So I decided to go with the column about the mutual aid agreement, basically calling for Mille Lacs County to compromise with the Mille Lacs Band. I probably won’t win the hearts of the county attorney or the county commissioners, but in my job, you can’t expect to be everybody’s friend.
Shortly after I came, I wrote a column sympathizing with the folks in Bradbury Township who are opposing the relocation of Mille Lacs Academy to their neighborhood. One of them called and referred to me as their “new friend,” to which I replied, “Newspaper editors have no friends.”
I think the adversarial relationship between the County and the Band has become counterproductive, or maybe it always was. The county can’t be making all its decisions about policy regarding the Band on the basis of what it may mean to some lawsuit down the road — a lawsuit there’s a good chance they’ll lose, as they lost the 1837 Treaty lawsuit.
That adversarial relationship already got us into the Treaty lawsuit and the boundary lawsuit, which cost the county, if memory serves, at least $1.4 million, and never went anywhere. Now it’s going to cost the price of seven deputies, plus equipment (or more) — not just once, but every year. I would guess it will be a minimum of $500,000 per year to recover half of the law enforcement coverage we were getting for free from the tribal police (which has a budget of over $2 million.
Here’s what it comes down to, for me.
The people raising fears about “what if” the 1855 reservation is recognized ignore this point: The 1855 Reservation already is recognized, and the sky is not falling. They tell us that “IF” the reservation is recognized, the Band will do this, that and the other and violate our civil rights, etc., ignoring the fact that in the Band’s view (and the view of certain federal agencies), the reservation exists, yet those terrible things are not happening.
You don’t hear many non-Indian people (note: I’m not saying “any”) on Leech Lake or White Earth or any of the hundreds of other reservations in the country complaining about their civil rights being violated by Indian tribes. The reality is that life on an Indian reservation, for non-Indians, is almost indistinguishable from life off of a reservation. Occasionally a tribe oversteps its bounds and is inevitably pulled back by the feds or a court decision somewhere. Whether we live on a reservation or not, we still have our state and federal governments to protect us, and our courts. Some people don’t think that’s much protection. I disagree. I trust our system to right itself when people’s civil rights and constitutional rights are violated, in most cases.
Today I’m off to the county board meeting, then the state of the band address up at the casino. Should be quite a contrast.