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Treaty rights upheld

Feb 04, 2018 08:09AM ● Published by Editor

Members of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Honor Guard, including FDL Chairman Kevin Dupuis (in red), start the ceremonies Monday, Jan. 29, followed by adult dancers Herb Fineday and Emily Smith and youth royalty dancers. More than 100 members of the Band gathered to celebrate the resolution of a legal case protecting the rights of FDL members to hunt, fish and gather on lands ceded as part of the 1854 Treaty. Jana Peterson/jpeterson@pinejournal.com

By Jana Peterson of The Pine Journal on February 3, 2018.

Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Chairman Kevin Dupuis doesn't use the word "treaty" much.

Rather, he prefers to say "principles of sovereignty."

"The 1854 treaty recognized our sovereignty and our way of life," Dupuis said during the welcoming ceremony Monday, Jan. 29, for the Ginakweshkodaadimin ji-jiikakamigiziyaang o' ow isa gii-giizhitooyaang, which translates to "We are meeting with each other to celebrate what we have finished."

What is finished is a 25-year-old legal dispute with the State of Minnesota, dating back to a 1992 federal district court case that upheld the Band's hunting, gathering and fishing rights from the lands ceded under the 1854 Treaty. This land includes portions of Carlton, St. Louis, Lake and Cook counties. It also includes small portions of northern Pine County and east-central Aitkin County.

In November, Band officials signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the State of Minnesota. The MOU details how the state and the Fond du Lac Band will continue to work together to monitor harvest levels for fish and wildlife in connection with the Band's exercise of its off-reservation hunting, fishing and gathering rights. The agreement also reinforces data sharing and communications coordination processes already in place between the State and the Band since 1994.

Band Secretary/Treasurer Ferdinand Martineau Jr. told a story about how he saved his money to go buy a fishing license in Cloquet after he turned 16 because he loved to fish on the North Shore and other places.

"I went home and I was very proud," Martineau said. "I always hunted and fished and tracked with my grandpa, so I showed him. He took that license and tore it up. 'You don't need this; you have something stronger,' he told me. 'You have a treaty. You have treaty rights.' That was my first and last fishing licence."

Martineau recalled the many FDL Band members who fought for their rights to hunt and fish off of the reservation, in the ceded lands, and how some of them went to jail, or had firearms taken away from them because the state had the power.

"The state and federal government recognize what they signed 150 years ago is still valid, and it still guides us," Martineau said. "(The people before us) all fought to keep this dream alive."

Band members marked the occasion with a feast, and an entire afternoon of lectures, talks and panel discussions expanding upon the history and issues related to treaties.

Mike and Fred Tribble talked about Ojibwe treaty rights activism.

Tribal attorneys held a panel discussion on the legal case Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa Indians v. Carlson.

Mary Moose discussed traditional uses and perspective on natural resources while Jeff Savage spoke from a hunter/gatherer perspective.

To round out the afternoon of speakers, FDL Natural Resource Management Director Reginald Defoe talked about "The Path Forward."

The day ended as it began: with drumming and dancing.

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