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The Treaties

14 September 2009

By Reginald Defoe and Dave Wilsey

FDL Resource Management and UMN Extension

One hundred fifty five years ago, when the leaves began to change color under waatebagaa giizis, a treaty between the Lake Superior Chippewa and the United States was signed in La Pointe, WI on September 30. Like all treaties it was a historic, life-changing event.

The 1854 Treaty created Fond du Lac Reservation, abandoning the Chippewa Removal Policy by establishing permanent homelands for the Chippewa in MN, WI, and MI. Thirteen treaties have been signed with the Chippewa since the year of 1795, ceding millions of acres of land to the United States.  One of the few positive outcomes for Fond du Lac Reservation in the 1837 and 1854 Treaties was created by a small clause that ensured Band members’ the right to hunt and fish on lands ceded to the United States.

These two treaties laid the foundation for present day tribal management of natural resources. At Fond du Lac, this process began with the hiring of one conservation officer. A conservation committee was formed in 1976, and by that fall the first conservation code was completed. Lack of recognition of treaty-defined rights led to court cases that, among other things, hastened the development of Fond du Lac’s Resource Management Division.

In 1985, the Grand Portage Band sued the state of Minnesota in federal court for the right to hunt and fish in the ceded territories without the restrictions of Minnesota state law; Fond du Lac and Bois Forte subsequently joined the lawsuit. Phase II of the Fond du Lac case began in 2000; it addresses the scope of harvest rights in the 1854 ceded territory. To date, negotiations are ongoing. Today the FDL Resource Management Division has around 60 permanent and 20 seasonal employees and high school / college interns.

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