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Stop Treaty Abuse Rally: Non-violence trainings scheduled

Organizers of the Stop Treaty Abuse Rally concerning tribal off-reservation fishing rights encourage those wishing to participate in peace-keeper and non-violence training events.

The rally is set for 1 p.m. Friday, May 14, the day before the state walleye opener, at the Lake Bemidji waterfront.

Non-violence trainings will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday, May 13, at Dream Catcher Park in Cass Lake and at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Lake Bemidji waterfront. Peace-maker training will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, May 14, at the Lake Bemidji waterfront prior to the rally.

For more info, contact Robert Shimek at 218-407-0698 or

Activists have been encouraging enrolled tribal members of the Leech Lake and White Earth bands who wish to demonstrate their off-reservation fishing rights to participate in the "Great Anishinaabeg - Fish Off Reservation." Elected tribal officials of the Leech Lake and White Earth bands have discouraged the demonstration, saying the action is premature, needs study and negotiation, while discussion and legal avenues would be more productive.

The object of Friday's rally is to protest "abuse and neglect of the 1855 treaty with the Anishinaabeg by the state of Minnesota."

In 1855, the Chippewa of the Mississippi, which include Leech Lake and White Earth bands, ceded to the United States 13 million acres. According to the rally organizers, the representatives of the U.S. and the American Indian bands signing the treaty never ceded tribal rights to hunt, fish, gather and travel on that land. As part of the 1999 Mille Lacs Supreme Court case, the Court ruled that "the Anishinaabe usafructuary rights in the 1855 land cession treaty were never abrogated."

Participants in the waterfront demonstration may receive a citation for violation of state law.

"Our goal is to uphold the law," said Scott Pengelly of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Medial Relations.

In a telephone interview from his office at the White Earth Land Recovery Project, Shimek described some of the strategies involved in the non-violent/peacekeeping training.

"Part of it is for those who are going to actually end up in a situation with law enforcement - not to be argumentative," he said. "Part of it is to look in at ourselves. If we spot somebody who's getting really frustrated or upset - self-intervention."

Shimek said in a press release that counter protesters may be present, but human and civil rights observers and peace keepers will be on hand to assure a safe and secure environment for the exercise of treaty rights.

He said he hopes the rally doesn't result in hostile confrontations, but in his experience, he knows that can happen. Shimek worked for fishing rights in the Pacific Northwest and in the Mille Lacs efforts to establish off-reservation treaty rights during the 1990s.

"The reason we're doing this is to send the message to the state to stop abusing the treaty," Shimek said. "That's what we're telling the state."

He said he didn't know who or how many people would turn out for the rally, or what action they would - angling or netting,

"Maybe there'll be a handful; maybe there'll be a bunch," he said.

One possibility, he said, would be for Gov. Tim Pawlenty to "issue an executive order and tell his soldiers to stand down." From there, he said, all parties could get together to work out a satisfactory solution.

The Leech Lake and White Earth tribal governments also will hold an 1855 Treaty Rights gathering Friday with a public information presentation and barbecue from 1-3 pm. at Diamond Point Park Pavilion.

The White Earth and Leech Lake Bands will form an 1855 Ceded Territory Commission comprised of tribal representatives from Leech Lake, White Earth and Sandy Lake.

Tribal Leaders will host the collaborative public forum to help educate the greater public about the 1855 Anishinaabe or Chippewa treaty rights, reserved rights and inherent rights, as an alternative to the Stop Treaty Abuse Rally and fishing protest, to bring greater understanding and awareness.

Organizers of the Stop Treaty Abuse Rally said in a press release that they expect ceremonial and powwow drums, Eagle Staffs, tribal veterans and all others concerned about equal implementation of law to turn out to support their effort.