“For centuries the Chippewa have hunted, fished, and gathered wild foods. These activities . . . remain in a very real sense central to the culture and identity of the Chippewa.“
— Mark D. Slonim, attorney for Mille Lacs, during oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court (Minnesota v. Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians), 1998
1825,1826, 1854, 1855, 1863, 1864, and 1867 treaties were signed and ratified to acknowledge the sovereignty of Native Nations that exercise autonomy and the exclusive authority over the people and endeavors within their territories. Treaties are living documents and are as valid today as the day they were signed, Treaties are considered the “Supreme Law of the Land”
Treaties enable Native Nations to engage in a nation-to-nation relationship with the U.S Government. These Native Nations exercise sovereignty and have the explicit right to manage their lands and resources to protect the people and seven generations. Tribes ceded much of their land in exchange for money and supplies but have always retained their explicit right to hunt, fish, and gather in the ceded territories. These rights were never ‘given’ to the Native Nations under the Treaties. They’ve always retained them.
Sovereignty is the power of a tribe to govern itself, known as self-determination. Sovereignty belongs to the people who constitute a tribe. The tribe must protect all that is sacred, the seven generations.
Tribal elected officials known as Tribal Reservation Business Committees (RBC’s) who constitute the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (MCT) do not constitute a tribe; the people do. Consent without consulting the people of a tribal nation by any elected official undermines tribal sovereignty and is a violation of the people’s rights under state and international law. Neither the Minnesota state government nor any Minnesota state agency holds the authority to make decisions for the Native people of Minnesota. Therefore, any agreements by any Minnesota state elected/appointed official(s) without consultation shall be considered ‘null and void.’
Consultation is a challenge and the people face environmental and racial injustice as their concerns continue to go unheard on many levels. Failure to consult is not consent. Undermining tribal sovereignty should never be allowed nor tolerated. This is a violation of human rights and threatens Native culture and traditional way of life.
Treaties are a two-party agreement, meaning each party has a responsibility. To simply acknowledge the Treaties isn’t enough anymore. The U.S Government continually fails to uphold their responsibilities to Treaties. This can no longer be accepted nor tolerated. We’re still here and Treaties do matter.
Those who do not uphold the Treaties will be challenged for the betterment of the tribes and the future. Honoring the treaties will bring the healthy and healing communities that we desperately need. Traditional lifestyles and the water are who we are. We’ll never surrender, because treaties do matter.
Nancy Beaulieu is MN350’s Northern Minnesota Organizer. Nancy decided to set aside her LPN licensing and dedicate herself fully to the environment after visiting Standing Rock. Her experience working in retail & sales management, metalsmithing, and carpentry make Nancy a good fit as a community organizer in Northern Minnesota. Nancy’s an enrolled member of the Leech Lake reservation who lives just east of Bemidji. In her spare time, Nancy enjoys living simply, gardening, ice-fishing, crafting and spending time with her family.