Bluestem readers who have been following our coverage of the retro resistance to funding the White Earth Nation's Legacy funds request to buy and protect property by the Wild Rice River should check out Pioneer Press outdoors reporter Dave Orrick's White Earth land buy snarled in racial suspicions, wolf worries.
The question of whether Minnesota Legacy Amendment funds should be used to buy land for American Indian tribes has resurfaced at the state Capitol, with key supporters of one proposal crying foul after lawmakers stripped the project from a funding bill.
Tribal sovereignty, wolf hunting and racial tensions are all bound up in the controversy.
At issue is $2.2 million for the White Earth Nation to buy and protect nearly 2,000 acres of woods and meadows around Wild Rice River west of Bemidji in Clearwater County. The project was supported by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, which recommends how to spend about $100 million annually for wildlife habitat from the Outdoor Heritage Fund – a third of Legacy Amendment proceeds approved by voters in 2008.
After tracing the recent legislative history of the controversy, Orrick delves into the crux of the matter:
In March, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said he hadn’t taken a stand on the controversy, but he said the debate is about more than $12,000 in property taxes.
“Turning land over to an Indian nation, everybody knows that’s the controversial part of it,” Daudt said. He declined to elaborate.
Issue of wolf hunting
White Earth officials say nothing about the land would change under tribal control: It would still be open to the nontribal public, and state laws would still regulate hunting and fishing.
Except wolf hunting.
Regarding wolves as kindred spirits, Indian tribes around the Great Lakes have opposed killing the animals and have not allowed hunting and trapping [of wolves] on tribal lands. . . .
“The majority of opposition we’ve seen is either racist against the White Earth Band or not wanting the White Earth Band to be allowed their God-given right to practice their religion,” Kahn said during the Legacy Committee meeting March 17.
A similar controversy erupted two years ago when the Fond du Lac band of Lake Superior Chippewa sought $2.8 million to buy 956 acres in northeast Minnesota. The project was passed over by the Outdoor Heritage Council in 2012 amid similar arguments about control of the land and wolf hunting. But in 2013, the project won council approval and was left untouched in the Legislature, which was controlled by DFLers at the time.
While a majority of the 12-member council supported the White Earth project, there was some opposition to it and to any use of the tax money to buy land for Indians unless the tribe surrenders its sovereignty over those property.
“I believe that the lands should be under the same rules as all the other state lands,” said Bob Anderson, the council’s current chairman and mayor of International Falls. “And they’re not, not when it comes to the taking of fish or game. We need to be under the same rules. That keeps the sportsman from becoming a victim in all this.”
Read the whole article (we've linked to the version of the piece at the PiPress partner DLOnline).
Bluestem isn't opposed to wolf hunting, but believe that tribal sovereignty and tribal cultural practice should be respected. Moreover, the White Earth Band's project does what the Legacy Amendment is intended to do for water quality and habitat preservation are concerned.
As far as wolf hunting goes, when and if the federal court ban on hunting wolves in the Upper Midwest is lifted, one would think that, given the limited number of permits issued and kills allowed (3,800 hunting and trapping licenses with a harvest of 250 wolves in 2014), that a few folks' racial bias and misunderstanding of tribal sovereignty can be laid aside for the sake of 2200 acres.
For early Bluestem posts about this issue, check out:
Photo: Generic North Minnesota scene.
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