I was disappointed in our Gov. Tim Walz yet again last week. Without meeting with the officials of Mille Lacs County, Gov. Walz chose to support Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s official opinion regarding the disputed boundaries of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Reservation.
Not only did Gov. Walz not meet with county officials, as they have been requesting for months, but he chose to drive right past the Mille Lacs Historic Courthouse located just blocks off of Hwy. 169 and proceed to the recent State of the Band Address.
Even former democratic Gov. Dayton met with Mille Lacs County and lent them his ear on the issues they would be dealing with if the current Reservation boundaries were expanded.
None of this happened with this governor, and that is disappointing.
Also historically, Gov. Walz was the first Minnesota Governor to attend a State of the Band Address at the Mille Lacs Grand Casino. He was seated next to the Band’s Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin and spoke at the Address. Walz is certainly welcome to do this, but if he would have afforded the same time and admiration to the county, a branch of his own government, he may have understood the complexities of the situation regarding the reservation boundary dispute before joining forces with Keith Ellison.
Though we have no way of knowing the implications of Walz and Ellison’s actions, what we do know is they have undermined a form of their own government and essentially thrown Mille Lacs County under the bus to side with the Mille Lacs Band.
I do understand that Band members are Walz and Ellison’s constituents, but the Band has also made it clear that they are heading toward more sovereignty. Sovereignty away from the State of Minnesota.
In supporting Ellison’s court filing, Gov. Walz clearly chose one group of citizens he doesn’t govern, the Mille Lacs Band, over another group of citizens he does govern, the non-Band members living in Mille Lacs County.
I don’t take issue with the Band’s desire to have land. I understand that. I also understand how non-Band members may be concerned over this as this is the land that has been settled for over 100 years. My issue is with Governor Walz’s lack of due diligence in not sitting down with the county or taking the time to speak with the cities of Isle or Wahkon.
Through all of this, however, no decision on boundaries will be made through any unkind actions taken by one side against the other. There are fine people on both sides: the Mille Lacs Band and non-Band residents of Mille Lacs County.
It is my hope that as we move forward in this federal lawsuit, one that may likely be ended by a Supreme Court ruling, people will act in honorable ways. Ones that would demonstrate the kindness that each of the representing cultures pride themselves on.
Traci LeBrun is the editor of the Messenger.