By Leif Enger
March 3, 1999
The chief executive of the Mille Lacs Ojibwe Band says she's still
waiting to hear from Governor Jesse Ventura, after the publication of her open
letter criticizing Ventura's leadership. In the letter, Chief Executive Marge
Anderson accused the governor of attempting to inflame public opinion against
the Band, even as the Supreme Court prepares to hand down a final decision on
Mille Lacs Chief Executive Marge Anderson says she's frustrated Governor
Ventura doesn't understand tribal sovereignty, and worried his flip approach to
treaty rights could set an unfriendly tone as the Supreme Court prepares to
rule. Anderson refers specifically to this Ventura comment, made last month
in Washington DC.
Ojibwe Chief Executive Marge Anderson Photo: Duane's Photography
On one hand they want to be a sovereign nation, and on the
other hand they don't. My question would be, can you have it both ways? They
seem to. But you either are or you aren't. I'm a bread-and-butter kind of guy,
and I guess I'd like at it and say, are you part of the United States or aren't
you? And if you are your own sovereign nation, then take care of yourself.
Anderson says the comment displays the governor's ignorance about laws
upholding Native-American sovereignty; moreover, she's angry about the timing.
Anderson has been encouraging band members to be accepting and conciliatory no
matter how the court rules on treaty rights. She says Ventura's been no help.
We try to calm things down before the decision comes down, and
we don't know how it's going down. We wrote letters to Band members, to take
the high road, to act with respect. But by the governor making these
inflammatory statements I feel strongly that the leaders in this state should
do everything they can to calm the situation, rather than inflame it.
Treaty rights have been a focus of contention in Minnesota since the Ojibwe
sued the state in 1990, claiming the right to hunt and fish without state
regulation. The last time the issue reached a potential-crisis point was two
years ago. With Band members set to begin spearfishing, then-Governor Arne
Carlson made a prime-time television appeal for understanding, asking
treaty-rights opponents to avoid violence and respect the law. Anderson says
she heard no respect in this remark from Governor Ventura.
Personally, if those rules apply, then I think they ought to be
back in birch-bark canoes, instead of with 200 horsepower Yamaha engines with
Ignorance again. Nobody I know has a big boat or anything like
that. We're not the big sportfishermen, or whatever it is, to have big boats
and fishfinders and all that. I don't know why he's accusing us of that, it's
Anderson says she tried months ago to set up a meeting with Ventura, only to be
told by an aide the Governor doesn't meet with special-interest groups.
I don't know what he means by a special-interest group,
whether it's other people of color. But we do have a status, we are a
government. The ball is in his court, whether or not he wants to meet, and I'd
be wanting to do that.
Governor Ventura hasn't responded publicly to Anderson's complaint.