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State of Minnesota, Fond du Lac Band reach agreement on treaty rights

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the state of Minnesota announced Friday that they've reached a formal agreement to manage the band's hunting, fishing and gathering rights.

Fond du Lac Ojibwe School students harvest wild rice on Dead Fish Lake in 2007. File / News Tribune
Fond du Lac Ojibwe School students harvest wild rice on Dead Fish Lake in 2007. File / News Tribune

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the state of Minnesota announced Friday that they've reached a formal agreement to manage the band's hunting, fishing and gathering rights.

The agreement solidifies informal cooperation that has been in place for more than two decades, the two parties announced in a news release, and "resolves issues stemming from a 1992 federal district court case in which the court upheld the Fond du Lac Band's rights to hunt, fish and gather natural resources from the lands ceded under the 1854 Treaty."

"The exercise of our hunting, fishing and gathering rights under our 1854 Treaty is central to the lives, culture and traditions of the Fond du Lac people. It is inaadiziwin - our way of life," Kevin Dupuis, chairman of the Fond du Lac Band, said in a news release. "Because of the critical importance of these rights, the band has worked extensively to ensure proper management of the natural resources on which those rights depend. We are very pleased that our work on these issues, and our history of coordination with the state on natural resource matters, allows us to now formalize those processes in (a memorandum of understanding) with the state of Minnesota."

"I thank Chairman Dupuis, and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, for working with the state of Minnesota to formally establish these important game management practices," Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said in a news release.

The memorandum outlines how the state and the band will continue to work to monitor fish and wildlife harvest levels in connection with the band's treaty rights, and reinforces data-sharing and coordination that has been in place since 1994.

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"The public won't see much for changes to hunting or fishing regulations because of this MOU," Tom Landwehr, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said in the news release. "The Fond du Lac Band's harvest rights under the 1854 Treaty are already established and they have been exercising those rights under terms of their conservation code for many years. The MOU allows the state of Minnesota and Fond du Lac Band to effectively manage individual harvests, resolve disputes, and coordinate on projects."

The memorandum:

  • formalizes processes for shared data collection and harvest management for fishing, and potential commercial fishing on Lake Superior.
  • clarifies the band's and the state's roles in determining wildlife harvest levels, and calls for sharing of harvest data.
  • determines moose harvest levels for the band, tied to moose survey data and estimates conducted by the DNR with support from the band. "The agreement includes provisions that both band and state of Minnesota biologists believe will protect the moose population in Northeastern Minnesota," the news release states. "This agreement will not immediately change existing moose hunting regulations."
  • creates committees of tribal and state representatives to discuss resource management
  • establishes a conflict-resolution process for any disputes between the state and band.

The ceded territory from the 1854 Treaty covers all or most of St. Louis, Carlton, Cook and Lake counties, as well as parts of Pine and Aitkin counties.
In 1985 three Chippewa bands - Grand Portage, Bois Forte and Fond du Lac - sued the state to exercise rights under the 1854 Treaty. In 1988, the state signed an agreement with the bands that, in effect, paid them not to use those treaty rights.

One year later, Fond du Lac pulled out of the agreement. In 1992, the band filed suit to begin using their rights under the treaty, and prevailed in federal court - though some issues were left unresolved until the new agreement was signed.

MORE INFORMATION

Read the memorandum of understanding here

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