By Nancy Beaulieu
Northern Minnesota Organizer

For nine weeks in the spring of 2023, we peacefully held space in an 1855 Sugarbush/Treaty Camp while protecting approximately 600 acres of wilderness located in the Buena Vista State Forest in Northern MN. The Buena Vista state forest is owned by the State of Minnesota and was slated for timber sale/bid in spring 2023. We asserted our treaty rights to hunt, fish, gather, and travel in ceded territory and peacefully occupied this space to stall the timber sale.

This forest has cultural significance for our people. The Mide creation and migration stories originate in this forest.

A man taps a maple tree as two young people look on.Our first water

The Anishinaabeg (Anishinaabe people) have been sugaring for thousands of years. The sap is referred to as a medicine, our first water, and is used for ceremonies. Sugarbush is the collecting of sap from maple trees and boiling it down into syrup or sugar.

As we held space in the Buena Vista State Forest this spring, we shared this learning experience with students and community members.

Treaty education

Our goal was to build awareness through treaty education and peacefully hold space as Anishinaabe in a Sugarbush, just as our ancestors did. We did this without a permit as our inherent rights are protected by the treaties.

When we first arrived, the DNR insisted that we needed a permit to collect the sap. We humbly reminded the DNR officer that DNR has no authority to interpret treaties. The DNR officer also knew we knew our rights and left with hesitation, mentioning that they may or may not be back. We were in Sugarbush for 9 weeks and not once did the DNR return. We were delighted and finally felt respected.

A wintery forest. Tents and logs indicate that this space is being used as a Sugarbush

Moving forward

During Sugarbush, we continued to build our relationship with the DNR and managed to stall the timber sale until the end of summer 2023. We also engaged with other key stakeholders to create dialogue as to how to save the forest from deforestation. We are pleased to announce that a meeting with the DNR and stakeholders to discuss how to protect the forest by honoring treaties and Anishinaabe culture will take place later this month.

We want to say miigwech to those who supported us in camp: We couldn’t hold space without the support of our allies. We ask that you continue to support our efforts in the MN350/Treaty Campaign by engaging with us. We do better together.

We are all Treaty People.

A large grup of people smile as they stand together in the wintery forest camp



MN350 Northern Minnesota Organizer Nancy Beaulieu 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.