Ticketed for netting fish, Ojibwe bands edge closer to court case

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Citations against members of two northern Minnesota Ojibwe bands for netting fish on Gull Lake could lead to a court case the tribe hopes will clarify their treaty rights.

Todd Thompson of the White Earth Band and Jim Northrup III of the Fond du Lac Band were cited by enforcement officers with Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources, the Brainerd Dispatch reports.

Activists with a group called the 1855 Treaty Authority announced their plans to violate state regulations this week in hopes it would produce a court case.

Tribal members argue they retained hunting, fishing, and gathering rights in a wide swath of northern Minnesota land when it was turned over to the U.S. in an 1855 treaty.

A Thursday trip to gather wild rice without a permit on Hole-in-the-Day Lake in Nisswa produced no response after the DNR granted the tribal members a one-day permit, which they had not requested.

On Friday, band members were again ricing at Hole-in-the-Day but a couple of them pushed things further by crossing the road to neighboring Gull Lake and setting a gill net there, MPR News reports.

Officers removed the net within minutes, wrote up citations for Thompson and Northrup, and sent their report to the Crow Wing County Attorney to consider criminal charges, MPR says.

DNR Capt. Ken Soring told the Huffington Post two wild rice harvesters were also cited Friday and could be charged with misdemeanors. A DNR official told MPR gillnetting without a permit is a gross misdemeanor.

According to Native News Online, ten Ojibwe (also called Chippewa) members were cited by the DNR Friday.

Being cited by conservation officers does not guarantee a court fight. An Ojibwe attorney tells MPR that when tribal members similarly challenged state regulations in a 2010 protest at Lake Bemidji the Beltrami County Attorney declined to press charges.

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