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My door is open, let’s talk - MessAge Media: Vivian Lamoore

My door is open, let’s talk

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Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2019 6:00 am

There are apparently, still people out there – many of whom I respect – including educated regular folks, government officials and attorneys, who do not fully understand the ramifications of the boundary battle. So here it is, plain and simple: If Mille Lacs County wins the current federal lawsuit regarding the 61,000 acre Mille Lacs Band reservation boundary, nothing will change in the lives of non-Indians. If Mille Lacs Band wins the boundary battle lawsuit, nothing will change in the lives of non-Indians.

But what will happen for Mille Lacs Band members if the Band wins the lawsuit? Nothing. Nothing other than to gain the satisfaction of knowing the promise made to their ancestors so many years ago about that invisible line around their land, still exists. And if the Band does not win, the complete opposite, of course. Nothing will happen other than Band members may feel the indescribable feeling of being cheated once again.

There has been a long-term widespread fear and anxiety programed into the minds of many Mille Lacs area folks that has them living in constant unjustified distress that one day they are going to wake up and find out they live on an Indian reservation. They fear the Mille Lacs Band will tax them for using the land and the lake; or someone from the Band will knock on their door and tell them to move out because the house their family has lived in for 75 years is now the property of the Band. They fear all 61,000 acres of the 1855 treaty will be placed into federal trust immediately and taken off the county tax roll.

These fears are unjustified, but are nothing new. In 2000 Mille Lacs County Attorney Janelle Kendall wrote a letter to the Mille Lacs County Board of Commissioners stating she had been personally informed of a “safety issue starting to arise as a result of unrest created by widespread misinformation about the ability of the Mille Lacs Band to tax, prosecute and zone non-Indians....”

Kendall continued by explaining the Band cannot assess property taxes, income taxes, school taxes or any other government-imposed tax on non-Indians, whether living or working on or off the reservation, unless the non-Indan is engaged in doing business with the Band or as part of a contract of employment with the Band.

This part is very important. Kendall stated, “Contrary to claims apparently being made, the Band cannot impose property taxes on non-Indians. Even if the reservation boundaries included the disputed 61,000 acres, non-Indian residents would still be subject to property taxation only by the State and Federal Governments, just as they are today.... Additionally, the state and county clearly can tax Band-owned fee land, on or off the reservation.... all the Band has to gain by litigating the boundary issue is a likely unchallenged right to zone Indians on what would then be a larger reservation. A bigger reservation would not legally create significantly different exercise of tribal authority over non-Indians within those boundaries. The law just doesn’t allow it.”

To those of you who remain fearful of the unknown, I would like to open my door for you to come and discuss with me face-to-face without any judgment on my part or yours in a non-adversarial approach, about your fears regarding the boundary issue. I would like hear your concerns. I am willing to listen with an open mind to what you have to say. I would expect the same in return.

I am in no way suggesting Mille Lacs County “throw in the towel” when it comes to the current federal lawsuit. I believe wholeheartedly it is time for a final decision based on facts to be made by a federal judge. If the lawsuit, as I suspect it may, continues on to the Supreme Court, then that decision will have to be recognized by all residents, Band members, tribal and government officials of Mille Lacs County, the State of Minnesota and the United States as a whole. Granted, the lawsuit is costing the county and the Band an exorbitant amount of money. (We will continue to keep track of the county totals.) But it will finally end the feud – no matter what the outcome.

In the meantime, we should not continue to harbor fear of the unknown nor should we continue to spread frightening and exaggerated rumors of an impending danger thereby provoking public fear. If such tactics had worked in past history, there would still be slavery, women would not be allowed to vote or hold public office, schools would still be segregated and alcohol would still be illegal. (Concept borrowed from Janelle Kendall.)

I challenge Mille Lacs County government officials to look closely at the relationship between the Mille Lacs Band and Pine County government. Representatives from both governments, tribal and county, meet monthly to educate each other about programs, evaluate what is working and what is not and discuss how both sides can enhance opportunities for both communities.

This is the beginning of a new calendar year. Let us find a way to be a bridge to a more harmonious community. My door is open. Let’s talk.

Vivian LaMoore is the editor of the Messenger.

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1 comment:

  • DJJ posted at 12:16 pm on Sat, Feb 2, 2019.

    DJJ Posts: 10

    Dear Vivian,

    Thank you once again for providing a courageous voice of reason. What you state regarding expected change, regardless of which way the current federal lawsuit is decided, is accurate. Having worked on Pine Ridge Reservation for a decade, I am confident that you have accurately quoted the law.

    I cannot join you in support of taking the current lawsuit all the way to its logical end in the Supreme Court. As stated, the decision will change nothing for the non-Indians and the discordant history of Indian-White relations will remain unchanged. The lawsuit will cost ALL Mille Lacs County taxpayers, even those who don't own land within the disputed boundary, and it will not bring peaceful relations because the core issues will remain unaddressed.

    The core issues in this dispute remain spiritual/religious trust issues. Are we one people under God with equality of all peoples and can we trust God to provide enough for all or do we have to steal from our neighbors to satisfy our needs? In large part, the local religious community leaders have failed to openly and specifically witness to and lead the local communities to these truths that we are all God's children and will be provided for by a loving God.


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