How Would You Like to Live in a Country with a 60-Cent Dollar?
By Howard B. Hanson
Since this article was written, thousands of sports-fishing-related small businesses have gone broke because of Treaty Rights commercial gillnetting across our country. Coupled with Tribal gambling proceeds taking fee land off of the property tax rolls and placing it into Tribal trust lands has contributed greatly to our dollar falling to the level of the Canadian dollar.
We wish you could have been with us in Washington, D.C. this past December 2nd. We traveled there with a couple dozen friends from Minnesota to hear oral arguments for the Mille Lacs band vs. Minnesota treaty lawsuit before the Supreme Court Of the United States of America.
For me, personally, the hearing was the culmination of a very long and arduous journey. It was a twelve year trip which had all of the physical, mental, and financial woes of a grueling expedition. Nine years ago, with $500,000 of your federal tax dollars, the Mille Lacs band sued the citizens of the state of Minnesota to put commercial gill nets in all the public waters of a huge area of our state. The Fond du Lac and White Earth bands also filed law suits. The three treaty claims covered the northern two thirds of Minnesota and extended into North and South Dakota. A public notice had been filed by the Sioux, that land claims were also forthcoming for huge areas of Southern Minnesota.
Having studied the issue for three years, it looked to me like at least eighty percent of Minnesota, which is all "ceded territory," was destined for social and economic chaos caused by changing Federal Indian Policies. Most of these changes have happened since the American Indian Movement was formed in the 60’s in Minneapolis.
With a handful of people, including former Minnesota Vikings head coach Bud Grant, we started a "Save Minnesota" campaign and created a plan to intervene private landowners as full parties to the law suits. We intervened landowners in the Mille Lac and Fond du Lac cases, and we were just getting ready to intervene in the White Earth case when it was put on hold, probably pending the outcome of the other two lawsuits. Private property owners clearly have individual interests that extend beyond the state’s interests in providing access to, and managing the public’s resources. Governors and Attorneys General may not be able to, or be interested in, protecting the interests of private landowners in treaty cases. If they don’t you need to form an organization, get legal representation and file to intervene as full parties to the case.
We first had to stop a secretly negotiated settlement in the Minnesota legislature while we were going through three appeals in court for landowner intervention. We then had to appeal three times in the federal court system to reach the Supreme Court. Through the efforts of an organization called Proper Economic Resource Management, Inc. we raised over $1,500,000.00 and still have a couple hundred- thousand dollars of debt to pay off. The good side to this story is that we should win this case and save our state from what has happened in Canada. Then through CERA and CIRCA we can help you save your states.
Twenty years ago my partner and I bought a fishing camp on the Canadian border. We immediately got involved in a sports-fishing vs. commercial gill netting battle that was raging on most Canadian border waters. At the time, sports-fishing tourism was $18 million per year in Lake of the Woods County. The commercial gill netting was seriously overharvesting the resource and resorts were being run out of business. It didn’t take much studying to figure out that a tourist at a resort would spend hundreds, or even a thousand dollars to take home a limit of twelve walleye fillets while a gill netter would only receive $1-$3 per pound for the same fish, using nets that sometimes reach a mile in length. After a three year battle, we had legislation passed in Minnesota to buy out twenty commercial fishermen’s quotas on Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake.
Since the gill nets were eliminated, sports-fishing tourism has skyrocketed to over $70 million in Lake of the Woods County, and created a very robust economy with no unemployment.
Seventy miles south of Lake of the Woods sits Red Lake, one of the premier walleye lakes in the world. Part of the lake is on the Red Lake Reservation. The Red lake band has completely depleted the fishery with gill netting, bankrupting over twenty resorts and seriously damaging the local economy. Unemployment is over 65% and social costs are enormous in an area that should have the same booming economy as Lake of the Woods. Even when Red Lake had fish, the only people who benefited were a few netters who split-up a million dollars annually. The other reservation citizens were saying "we need jobs!" They had been cheated out of the jobs at hotels, restaurants, and retail stores that a well managed resource provides through sports-fishing tourism. Property values also escalate around a well-managed fishery, which brings building trade jobs as landowners invest in their properties.
Meanwhile, on the Canadian side of my lake, for the past decade, the Canadian Government has been systematically tearing apart its huge sports-fishing-tourism-based economy by turning over control of its territory and natural resources to its "First Nation" citizens. Fish fillets that could be worth $90- $150 per pound, are gill netted and cross the border by the truckload for $1- $3 per pound. As over harvest occurs, because of the gill netting, officials then restrict water access to sports-fishing tourists and cut their resource allocation. It is not hard to figure out why the U.S. dollar is worth $1.49 in Canada.
You only have to look at the Canadian economy to see the devastation caused by race-based control of territory and natural resources. Just recently, Ottawa Chief Justice Antonio Lamer gave control of 95 percent of the British Columbia land mass to 4.9 percent of the population while writing the majority decision in a treaty lawsuit Delgamuukw vs. British Columbia. This decision will plunge British Columbia’s economy and public finances into confusion and dysfunction, according to David Hanley of the Fraser Institute of Vancouver.
CERA is the only national organization in our country that is educating U.S. citizens about the ramifications of bad Federal Indian Policies. For almost three years we have been writing to officials and the media about the missing $2.5 billion from the Tribal Trust accounts. Did some of this money that was funneled to the Tribes under the guise of "Economic Development" end up funding lawsuits against the very citizens who provided it?
If you cherish living in our great country where everyone is supposed to be treated equally, and have an equal share of its bounty, please help us spread the word. You can start by attending our annual meeting in Washington D.C. in May. Lets all get together to "Save the U.S.A."