Story on Nelson Act payout didn’t look at the big pictureIn the Pine Journal’s article, “Six Chippewa Bands to Split $28 Million Federal Payout,” [published online] February 17, 2012, the article failed to report on the injustice that the legislative proposals would wreak on the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.
By: Archie Larose, Pine Journal
To the Editor:
In the Pine Journal’s article, “Six Chippewa Bands to Split $28 Million Federal Payout,” [published online] February 17, 2012, the article failed to report on the injustice that the legislative proposals would wreak on the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.
In 1999, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims approved the $20 million settlement based on the damages that were suffered by the various Chippewa Bands. The U.S. Justice Department and the Court acknowledged that 68.9 percent of these damages came from the undervaluation of timber and mismanagement of lands on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation and later takings of Leech Lake lands to establish the Chippewa National Forest. The United States took 600,000 acres away from the Leech Lake Band what was to be our permanent homeland under our 1855 Treaty with the United States. Instead of making Leech Lake whole, the bills being proposed would instead give Leech Lake’s portion of the settlement to the other five Bands, some of which lost less than 1 percent of their homelands.
It’s always sad when Indian tribes have to fight each other over scraps left to us after the government inflicts damage on our communities. I agree with [Duluth News Tribune reporter John] Myers that it’s time to make amends for this dark period in Indian relations that took place 123 years ago. However, the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe did not exist back then, holds no Treaty rights to the Leech Lake Reservation, and should have no legitimate say in how our damages should be distributed.
The Leech Lake people have waited more than a century to have our homelands returned. We are willing to negotiate a reasonable distribution with the other five Bands, but the current proposal is unacceptable, unfair and would only add insult the crushing injury that was done to our people over the past 100 years.
Chairman of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe