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To head off legal test, DNR gives Ojibwe one-off wild rice harvesting permit

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In an attempt to head off a confrontation with American Indian activists, state officials have granted a special, one-off permit allowing Ojibwe band members to harvest wild rice without a license.

Ojibwe members of a group called the 1855 Treaty Authority had revealed plans earlier this month to hold a wild rice gathering event Thursday on Hole-in-the-Day Lake in Nisswa – without purchasing a license from the state.

In doing so, it could potentially lead to a legal test of the tribe's rights through an 1855 Treaty with the U.S., which the Ojibwe argue gives them off-reservation hunting, fishing and gathering rights on land sold under the treaty – which the state government rejects.

But The Associated Press reports that Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources has made efforts to defuse a legal challenge by issuing a one-day permit to band members, which it sometimes does for educational or exhibition purposes.

The DNR has warned however, that it is prepared to begin enforcing non-licensed, off-reservation wild rice gathering from Friday onwards should band members persist, according to the Star Tribune.

A legal test could well be forthcoming then, with a lawyer for the treaty group telling the newspaper the DNR's enforcement won't stop individuals from harvesting without a permit.

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