For more information contact: Jodi Boyne 651-296-0640
To the Editor:
I appreciate the fact that Melanie Benjamin, chief executive of the Mille Lacs Band, wants to make us aware of her concerns about legislation that Senator Betsy Wergin and I introduced to clear up a mistake in the tribal police law enacted in 1991. The oversight in the law is that it requires the state to recognize the 1855 boundaries as the reservation of the Mille Lacs Band; boundaries which the Band agreed to relinquish a century ago.
Senator Wergin and I introduced this legislation to clear up the confusion in the law that causes problems that hinder public safety. Furthermore, it affirms the fact that the laws of Minnesota apply to all citizens of our state. Whether enforcement is by local police, the sheriff or by tribal police as they perform their duties in the county and in the area of two casinos and other trust property, we must be able to give them our respect and support for enforcement of the law.
Since the early 20th century, the State of Minnesota has recognized the land on which the Mille Lacs Band resides at Lake Mille Lacs, Sandy Lake, Hinckley and other small parcels as about 3,000 acres of trust land only, even though the land may be commonly referred to as a reservation. According to documents written by former governors, current Governor Tim Pawlenty and Attorney General Mike Hatch, the state supports the position that the Mille Lacs Reservation of 1855 was disestablished by a Supreme Court decision of 1913. In fact, the Mille Lacs Band even sold the land during negotiations of the 1864 Treaty.
According to the Nelson Act of 1889, the band agreed to the provisions of the act and to “express relinquishment of the lands in the Mille Lacs Reservation.” Subsequently, the Supreme Court decision of 1913 reaffirmed the agreements made in the Nelson Act, stating “The (Nelson Act) Commission, the Secretary of Interior and the President, in seeking, obtaining, and approving the relinquishment of that reservation, all treat it as within the purview of the act, and the Mille Lacs did the same.”
To make the point even more strongly for the change in law, I remind the citizens of Mille Lacs County and the state that tribal members attested to the fact that there was trust land only at Mille Lacs for most of the 20th Century. Not until the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act passed Congress in 1988 did the Mille Lacs Band assert that a reservation existed and that it consisted of 61,000 acres
It is vital that we work together to help solve the problems that plague the county in regard to meth and other drug-related crimes. Stating the state’s position correctly in law does not change that and certainly does not diminish the authority of either the Mille Lacs County Sheriff and local police or the authority of the tribal police of the Mille Lacs Band.
So I ask, if members of the Mille Lacs Band attested to living on trust land only for nearly a century, why is Chief Benjamin personally attacking me for defending and protecting what Band members and other leaders acknowledged and agreed to over a century ago?
State Representative District 16A
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