Brett’s blog — Ice out speculation and Izatys news

The talk of the lake is ice out, which most are expecting to break the record this year, since there’s still 30-plus inches on the lake and no serious melting until tomorrow, April 26 — a month after last year’s record early ice out.

DNR records are contradictory on the latest ever. One page says it was May 7, 1965. Another says May 8, 1975. I’ll check the old Messengers to see if I can narrow that down.

There was also still ice on the main lake for the 1950 opener. I’ll check back on that date too, but it’s before good records were kept.

Messenger records go back to 1979. Latest since then was May 6 in 1996.

By way of comparison, here are average ice outs for area lakes. You can predict Mille Lacs roughly by these dates, but it does vary.

Mille Lacs: April 25 (revised from April 24 after last year’s early ice out).

Ann Lake: April 16 (drove past it today. Snow is mostly gone, but little melting has occurred)

Knife Lake: April 13

Sullivan: April 19

Farm Island: April 21

Big Sandy: April 21

Pepin went out April 16 this year — 16 days after the median. Record is May 19, 1843.

Albert Lea Lake was 18 days late (a record).

If Mille Lacs is similarly late, that would put us at May 10, the day before opener.

Here’s the map from DNR with the averages, earliest and latest for a bunch of lakes around the state:

Here’s a map of ice outs so far this year, with lots of records being set:

I’m guessing Ann Lake ice won’t be out until the end of next week, so we’re looking at Mille Lacs ice out right near opener.

Just a note on the potential overlap between tribal netting and angling opener, which folks are talking about:

Over the course of the tribal netting era, there’s been little direct conflict between anglers and netters at Mille Lacs.

Let’s keep it that way. There’s nothing the Twin Cities media would love more than to cover battles at the landings between netters and anglers, which would be bad publicity for the area.

There’s nothing I would love more than to sit in my office or at home and not have to cover any opener news except good weather and a good bite.

Everyone has a legal right to harvest by their own methods and to use the public accesses. Let’s be good neighbors.

There’s an ice-out contest on the Messenger’s Facebook page: If you “like” us you can enter. In the case of a tie, winners will be drawn from one of Rob’s cowboy hats.

Three prizes will be given: free subscriptions and/or coupons to local establishments.

Oh, and I talked to Paul Fink, an Izatys townhome owner who has put a group of investors together to buy Izatys. Closing date May 3, with hopes of keeping the golf courses and other limited services open this season!

For more, see next week’s Messenger or the home page of the website.


The Messenger published Thursday, May 18, 1950, says that on Saturday of opener (May 13), the only open water was around Isle, Wahkon and Malmo. Boats were packed into areas of open water. On Sunday the 14th, the ice shifted and piled up on the west side, damaging buildings at the Kings X Resort. It seems clear from that that the ice was not out by today’s standards until at least May 15. Another story written Wednesday, May 17, said the lake was “finally open” and that most launches went out on Tuesday, May 16. I’d say May 15 is a pretty good guess for ice out that year.

The May 13, 1965, Messenger says ice went out “a little over a week ago,” but that ice could still be seen “in the distance.” So the DNR’s ice-out date of May 7 for that year is … not necessarily confirmed, but not disproved either. (BTW, on May 20 of that year the editor referred to comments calling Mille Lacs “The Great Dead Sea” — the earliest reference I’ve seen to that old saying, which crops up whenever the fishing is bad.)

Which brings us to 1975. I couldn’t find anything to confirm or deny the May 8 ice out date on the DNR map. Ice out apparently wasn’t big news that year.

Don’t fault the band for requesting help

In meetings and emails, local officials are claiming that the Mille Lacs Band’s recent request for expanded federal jurisdiction is really about “reestablishing” the 61,000-acre Mille Lacs Reservation as defined by the Treaty of 1855.

The band’s effort has been called a “tribal attack” on Mille Lacs — as if “we” are Mille Lacs and “they” are some enemy invading “our” community.

By way of review, there is a longstanding disagreement over the definition of the Mille Lacs Reservation. The state, Mille Lacs County, and the cities of Isle, Wahkon and Onamia believe the reservation was disestablished, citing the Treaty of 1864, the Nelson Act of 1889, and a 1913 Supreme Court decision. They define “the reservation” (if they acknowledge it at all) as 4,000 acres of trust lands in the Vineland and Isle areas.

