Leech Lake, White Earth plan treaty rights eventby Tom Robertson, Minnesota Public Radio
Mahnomen, Minn. — Ojibwe band members will highlight their claim to treaty-based hunting and fishing rights by staging two separate events in Bemidji May 14, a day before the state's walleye fishing opener.
A group of tribal members say they'll fish without a state license in Diamond Point Park on Lake Bemidji. They're hoping to push the 1855 treaty issue into court.
Leech Lake and White Earth government leaders oppose the fishing event. They'll host a public treaty rights forum in the park on the same day.
"If people show up on May 14 and want to throw a hook and a line in Lake Bemidji without a state permit, they should do that," said Bob Shimek, organizer of the fishing event. "I think it's good to send the message to the state that we're not going to take their harassment anymore."
White Earth councilman Terry Tibbetts said leaders favor a slower approach.
"I can't go tell another man that you can't go hunt or gather or fish; that's up to him," Tibbetts said. "But what we're saying is we're tending to step back a little bit, hold the breaks a little bit. We want to make sure that everything is lined up for us before we go ahead. It's going to happen, but not today or tomorrow. It'll be there. We're talking about what's inherently ours."
State DNR officials say they'll issue citations to those who fish before the season opens.
Shimek said he hopes DNR enforcement officials issue citations to the anglers. He said the goal is to get the treat issue into court.