Listen: White earth #2 / part two of land purchase series

MPR’s Leif Enger reports on The Tamarac Refuge area, and White Earth Reservation’s attempts to reclaim land for the Native American tribe. Segment includes numerous interviews and views from tribal members, wildlife management, politicians, and nearby Detroit Lake residents.

This is part 2 of 3 of land purchase series.


(00:00:00) The Tamarac Refuge is one of those places. Everybody wants Timber companies wanted it in the 1870s for its supply of virgin white pine in the drought years of the 1930s the federal government wanted it to sustain a flagging duck migration Native Americans still Neil and canoes here for the fall wild rice Harvest and Hunters still come from mallards and white-tailed deer. Some people says Refuge biologists Lowell DD just come to howl to try for a glimpse of the shy Timberwolves that sometimes congregate on this purple flowered
(00:00:31) Meadow There's one just by the dead tree there just
(00:00:48) to the left. There you go. See
(00:00:49) him standing looking at is there he goes again? You
(00:00:52) can see almost anything in the Tamarack Wilderness wolves and bald eagles trumpeter swans Fishers and make it is still a place everyone wants or wants back when we look at this land. What we see is 8,000 years of our people live.
(00:01:06) Here
(00:01:07) Winona Laduke is a white Earth band member Harvard Law School graduate and leader of the white Earth land recovery project an independent group of band members who have lobbied Congress for the return of part of the Refuge to Native ownership ingrained in America is the idea of manifest destiny the idea of a god-given right of people of European descent to this land and ingrained in that is is a is a view that somehow Indian people have donat do not know how to take care of land. It's a utilitarian worldview which views the land only in relationship to its value to man. And that is how they manage the Tamarack Leduc says it's the anishinabe not US government employees who have an innate and spiritual connection to tamarack recovery project staffers say the transfer of the land from the tribe to the federal government in the early 1900's was accomplished through unscrupulous tactics a claim the government denies and they say they don't like how Refuge managers artificially manipulate resources allowing limited Timber harvests and controlling lake levels for the best wild rice. Missions in our view a king the land has standing and value on its own when we look at a forest. We don't see board feet. When we look at a forest. We see that there's medicine plants there. There's mushrooms there. We see that there's basket materials there. We see that there's spirits that are there. Building anishinabe don't own the Tamarack Refuge. They do own special rights within its Borders Rice stands like this one on South Chippewa Lake hold some of the richest wild rice harvest in Minnesota those harvests by virtue of a treaty signed in 1936 belonged to the anishinabe Jay Johnson manager of the Tamarack
(00:02:59) Refuge. Okay, the Collier agreement allows exclusive uses of wild ricing and trapping and other other uses like Barry and nothing else types. Stuff the way permit that's exclusive rights to Native America. No one else can can trap or rice on the
(00:03:16) Refuge band members can also hunt and fish on the northern half of the Refuge which lies inside the White Earth reservation under the comparatively lenient rules of the tribal conservation code. In fact, it's hard to tell how popular this notion of getting. The Refuge back really is here the tribal government under chairmanship Wadena hasn't pursued a federal turnover of The Refuge preferring to buy private lands. Within the reservation as they become available Tamarac manager Johnson says he's not worried about the possibility of losing control.
(00:03:47) Imagine. We have nearly 500 National Wildlife refuges if that were to happen that would establish a precedent that would threaten the Integrity of the National Wildlife Refuge system. The American people aren't going to stand for that. I mean that's like saying we're going to take give Yellowstone away to somebody and it's not going to
(00:04:03) occur. Actually. There are three ways that could occur one would be a transfer of land a trade acres for Acres. Unlikely since both sides would have to approve the deal number two the federal migratory bird commission could approve the transfer of The Refuge to the band. That's also unlikely since it was this commission that established the Refuge back in the 1930s. The recovery project most realistic. Hope maybe an act of Congress though 7th District Congressman Collin Peterson says that's unlikely to that land was paid for with Sportsmen money.
(00:04:36) And there's no way the Congress is going to take that planned and give it back to the tribe. So
(00:04:40) I just think they're wrong.
(00:04:42) We obviously have a disagreement and so be it
(00:04:46) the recovery project. Did Lobby hard last fall trying to find someone in Congress who would sponsor legislation for the return of Tamarack, but there was little support in Washington and Loud opposition at
(00:04:57) home.
(00:05:04) At the Becker County Sportsmen's Club East of Detroit Lakes a few dozen men and women are shooting trap firing at Round clay targets that sale like frisbees over a fresh mon field. A lot of the shooters are tuning up for this autumns duck season. And when it comes a lot of them will be heading north to the Tamarack Refuge last fall the club drafted a resolution opposing any return of Tamarack lands to the white Earth band club president. Brett Friesen says he learned to hunt there before. He was 10 that he Oops, always to hunt there and that the recovery project is trying to rewrite history to its own
(00:05:38) advantage two or three generations later and decide that hey, you know, why did my ancestors give this up? You know, I want to have this back for myself why it's so confusing in that area. I don't know but it's just one of those trans business transactions is what I call it that transpired many years ago. And you know, it's a done deal
(00:05:57) again, Winona Laduke. How many times do I hear? Someone say? Oh, that was a long time ago you Indians? That land taken from you I shouldn't have to pay for it. Now. I've heard that hundreds of times in Detroit Lakes. I've heard that hundreds of times at all these towns up here. It's easy to say for someone you can forget that, you know, what happened a long time ago, and we should have to pay for it. Now. If you are holding the property that they are talking about LeDuc and her supporters say the Tamarac Refuge is not a done deal that they'll continue to raise money to buy private land Outside The Refuge as the tribe is doing and despite last Fall's unsuccessful efforts to Lobby members of Iris lay finger Main Street radio


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