The Mille Lacs Band and several federal agencies have defined the Mille Lacs Reservation as it was established in the Treaty of 1855. In their view the townships of Kathio, South Harbor and Isle Harbor, including the cities therein, make up the reservation.

The courts refused to hear the case in 2003 because no one was being hurt by the controversy.

That’s the bottom line here: We can agree to disagree on the boundaries of the reservation, and no one needs to get hurt.

At most, the current petition will add one more federal agency (the Department of Justice) to the list of agencies that already recognize the 1855 reservation. If approved, the reservation will not be “reestablished,” and the band will have no additional powers affecting the lives of non-Indians.

For the record, the Messenger has been and remains neutral on the legal questions. We have readers and neighbors on both sides with valid legal arguments to support their respective cases.

We are not neutral with regard to facts, however, and we will continue to respond to falsehoods, misinformation, half-truths and fear-mongering.

Area residents are being told the band would be able to arrest and imprison non-Indians. That’s false, and spreading that kind of misinformation is irresponsible. Even if the band’s request is approved, the state will still have criminal jurisdiction throughout the county. The feds already have jurisdiction over everyone for certain crimes, and that will not change. The increased federal jurisdiction will apply only to Indians accused of crimes.

The Band’s application is what it says it is: A request for additional law enforcement help because the reservation community (however you define it) faces a long-term and ongoing epidemic of crime and violence.

The band government knows the deterrent effect of the recent Native Mob case, in which the feds exercised their jurisdictional power. They want the possibility of hard federal time hanging over the heads of every would-be drug dealer and gun runner on the reservation. Their request deserves thoughtful consideration on those grounds.

Since the county and state foot the bill for prosecution and incarceration of band members, we should also welcome any effort to deter criminals or lessen the costs of law enforcement.

That doesn’t mean the county, state or cities shouldn’t protest the application based on its definition of the reservation, but they should do so in a respectful and realistic manner — not by raising fears of a “tribal attack” or by speculating about hidden motives.

Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger. For more on this issue, see his blog at

Brett’s blog — Band responds to TLOA, boundary questions

(This post has been updated after I received a comment from Mille Lacs County Attorney Jan Jude about it.)

I posed some questions to the Mille Lacs Band about their request for extra federal jurisdiction under the Tribal Law and Order Act.

I got the answers yesterday, too late to get them in this week’s paper. However, I did write a column that covers some of the same ground. Get the paper to read it, or wait for it to show up on the web (and send a check to the Messenger if you’re getting your news for free).

The questions have been floating around the area over the last couple weeks, and I thought it would be good to get answers since a lot of people with little knowledge of the issues are spreading misinformation around the community and arousing unfounded fears.

For the record, I ran the same questions past Mille Lacs County Attorney Jan Jude, but she declined to provide answers.

(Note: On seeing this post, Jude responded by saying I hadn’t shared those “particular” questions with her. On April 4, I emailed a long list of statements I had heard and said “Do you agree with these opinions?” They weren’t the exact same questions I posed to the band, but the gist of the email was similar. Jan chose not to respond, which is her right, so I didn’t follow up with the exact questions I posed to the band. Jan provided a brief news release and said the county’s response would be forthcoming. We’ll all have access to it as soon as it’s available, which should be Friday, but it may not respond to all the issues below. I think Jan could’ve nipped some of the more outrageous rumors in the bud and set the record straight, but she chose not to. Again, that’s her call, but I don’t agree with it.)

1. Would the feds’ acceptance of the band’s petition have any effect on the legal status of the 1855 reservation area/boundaries?

No. The Justice Department’s acceptance of the Band’s application would be consistent with the longstanding federal position that the 1855 reservation boundaries remain intact.

2. True or false: The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is claiming that the county is not providing adequate law enforcement.

False. The Mille Lacs Band appreciates the law enforcement efforts of Mille Lacs County. The ability to partner together on public safety issues has had a positive impact on the county, communities and the reservation. The Band’s application seeks to obtain additional, federal law enforcement assistance to address unusually high crime rates, particularly violent crimes, on the Mille Lacs Reservation.

3. True or false: The real reason for the band’s request is to reestablish the reservation. It’s not about crime; it’s about land.

