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Tribal members in Minnesota assert treaty right to gather wild rice

Wild rice harvesting in Minnesota. Photo from National Museum of the American Indian

Tribal members harvested wild rice in off-reservation areas of Minnesota on Thursday but didn't face any enforcement actions.

The 1855 Treaty Authority hoped to provoke a court battle in order to settle their treaty rights to the traditional crop. But the Department of National Resources avoided the issue by issuing a special one-day permit that no one asked for.

So tribal members vowed to return to harvesting today. The state is expected to ticket anyone who gathers wild rice without a permit.

“We want to settle it,” Jim Merhar, a member of the White Earth Nation, told The Minneapolis Star Tribune. “The only way you can do it is by getting it into federal court.”

Minnesota Public Radio said a group of tribal members harvested rice for about an hour today without anyone bothering them. However, the state did ticket two tribal members for a different reason -- setting a gillnet for fishing.

The 1855 Treaty Authority believes the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Minnesota v. Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians confirmed their off-reservation rights under the 1855 treaty. The group asked attorney general Lori Swanson to explain her position in an August 22 letter.

Get the Story:
Tribal group asserts wild rice treaty rights (KARE 8/28)
DNR avoids court case by signing off on protest wild rice harvest (The Grand Forks Herald 8/28)
DNR issues citations after treaty rights challenge on Gull Lake (The Minneapolis Star Tribune 8/28)
MN DNR cites tribal members in second day of treaty rights challenge (Minneapolis Public Radio 8/28)
Wild rice protest defused Thursday, may be revived Friday (The Minneapolis Star Tribune 8/27)
DNR issues special permit allowing wild rice harvest today by 1855 Authority (The Brainerd Dispatch 8/27)
Ojibwe rice harvest is latest test of treaty limits in Minnesota (Minnesota Public Radio 8/27)
Off-reservation wild rice harvesting to begin this week, in accordance with 1855 Treaty (KUMD 8/25)

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