Letter of the week

On Tribal boundary lawsuit

It’s good the Oct. 23 Messenger included the commentary by Randy Thompson, the attorney defending Mille Lacs County’s interests in the ongoing legal challenges forced by the Mille Lacs Band government’s 2017 lawsuit against the county, county Attorney, and county sheriff.

Attorney Thompson’s column, “The Mille Lacs Band’s Lawsuit: a Legal Context,” also appears in Mille Lacs County’s October Quarterly Newsletter 

on the county’s website. His January, April and July case-related updates are still accessible there.

A few weeks before Traci LeBrun became editor, the May 15 Messenger carried an opinion piece by “Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.” It took issue with Randy Thompson’s April update entitled “Why Does it Matter if the Mille Lacs Reservation Still Exists? Update on the Tribal-related Litigation.”

The Messenger hadn’t published Thompson’s informative April piece. Thus, readers who didn’t search the county’s website couldn’t fairly judge what the unidentified author from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe was criticizing.

Band officials and past Messenger editors have routinely gotten out the message that reservation boundary status and the Band government’s fee-to-trust land applications (like the 21 parcels in Isle) are unimportant, minimal-impact issues. On the contrary, reservations and tribal trust lands are legal Indian Country. Ever-evolving laws–court opinions across the U. S., acts of Congress, presidential orders, policy decisions, etc.–impact both Band members and non-Band members big-time on reservations and trust lands.

While law enforcement issues draw attention locally, know that within legal Indian Country, other biggies exist: tax law; labor and employment law; and the respective reaches of tribal, federal, state, and local governments and their agencies. Think courts, law enforcement, natural resource management, environmental law, gaming, and much more. Yes, a lot of high-impact law attaches to reservations and tribal trust lands.

Thus, the effort by Mille Lacs Band government and supporters to resurrect a long-off-the-maps reservation should not be taken lightly. Randy Thompson’s updates in Mille Lacs County’s Quarterly Newsletter rightfully stress how Kathio, South Harbor, and Isle Harbor townships, and the county, are facing a huge legal challenge.

Some area and state citizens, including tribal enrollees, might not picture the geography involved. As Thompson points out, the “reservation” at issue spans three townships and 61,000 acres, an area roughly 15 times larger than the one traditionally on official Minnesota highway maps. The Mille Lacs Indian Reservation familiar to most Minnesotans is the smaller one—several thousand acres of tribal trust land on the west side of Mille Lacs Lake. While technically not a reservation, it is legal Indian Country.

To some, the much-used “boundary issue” term may sound insignificant, like a mere few yards this way, or a block or two that way. However, the “reservation” in question, if revived, would cover three townships, span the width of Mille Lacs County, and include the towns of Isle, Wahkon, Cove, and Onamia. Big stuff!

What is the former state government’s official position? Here’s a statement I received from Sam Fettig, former press secretary for Governor Mark Dayton, on Sept. 30, 2016: “The Office of the Minnesota Attorney General’s long-stated position is that the boundaries of the Mille Lacs Reservation are limited to the land held in trust by the federal government for the Mille Lacs Band.”

In other words, recent high state officials like DFLers Gov. Mark Dayton and Attorney General Lori Swanson agreed with state highway signage, Mille Lacs County government, and local officials who define “Mille Lacs Indian Reservation” as the several thousand acres of trust land on the west side of Mille Lacs Lake.

The former and most recent Messenger editor, who now works for the Band, harshly scolded Mille Lacs County and town councils for not being transparent enough. Well, the richest and most powerful corporate-political-legal force in the Mille Lacs region is today’s Mille Lacs Band government. Is there a principle in government, politics, academics, and journalism that exempts today’s rich and powerful tribal governments from transparency and accountability?

Like or dislike a specific statement or action of county and town officials. But give them due credit for recognizing that the reservation boundary issue is of ultra-importance for state, county, and local governments, and for citizen interests.

Joe Fellegy, Baxter

Your choices are ...

For the last three years, we have been putting up with a full blown investigation apparently trying to figure out how this man (President Trump) could have possibly been elected, a complete outsider, a non politician.

As I see it, you now have 3 choices:

#1-Trump is a genius and ran this entire operation with Russia by having only a couple of meetings by his staff or son and apparently little to no communication between the parties after that. All this under the nose of everyone and leaving no proof of any collusion.

#2-The government is completely incapable of policing their own and conducting a fair investigation.

#3-Nothing actually happened, and you need to move on.

Even after a full blown investigation, the only indictment/convictions came from Russian oligarchs or people whose actions before the campaign in their private lives put them in legal jeopardy. Other convictions were due to the breaking of the process rules or being coerced into lying.

Now the investigation has taken a turn and is looking into the origins of this whole debacle. Who knew what, when, or who gave the orders to start and continue 

the false narrative. It has even morphed into a criminal investigation.

There was a nerve struck last week when the investigators came into the spotlight, now apparently the left thinks our entire justice system is completely corrupt and taking marching orders from the President. This is the same Justice Department that was so trusted by the left during the initial “Russian Collusion” investigation.

We on the right will once again show our disdain for the Washington status quo at the ballot box.

The continuing daily barrage of Anti-Trump Media coverage is now falling on deaf ears. We no longer care how loud you scream wolf.

This 2020 victory will be even more stunning.

P.S., Please enjoy the next 5 years. I will.

 Steve Johnson, Isle


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