Channel 3 reported that the ruling would "allow the Chippewa to spear
and net as many fish as they wanted."
I was a reporter on January 25, 1983, when the UPI reported that the
LCO v. Voight Decision "would give the Chippewa unlimited hunting, fishing
and gathering rights." Fourteen years of education, some filled with
bitter violence against the Chippewa, has not made a wit of difference
to Channel 3.I wonder what the other media are reporting?
The above reports are simply INCORRECT. The court found the state of
Minnesota guilty of illegally preventing the Chippewa from exercising
our reserved rights; and that the Chippewa will be able to have limited
access to our resources without facing illegal arrests. But regional
TV viewers will have gone to bed believing that the Chippewa were "given"
"unlimited rights" by the federal courts. The ruling didn't give rights:
it affirmed existing rights. The rights are limited and subject to intense
regulation. Channel 3, and any other media that fails to understand
and accurately report this ruling, should be held accountable and responsible
for any violence the Chippewa may face in the future. For they have
misled the public. Once again misunderstanding of Chippewa Treaty rights
Channel 3 also reported that Minnesota will aggressively pursue yet
another appeal. Fourteen years ago Wisconsin did exactly the same thing,
and on October 3, 1983 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal.
It was then, and is now, a waste of taxpayer's money and emotion for
Minnesota to appeal.
No new facts have been uncovered since the last appeal. Like then,
this bravado move by Minnesota will only serve to give false hope to
those who seek to continue denying the Chippewa our legal rights.
Minnesota should call it quits and begin the process of public education
that is needed to inform citizens (and evidently, the media) about this
ruling. As long as the state and its leaders continue this fruitless
fight they are signaling Minnesotans that the court is wrong. Here in
Wisconsin, such signals led to violence and racist demonstrations against
the Chippewa, years of conflict, millions in law enforcement expense,
nation wide publicity, and ultimately a costly civil rights case against
the anti-Indian groups.
If anything has been learned here in Wisconsin, it's that the state
cannot win in the social and political arena what it has lost in the
court. To try endangers the reputation of the entire state.
I call on all Minnesotans to reject the state's delay in accepting
the ruling. I also call upon state and community leaders to host meetings
to explain the rulings.
Failing this educational process, I call upon clergy and other peace
makers to immediately convene an ad hoc panel to determine how peace
and justice can prevail in Minnesota with Chippewa Treaty rights.
Walt Bresette is an award winning author and lecturer on Chippewa
Treaties, and co-founder of the Witness for Non-violence. 715-799-5071
WITNESS FOR NONVIOLENCE REACTIVATED
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. [Numerous Witness trainings have
been or will be held in Minneapolis, Duluth/Superior, Ashland, Eau Claire,
and Madison, with well over 100 Witnesses trained so far.]
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 spearfishing 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
Proper Economic Resources Management (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 on the 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, P.O. Box
14382, Madison WI 53714-4382 (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.
VOLUNTEERS SET TO KEEP WATCH AMID SPEARING
'Witness' groups will be trained to help defuse violent protests
over Indian treaty rights--and to document any trouble
By Larry Oakes,
Northern Minnesota Correspondent,
March 20, 1997, page B1.
If opponents of Indian spearfishing and netting show up to protest
at east-central Minnesota boat landings next month, they may be on candid
Across the state and in northern Wisconsin, supporters of Indian treaty
rights are recruiting volunteer 'witnesses' who will be trained to endure
verbal abuse, defuse violence is possible and document it if not.
"They're kind of a physical buffer between the spearers and those
who might protest, and they document what goes on" with testimony and
cameras, said Jim Northrup, a Minnesota Chippewa from the Fond du Lac
He says he's been grateful for the presence of witnesses during his
annual spearfishing outings. "They do it in a nonviolent way, and I
know that some, as part of their training, swear at each other."
With such tactics as supplying government data on fish populations,
talking protesters out of violence, and videotaping crimes, witnesses
were a presence at treaty rights protests in northern Wisconsin during
the late 1980s. Some say the 2,000 Witnesses for Non-Violence members
are one reason the trouble eventually evaporated there.
"We bring in legal people to train them on the law, and we do some
role-playing so they know what to expect," says Pat Eyrich of Minneapolis,
co-coordinator of Minnesota Witness for Non-Violence. The group is reactivating
in Minnesota after several years of relative peace at Wisconsin boat
Eyrich, a member of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Chippewa in Wisconsin,
said four training sessions are scheduled in Minneapolis next month,
with the first on April 4 at the Walker Community United Methodist Church,
3104 16th Ave. S. More training may be offered in Duluth and in Wisconsin.
"We're hoping they won't be needed, that non-Indian anglers will respect
the court's decision and realize that we don't plan to deplete the resources,"
Walt Bresette, an activist and member of the Red Cliff Band of Chippewa
in Wisconsin, said he formed Witness for Non-Violence in the late 1980s
after hearing a former congressman speak about using witnesses to help
document violence in Central America.
"I got up and said, 'If you can't go to Central America, come to northern
Wisconsin,' where protests had started to escalate. Groups in Madison
and Milwaukee immediately took up the call."
John LaForge of Luck, Wis., was an early member. "The witnesses went
out in the hope of having a dialogue with the protesters and exposing
them to the fact that the numbers of fish taken annually by spearing"
is small in comparison to those taken by sport anglers, he said. "But
it turned out to be impossible to have a dialogue, because a lot of
the protesters were in a mood to yell and scream, and alcohol was involved."
So, LaForge said, over the course of two years the witnesses moved
to a position of documenting and observing incidents. "We were pretty
successful in defusing protests on this [west] side of the state."
Brian Pierson, a Milwaukee attorney who on behalf of Indians and the
American Civil Liberties Union won a civil rights case against protesters,
said he used testimony from a member of the witness group.
"I had some admiration for [witnesses'] wanting to be up there and
make a statement by their presence, objecting to some of the racism
that was very apparent at these landings," he said.
Kathy Anderson, of Duluth, acted as a witness in Wisconsin and said
she will sign up again if protesters force the issue.
"We're talking about a century-old injustice, and I don't think it's
ever too late to right that," she said. "The Indian people are a small
group, so it's up to the rest of us to help out."