shortly before 11 a.m.

Across Highway 371 on Hole-in-the-Day Lake, Harvey and Morningstar GoodSky of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe were each cited by the DNR for harvesting wild rice without a license.

The citations came a day after the DNR issued the group a one-day harvesting permit for its protest action Thursday under a rule allowing permits for educational purposes. Soring said the permit was issued in an effort to de-escalate the situation while acknowledging the group's desire to honor Chief Hole-in-the-Day's memory and bring attention to clean water issues.

On Monday, Soring said he did not know if any meetings with the 1855 Treaty Authority have been proposed.

Since the DNR does not recognize the tribes' off-reservation harvesting rights, Soring said it would be premature to discuss co-management.

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"I think we need to let the courts make a decision on what rights exist under the treaties and which do not, and then we proceed from there," he said. "We have a very good relationship with the native bands and have a long history of working together on law enforcement and natural resource issues."

Brainerd Dispatch Staff Writer Chelsey Perkins contributed to this report.

ZACH KAYSER may be reached at 218-855-5860 or Zach.Kayser@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ZWKayser .

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