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Thanksgiving for all

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A couple of weeks ago, we all celebrated Thanksgiving. I am always grateful for the bounty of our land. This fall, I am especially grateful, as on Nov. 25, the Minnesota federal court, recognized that Anishinaabe people have a right to continue that covenant with the Creator to live that Anishinaabe life.

I am thankful to the Anishinaabeg men who were hauled into state court charged with buying and selling walleyes from lakes on the Leech Lake and Red Lake reservations. Those men had their charges dismissed. I am thankful to these men and to our ancestors, who negotiated complex treaty agreements with the U.S. government in 1837, 1842, 1855 and 1867. They are agreements between all of our ancestors.

On Nov. 25, just before Thanksgiving, Federal Judge John Tunheim upheld those agreements. Judge Tunheim dismissed the indictments of five Anishinaabeg who were arrested in a major “fish poaching case” on Leech Lake reservation, saying that the men were protected under the 1837 treaty. I am thankful he did.

I would like our people to live from a land which is well taken care of. I would like us to carry on our way of life in peace.

To do this, our treaty rights need to be respected and our people need to eat the foods we were given and be able to care for our land and waters. As Anishinaabe Robert Shimek explained in a KKWE radio interview, “This is the classic clash between the culture of the state of Minnesota, the U.S., and those of our Indian people who uphold our Anishinaabe belief system and way of life. This is where we keep colliding in the courts, because we were instructed to take care of this earth in a certain type of way. And to respect and honor all things in the creation in a certain kind of way and to utilize these parts of the creation in a certain kind of order to sustain ourselves. It’s about two different ways: our life – an indigenous way of life - and the other way of life."

At the time of these indictments, Jim Konrad, law enforcement director for the State DNR, called this a “very big deal.” That is because the state of Minnesota continues to try and limit the Anishinaabe in our traditional way of life. And the state of Minnesota spent around $19 million on the litigation in the Mille Lacs 1837 Treaty lawsuit, two decades ago. The 1837 Treaty provided that the Chippewa Indians would cede these territories to the United States in exchange for cash and goods.The privilege of hunting, fishing and gathering the wild rice upon the lands, the rivers and the lakes included in the territory ceded is guaranteed.

I find it ironic that the state of Minnesota spends so much time trying to arrest Indians and trying to reduce tribal rights, keeping Native people off the land. And yet, in the same breath, spends so little time trying to protect that same land, waterways and those same fish from the mercury contamination and sulfuric acid associated with mines and coal-fired power plants, not to mention proposed pipelines.

I am thankful we are reminded of our rights, responsibilities, and our covenant to each other. I’m thankful that we have an opportunity to do the right thing.

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