False. The law enforcement problems on the reservation are real and have been acknowledged by the County as well as the Band. The Band’s application seeks to take advantage of recently enacted federal legislation (the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010) to help address those problems. The Federal Government already acknowledges the existence of the reservation boundaries, so there was no need to submit the application to obtain federal acknowledgement of those boundaries.

4. T or F: If the request is accepted, the county and/or state would have no jurisdiction over tribal property or band members.

False. The Band’s application will not limit existing state, county or local law enforcement jurisdiction in any way. If the application is approved by the U.S. Justice Department, federal law enforcement resources would be available to help Tribal police, county sheriff and local police departments investigate and prosecute serious crimes in the region.

5. T or F: If the request is accepted, county and city planning and zoning laws would no longer apply to tribal properties.

False. The Band’s application has nothing to do with planning and zoning; it involves criminal law enforcement only.

6. If the request is accepted, non-Indians could be tried, convicted and/or jailed under tribal law.

The Band’s application does not provide any new or additional jurisdiction to the Band’s court. If the application is approved, it would mean that the federal government could investigate and prosecute certain crimes in federal court (not Band court). The definition of the crimes and the sentences would be a matter of federal, not Band, law. This additional law enforcement tool will help reduce crime and will benefit all residents in the County.

7. The band is pursuing this request because it believes the political climate makes this a good time to win a court case to reestablish the reservation.

We are not aware of any way in which any County resident has been harmed by the existence of the reservation boundaries. It is time to stop using this issue as a means to block measures, such as the Band’s construction of a regional wastewater treatment plant 12 years ago and its current request for the re-assumption of federal criminal jurisdiction, to solve real problems and benefit all County residents.

On gay marriage and guns, no turning back

It was predictable that after a pretty good election last fall, Democrats would overreach. Winners usually overestimate the level of support they have and misread the signals voters are sending.

After the election, I thought supporters of gay marriage were crazy when they interpreted the failure of anti-marriage measures around the nation, including Minnesota, as a mandate to legalize.

Now it’s looking like the public is far more ready for marriage equality than I thought. Within a few short months or years we may have court decisions, Congressional action or state legislation that puts the issue to rest for good (and as a supporter of marriage equality, I do mean “for good”).

The problem for gay marriage opponents — including the establishment of the Republican party, the hierarchy of the Catholic church, and most evangelical Christians — is that young people are overwhelmingly supportive. In order for parties or churches to recruit and retain young members, they’re going to have to face that reality, and soon.

Now look at another issue that’s playing out in the opposite direction: gun control.

After Sandy Hook, which occurred just as Obama and the Democrats were heading for victory, it appeared that Congress and many state legislatures would enact significant gun control laws.

Short of expanded background checks, which should have been implemented decades ago, it’s looking like very little will be done.

As someone who would love to live in a nation with stricter gun control laws, I’m neither surprised nor distressed, because most gun control legislation would have little effect and would probably not prevent the next Columbine or Sandy Hook.

As much as I disagree with the NRA leadership (as most NRA members also do), they are correct that banning high-capacity magazines or so-called “assault weapons” wouldn’t do much to prevent a crazy person from committing the next massacre.

That’s not because gun control is a bad idea; it’s because the NRA and gun industry have already won the war. With a gun in circulation for every man, woman and child in America, someone who wants to inflict harm will aways be able to do so.

Short of doing what the NRA disingenuously warns us that Democrats want to do (take away our guns), any gun control laws that pass will be mostly symbolic and ineffective.

Opponents of gun violence would do better to fight for mental health care and economic opportunity than for stricter gun laws. Until our culture stops promoting the notion that violence is an acceptable means of coping with problems, outrageous acts by sick and desperate individuals will continue. Unfortunately, Hollywood and the military-industrial complex are not about to change what’s been a winning formula for them — even if it requires the blood of a few sacrificial lambs.

Most civilized nations have stricter gun laws and far less violent crime than we do. Most in those nations are happy with those laws and credit them with lower rates of crime and incarceration.

Here in America, though, we will argue forever about whether stricter gun laws actually reduce violent crime — thanks to the propaganda machinery of the gun industry and the NRA.

Politics, like life, is unpredictable. A safe bet — like passage of gun control laws — can turn out to be a losing proposition, while a risky play — like fighting for marriage equality — can end up paying off.

Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger. Follow him at

Brett’s blog — Here we go again

I’ve been writing a lot of blog posts and columns lately — and choosing not to publish them.

