April 10, 1997
This article came out just before yesterday's
federal court injunction on spearing, but
gives a good feel for how serious the treaty
issue in bring taken in Minnesota, and the
"Minnesota Nice" strategy to whittle away
at treaty rights:
MINNESOTA SEEKS CALM IN SPEARING
By Meg Jones and Katherine M. Skiba
of the Journal Sentinel staff
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
April 8, 1997
Minnesota's governor appealed for calm Monday
as two Minnesota Chippewa Indian bands and
six bands from Wisconsin prepared to spearfish
and gillnet on off-reservation lakes under a recent
treaty rights decision.
Mindful of the violent protests that marred the
first few spearfishing seasons in Wisconsin,
Minnesota officials and Gov. Arne Carlson asked
residents not to interfere with the
"In recent weeks, we have seen Minnesotans
come together in extraordinary ways with
neighbors helping neighbors in response to
spring floods. In that same spirit of community,
I urge Minnesotans to settle their differences
the way we always have: calmly and peacefully,"
Carlson said in a three-minute statement
televised statewide [on the TV news].
All six Chippewa bands from Wisconsin will
be allowed to fish on some of the lakes in
Minnesota. The Lac du Flambeau, Lac Courte
Oreilles, Red Cliff, Bad River, Mole Lake
and St. Croix bands joined in the Minnesota
lawsuit in 1995 after a judge determined
they could intervene because of an 1837 treaty.
That treaty ceded the northern one-third of
Wisconsin as well as more than 3 million
acres in what later became Minnesota in return
for money. It also guaranteed that the tribes would
retain hunting, fishing and wild rice gathering rights
in the ceded territory.
When a judge ruled that Wisconsin must allow the
Chippewa bands to spearfish in the late 1980s,
some boat landings became battle zones. In
recent years, though, spearfishing has been
relatively quiet in Wisconsin.
"We've learned a whole lot from Wisconsin,"
said Marcy Dowse, information director for the
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
"While we're not expecting or anticipating
anything, we want to make people understand
we're not going to tolerate interference
in treaty rights."
The Mille Lacs band filed a lawsuit in 1990
and the state negotiated an agreement with
the tribe in 1993. But the Minnesota Legislature
rejected the agreement, sending the issue back
to the courts. The final ruling allowing spearfishing
in Minnesota was handed down in late January. The
state's appeal of the decision could take up to two
A group known as Minnesota Witness for
Non-Violence recently trained treaty-rights
supporters so they are prepared when they show
up at boat landings to support Native Americans.
"We don't want anybody to get hurt," said Pat Eyrich,
one of the group's coordinators. "The intention is
to allow these native people to practice their
traditional ways of fishing, hunting and gathering."
Unlike Wisconsin, where some sportsmen's groups
encouraged protesting, hook-and-line anglers in
Minnesota are preaching good behavior, Dowse said.
Bud Grant, spokesman for Proper Economic Resource
Management (PERM), said anglers don't like the
decision but will fight it in court -- and not on
"We've gotten that word out. I haven't talked to
anybody who plans to show up and do anything,"
said Grant, former coach of the Minnesota Vikings.
"We use the ugly example of Wisconsin," Grant said
in a phone interview Monday. "There's lots of
things Wisconsin did wrong that we've benefited
from. We got the landowners involved in the suit,
so they can't make any deals without us. The counties
have gotten involved, so the state can't strike
a deal behind our backs."
Spearfishing opponents are not racists, Grant said,
but only want to protect natural resources.
"We have a group of people who, because of their
race, are allowed to do things on public waters
that others are not allowed to do," Grant said.
"It's got nothing to do with racism. We just don't think
But Eyrich said Minnesota spearing opponents were
spreading hysteria and misinformation.
"Bud Grant is using and exploiting his image to
persuade a group of very misinformed people," Eyrich said.
Attorney Jim Genia, who represents the Mille Lacs
band, said Monday that the Indian harvest on
Mille Lacs Lake -- regarded as a premier walleye lake
about 85 miles north of the Twin Cities --
will be about 9% of the yearly harvest by sport anglers
during each of the last five years.
The bands plan to take about 40,000 walleye on
29 Minnesota lakes. The Wisconsin bands' planned harvest
on more than 200 lakes will be announced this week.
Last year, the tribes harvested about 28,000 fish in
Wisconsin, down from the 1995 record of 30,000 fish.
Minnesota tribal members will be allowed to spearfish
in Wisconsin if they receive permits from individual
The Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission,
which represents 11 Chippewa bands, is helping run
the Native American spearing and netting in Minnesota.
Spokeswoman Sue Erickson said that even with the
potential for trouble, the mood is upbeat, Erickson said.
"To be able to exercise a right that you've had for
all these years -- and been deprived of unjustly --
is a real cause for celebration," she said.