MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, with the support of Gov. Tim Walz, has reaffirmed the boundaries of the Mille Lacs Reservation.
According to Mille Lacs Band Of Ojibwe Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin, Wednesday will “go down in history” because the official position of the State of Minnesota is now that the reservation – approximately 61,000 acres on southern shore of Mille Lacs Lake — exists and was never diminished or reestablished.
“The State is in agreement that the original boundaries negotiated by our Tribal Leaders in 1855 are fully intact and always have been! We welcome this acknowledgement by the State of Minnesota of what has long been the position of the two parties to the Treaty — the United States of America and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe,” Benjamin said.
Ellison filed the position in court in response to a lawsuit filed against the State of Minnesota by Mille Lacs County elected officials. County officials claimed the State must pay their attorney fees in the law enforcement lawsuit between the band and the county because the County was supporting the State’s position that the reservation boundaries no longer exist.
The State disputed the County’s request and wrote: “The County Attorney and County Sheriff are not acting on behalf of the State because the State’s position is that the Mille Lacs Indian Reservation has never been diminished or disestablished.”
So, after years of contention whether the reservation or boundaries exist, it is now the position of State that the 1855 reservation exists.
According to the Pioneer Press, Mille Lacs County officials are warning that multiple government functions, “from business licenses to taxes to environmental regulations to perhaps southern-shore access to some of the lake’s prized walleye-fishing waters,” could be impacted by this move.
“None of this is true. We have no authority – and no intent – to impose business licenses or taxes on our non-Indian neighbors. EPA has exercised environmental jurisdiction on the reservation for many years without incident and there is no reason to expect this to change. Access to and regulation of the Mille Lacs walleye fishery also will not change,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin said that while the acknowledgment changes nothing for non-native neighbors, it has great meaning to her people.