It’s not that I’m afraid of getting beat up or falsely accused (been there, every day) but that I’m not sure what the best way to do it is at this point.

It’s pretty clear to me from the things I read in my email, the people I talk to on the phone, the articles I read, and the comments made in public meetings that there is little understanding of the facts surrounding the various controversies that plague the area.

And since few people seem to read the paper carefully — especially those who most need a balanced, objective perspective — it sometimes seems like a Sisyphean task (he’s the fellow who has to push a boulder up a hill for eternity).

Here are a few thoughts. If you want more, call me, stop for a visit, comment below, or send an email or letter to the editor to

Controversy 1: Ojibwe gillnetting

Dennis Anderson in the Star Tribune and now Ron Schara in Outdoor News have written recent columns saying what a lot of locals want to hear — that the main conservation concern when it comes to explaining the apparent decline in walleyes is the spawning season gillnetting by Ojibwe bands.

These are credible writers with a history of balance and basis in facts, but on this issue their thinking has become cloudy. I generally trust scientists over journalists on scientific matters, and the DNR biologists have said all along that it’s more complicated than that.

It’s one thing to oppose netting on ethical or legal grounds (and legitimate arguments can be made), but to oppose it on scientific or conservation grounds requires a great deal of data that simply isn’t there at this time.

In addition, the state and DNR have little power to halt the primary harvest method of the Ojibwe bands.

Those who want a primer on the issues involved can read my ongoing series on Mille Lacs walleye management here, here, here, here and here.

I have three more articles planned on estimating the population, estimating the harvest, and setting and enforcing regulations.

Controversy 2: Reservation boundaries

I was around throughout the time period when the county took this issue to federal court, and I’ve done a lot of research and writing on the topic. Former editor Joel Patenaude also covered the issue extensively when he was here from 2001 to 2004, and his stories are mostly available on the website (do an “advanced search” and delete the field that tells it only to look back a year).

The main thing folks need to know right now is that there’s a lot of misinformation and fear-mongering taking place. There’s also a lot of one-sided explanation of the issue that make it appear simpler than it actually is. (Surprise, surprise.)

In the last week, I’ve heard that Garrison, Princeton and Knife Lake are in the 61,000-acre 1855 Reservation. THEY’RE NOT! That’s only one example of the lack of basic understanding out there.

The fact is that there are legitimate legal arguments on both sides: that the 1855 reservation still exists, and that the 1855 reservation was disestablished. Anyone who says it’s a black-and-white slam-dunk should be forced to read about the 1837 Treaty case, which was also sold to locals as a black-and-white slam-dunk.

The other fact locals need to realize is that if they are living on a reservation, it will have very little impact on their day-to-day lives. The tribe cannot tax, regulate, or prosecute non-Indians except under rare circumstances and in relatively minor ways.

The current application under the Tribal Law and Order Act would expand federal jurisdiction for Indians only. Non-Indians will still be under the criminal jurisdiction of the state (and the same federal jurisdiction that applies to all other non-Indians around the country).

People should know that many thousands of Americans live and do business within the boundaries of reservations and their lives are identical to those of neighbors living outside the boundaries.

Yes, there are stories of tribes overstepping their authority, but they are a few interesting (and troubling) exceptions to the general rule. And most of them get resolved in favor of the non-Indian.

I gave an inservice workshop last week here at the Messenger on history, treaties, court cases, and current controversies. It was well received, and although I’m not an expert, I know more than most folks in the area.

Criticize your favorite editor all you like, but know this: I can talk about both sides of these issues. Most “authorities” in the area will only give you one.

If anyone wants me to come in for a presentation, question and answer, or freewheeling discussion/debate on either or both of these controversies, give me a call. I work for tips.

Doctor Brett has the cure for your disease

The last straw came last week, when two headlines appeared on my Twitter feed: “One in five US teenage boys diagnosed ADHD” and “’GERD’ label for infant fussiness leads to unnecessary treatment.”

Since the pharmaceutical industry wants to convince you that there’s something wrong with you that its overpriced snake-oil can fix, and since your family doctor is willing to write a prescription to shut you up, I guess it’s up to Dr. Brett to diagnose and treat the ills of American culture.

