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Red Lake Band to offer elk hunt in 1863 Old Crossing Treaty territory

The tribal elk season will begin Thursday, Sept. 15 and continue through Saturday, Dec. 31. Five tags will be issued by lottery, and shooting hours will be from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

Elk photo
A herd of elk stands watch at Skull Lake Wildlife Management Area in Kittson County in this April 2005 photo.
Contributed/ Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
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RED LAKE, Minn. – The Red Lake Band of Chippewa for the first time this fall will offer an elk hunt off-reservation in the area covered by the Old Crossing Treaty signed with the U.S. government Oct. 2, 1863.

Under the treaty, the Pembina and Red Lake bands of Ojibwe ceded some 11 million acres of land in the Red River Valley to the U.S. government. The ceded area includes much of northwest Minnesota west of a line running southwest from Lake of the Woods to Thief Lake and then angling southeast to the headwaters of the Wild Rice River before angling back southwest to the Red River between Grand Forks and Fargo , according to a Wikipedia post describing the treaty.

The ceded territory also includes a large chunk of eastern and northeastern North Dakota nearly to Devils Lake, including Pembina, Grafton and Grand Forks.

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In a Facebook post this week announcing the tribal hunt, the Red Lake Band’s department of Conservation Law Enforcement said five licenses will be available for enrolled members of the Red Lake Band to harvest either an antlered or antlerless elk. License holders will be selected by lottery, and groups of up to five enrolled band members can apply for one of the elk tags.

Since this is the first year that Red Lake Band members will be utilizing “said treaty rights” in the Old Crossing Treaty territory, only five permits will be issued this year, but that number could increase in future years, the Facebook post indicated.


Tribal members can apply for one of the five licenses beginning Wednesday, Aug. 31, and continuing through Tuesday, Sept. 13. The lottery will be held at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14, and the season will begin Thursday, Sept. 15, and continue through Saturday, Dec. 31.

Shooting hours will be from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

While the area covered by the Old Crossing Treaty extends all the way to Devils Lake, the hunt this year will most likely be limited to the Minnesota portion of the treaty territory, said Al Pemberton, tribal director of the Red Lake Department of Natural Resources.

Gov. Tim Walz's plan would benefit state parks, forests, boat landings and fish hatcheries and tackle climate issues.

Some of the details of the upcoming tribal hunt remain a work in progress, Pemberton told the Herald.

Al Pemberton
Al Pemberton, director of the Red Lake Department of Natural Resources.
Brad Dokken/Grand Forks Herald

The Red Lake Band informed the Minnesota DNR during a meeting in March that it would assert its treaty rights on the 1863 territory, said Blane Klemek, Northwest Region wildlife supervisor for the Minnesota DNR in Bemidji.

At that meeting, it was decided that Pemberton and Theresa Ebbenga, director of the Minnesota DNR’s Northwest Region, would have further discussions and share information with Minnesota DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen.

“I’m assuming those high-level discussions have occurred, based on what Red Lake Conservation Law Enforcement posted on their Facebook page,” Klemek said in an email to the Herald.

Comment from the Minnesota DNR Commissioner’s office wasn’t immediately available.


1863 Ceded territory map.jpeg
Map showing area of Minnesota portion of ceded territory in 1863 Old Crossing Treaty.
Contributed/Al Pemberton

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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