(Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota)
April 1997

Witness trainings are being held for the upcoming Chippewa spearing/ netting season around Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota. Witnesses have been requested to help out by the Lac du Flambeau and Mille Lacs Bands. A January federal court decision affirmed Chippewa treaty rights for the first time in the 1837 ceded territory of east-central Minnesota. The decision is opposed by a number of angler groups, who like in Wisconsin promise to protest during the fishing season.

The purpose of the Witness is to show that not all non-Indians oppose treaty rights, and to serve as a presence to deter, monitor, and document incidents of harassment or violence. [The Madison training will be held on Tuesday, April 8 at 7 to 10 pm at the Memorial Union (check “Today In The Union” listing for room), and will include videos and role-playing.]

Why should we in Wisconsin witness in Minnesota? First, the 1837 Treaty was signed by the Lake Superior Chippewa bands before Wisconsin or Minnesota even existed–state boundaries are irrelevant in the treaty, and Bands from both states will be fishing. Second, many witnesses from Minnesota came to help here during the Wisconsin spear fishing dispute. Third, we have been requested to accompany spearers by Lac du Flambeau Chairman Tom Maulson and the reactivated Wa-Swa-Gon Treaty Association in Wisconsin, as well as by the Mille Lacs Band in Minnesota. They have asked for the reactivation of the witness network because they believe witnesses helped defuse the conflict at Wisconsin boat landings.

The Minnesota anti-treaty leaders Howard Hansen and Bud Grant, of Protect Economic Management Resources (PERM) have called for no violence or racism at the boat landings. However, PARR leader Larry Peterson said the same things in the early days in Wisconsin, causing a hardline faction to split off and form the militant Stop Treaty Abuse. Many of the same factors in Wisconsin are involved in Minnesota–a DNR that lowers angler fish limits and blames the Chippewa, a Governor who asks the tribes not to exercise their rights in order not to provoke trouble, and a media that sensationalizes the fish dispute and talks about the Chippewa having been “granted” rights by a federal court. The Witness is front-page news in the Twin Cities (see below), and has been also covered on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Like in Wisconsin, the fishing dispute in Minnesota–unless it is lessened–will distract attention from environmental threats to the common natural resources. While it is hard to watch a “rerun” of the 1987-92 Wisconsin troubles, we should pay attention and act in support. A weakening of treaty rights in Minnesota would in turn weaken the Wisconsin treaties that are now being used to protect the environment from mining.

The witnessing should be in mid or late April, possibly into early May, when the ice goes out on the huge Mille Lacs Lake and other smaller lakes (about 1-2 hours straight north of the Twin Cities, which is four hours from Madison). The smaller lakes closer to the Twin Cities will open first. There are trainings going on in Minneapolis, Duluth, Madison, and Eau Claire (see the contacts below). The Witness needs video camcorders, cameras, tape recorders, and boats to gather documentation. If you cannot go, contributions can be sent to the Midwest Treaty Network, 731 State St., Madison WI 53703 (make tax-deductible check to “MTN/PC Foundation”).

Witnesses absolutely need to get training before going to Minnesota. (This includes people who have had civil disobedience training.) It may be a good idea for experienced witnesses to get a “refresher course” as well. Witnesses need to be completely self-sufficient in funds, supplies, and warm clothes–we do not want to put a burden on a reservation community. We will be staying in hotels, sharing rooms. As the article states below, this is a chance for us to help defuse the tense situation in Minnesota, just as treaty conflicts were defused on our side of the border.

To find out more on-line about the background
of the Minnesota Treaty Rights Dispute:

Treaty Fishing Around Mille Lacs in Minnesota
(Midwest Treaty Network)

History of 1837 Treaty Rights in Minnesota
(Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission)

Treaty Rights: Understanding the Conflict
(University of Minnesota)

Witnessing and the Anti-Indian Movement in Wisconsin
(Midwest Treaty Network)
[Also see the book “Walleye Warriors”
by Walter Bresette and Rick Whaley.]

For More Information on Treaty Support, Contact:

Minnesota Witness for Nonviolence
Box 7588, Minneapolis, MN 55407
Phone: (612) 722-6612
(Trainings at Walker Church, 31st & 16th Ave.,
April 4 at 6 pm, and April 5 & 6 at 1 pm)

Midwest Treaty Network,
South-Central Wisconsin Office
(Debi McNutt and Amy Lutzke,
Madison Treaty Rights Support Group)
731 State Street, Madison, WI 53703
(Training April 8, Memorial Union TITU, 7 pm)
Phone/FAX: (608) 246-2256

Wa-Swa-Gon Treaty Association
(Michael Murphy)
Box 576, Lac du Flambeau, WI 54538
Phone: (715) 588-7070 (work), 588-3785 (home)

Midwest Treaty Network,
Northwest Wisconsin Office,
(Walter Bresette,Lake Superior Greens)
Box 1350, Bayfield, WI 54814
Phone: (715) 779-5071

Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission
(Public Information Division)
PO Box 9, Odanah, WI 54861
Phone:(715) 682-6619
[Call for the new Minnesota Edition of the booklet
?A Guide to Understanding Chippewa Treaty Rights?
(first copy is free; $1 each thereafter)]

Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe Nation
(Chairman Tom Maulson)
Box 67, Lac du Flambeau, WI 54538
Phone: (715) 588-3303

St. Croix Valley Greens
(Jeff Peterson)
Rt 2, Box 170A, Luck WI 54855
Phone: (715) 472-2728
(Upcoming training in Northwest Wisconsin.)

Wisconsin Greens
(Rick Whaley)
Box 16471, Milwaukee, WI 53216
Phone: (414) 466-6618

Ojibwe People for Justice
(Esther Nahgahnub)
PO Box 44, Sawyer, MN 55780
Phone: (218) 879-3487

37/55 Treaty Alliance
HCR 3, Box 562-7, McGregor, MN 55760