(Caveat: I believe that a small percentage of human beings have chronic mental and physical illnesses that require medical treatment. If you’re one of them — and you’re probably not — ignore me.)

Diagnosis 1: Your boy does not have ADHD. He’s a kid. He has trouble focusing in school because he’d rather be riding a dirt bike. That’s a good thing, because it means his brain is active, but since growing up requires focus, he’ll need to put off the dirt bike, listen to his teacher, and read a book or two. He’ll be just fine, if you don’t dope him up on Ritalin or Adderall.

Diagnosis 2: Your baby does not have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) — and you probably don’t either. The baby is just a normal baby, and you are probably eating poorly, drinking and smoking too much, or not exercising.

Diagnosis 3: You are not depressed — at least in the clinical sense that requires Wellbutrin, Prozac, Celexa, Zoloft, Paxil or Lexapro. You have what used to be known as “the blues.” Everybody gets it from time to time. Everybody always has, and most didn’t need drugs to cope. The treatment is a dose of good music, sitting on the porch in the sunshine, and maybe a drink or two. And smile. That endorphin business is really true.

Diagnosis 4: You do not suffer from anxiety. You are probably an introvert who has trouble functioning in a world of extroverts. You do not need Xanax, Klonopin, Valium or Ativan. You need to take deep breaths and get plenty of alone time, and plenty of time with people who love and accept you.

Diagnosis 5: You do not have a hormonal imbalance. You’re just getting older and don’t feel as good as you used to. Treatment: Face the facts.

Diagnosis 6 (none of the above — or below): In all likelihood, you do not have low T, Asperger’s, chronic fatigue, shift work disorder, multiple chemical sensitivity, sleep apnea, oppositional defiant disorder, Lyme disease, mold allergy, fibromyalgia, gluten intolerance or bipolar disorder. You are not a psycopath or sociopath. If your strep test was negative, you probably don’t need antibiotics, so quit badgering your doctor about it. If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or early diabetes, you may be able to fix it by changing your lifestyle.

The vast majority of humans who have ever walked the earth have gotten along just fine without anti-depressants, depressants, anti-anxiety meds, synthetic testosterone, corticosteroids, antibiotics, stimulants, anesthetics, tranquilizers, benzodiazepines, antiolytics, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. You don’t need them either.

The most common illness in 21st century America is hypochondria. The cure for that is to look in the mirror and repeat after me: “I am going to die someday, just like everyone else. It may be today, and it may involve horrible pain and suffering. But for now, I’ve got it pretty good, so I’m going to live life to the fullest while I can.”

If that doesn’t work, take two aspirin and call me in the morning.

Brett Larson is not a real doctor. Follow him at

Brett’s blog — Where’s the press release?

I hear I’m being accused of covering up a press release from Mille Lacs County Attorney Jan Jude regarding the Mille Lacs Band’s application for federal law enforcement help.

The reason I didn’t run it was because there was nothing new in it.

I sent Ms. Jude several questions that were circulating in the area and was under the impression that she was going to address those questions, perhaps in a column, for this week’s Messenger.

Instead, on Monday, I got the following, which didn’t respond to my questions or say anything new on the topic. So here’s the county news release:

“The Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) is a new federal program designed to address public safety issues in Indian country nationwide. Its purpose is to address those reservations, or other Indian country, inadequate access to law enforcement, judicial resources and/or correctional and detention resources. The Mille Lacs Band has applied for TLOA to be implemented throughout the original 61,000 acre reservation boundaries. It is the legal position of the County and the State of Minnesota that the 1855 reservation boundaries were disestablished in later treaties and federal law and confirmed in a 1913 United States Supreme Court decision.

“Mille Lacs County and other units of government were provided notice of the Band’s application. With the assistance of outside counsel, Mille Lacs County is preparing its response to the Band’s application. The County’s response is due on April 26, 2013 and will be available for review at that time. ”

I considered writing another article with more details from the band’s application, and would have included the press release in that, but ran out of time and space on Monday. Maybe next week. We’ll see.

This issue is going to be with us for a while, so there’s no hurry. In the meantime, if you want some background, search our website for the reams of stories we did when the boundary case went to court, or come into the office and I’ll tell you what I know, which I can say with confidence is more than most people in the area.

There’s a lot of fear mongering going on, and I would advise you to learn the facts before getting too worked about it.

Stop in and see me! I love to visit!