The Mille Lacs area always seems to be under a black cloud of conflict and controversy. Whether it’s the management of the Mille Lacs fishery or the difficulties of local government relationships and agreements, we all as residents are affected by it one way or another. Most of us never notice the effect on our daily lives, but we are constantly reminded of it when some media outlets do a story on our area. They will often dig into any negative source (no matter how ill-informed) and put out half truths and never look back; meanwhile, we clean up the mess.
Will this current lawsuit brought upon Mille Lacs County by the Mille Lacs Band (probably years of court rulings ahead) put to rest the question: do the original boundaries of the 61,000 acre Reservation still exist?
Both sides of course have attorneys representing them with the promise of a win, and both sides have confidence in their arguments.
As a resident, business owner and township chair, I have questions as to the repercussions of a loss for the county and re-establishment of the Reservation.
Local media and the Mille Lacs Band have tried to reassure the area residents that nothing will change for the Indians or non-Indians living within the 61,000 acres if the Band wins.
The county is simply reacting to a lawsuit that threatens to uproot the status quo of the area. County commissioners are trying to uphold their oath of office and the rule of law.
No matter the origins of this current case, it seems that both sides are dug in and willing to follow this all the way to the Supreme Court.
Will the end of this finally bring peace to the valley?
I certainly hope so. We all deserve a little reprieve from the negative light and storm clouds surrounding us.
Guest columnist Steve Johnson is a local businessman and member of the Mille Lacs Fishery Advisory Committee, Eastside Township Board Chair, Mille Lacs County Planning Commission, Mille Lacs Tourism Treasurer.