People in the Mille Lacs Lake are sitting on potentially two of the most volatile issues that have faced us in the past 15 years – the questions of Indian treaty and spearing rights.
The resolution of these issues makes earlier questions of fishhouse uses, school consolidation and new school referendum votes seem like minor skirmishes and small potatoes.
Because of our lake’s proximity to the Twin Cities, its visibility and its long history as the state’s top walleye producer, the potential for the Twin City media to come up here and further inflame people and events with stories such as “Mille Lacs ready to boil over” or “Sides drawn as conflict nears” are distinct possibilities.
We should all remember that these Twin City media people don’t live here and that they will simply be looking for the quick, visual story. Like the businessman, resorters, property owners and Indians of Wisconsin, we are the ones who will have to pick up the pieces and get on with our lives long after any possible confrontations or boycotts have ended.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has three objectives in their treaty negotiations with the Mille Lacs Band: to protect the resource, to minimize conflict, and to make sure both sides get a fair deal. We all have to trust them to accomplish these ends.
Our challenge as a newspaper during the next few weeks and months is to inform people about the issues at stake as best we can and our bottom line policy on any letter to the editor or new story will remain – have we added something to the public’s overall understanding and knowledge and will the community be a better place because we ran this particular piece? We intend to follow these guidelines closely throughout the upcoming negotiation and settlement process.
Because we are anticipating many letters, both pro and con, regarding the negotiations, we need to once again clarify our position regarding letters to the editor on these issues.
1. All letters regarding treaty rights and spearing must be signed. We think that this policy will not only help provide fairness and balance in our coverage of the issues, but it will help insure that those who speak out will remain as accurate as possible in their responses and with their opinions.
2. The deadline for letters on treaty rights and spearing issues will be each Friday at noon. This will enable us to have time to solicit responses to questions raised and to clarify any matters of fact in the same issue. Our deadline for letters on all other topics will remain Monday at noon.
3. We reserve the right to edit any and all letters. We feel letter should express opinions and elicit responses. But we will not run letters that are racist in nature or that are meant to inflame events or slander on either side of the issue.
From what we can determine, the negotiations are moving along and could b settled in the very near future.
The sooner the better, we hope.