Ojibwe bands’ over-water hunting bans: Muddying the waters for teal hunters
If you tried to contact either the White Earth or Leech Lake bands of Ojibwe last week to learn more about the so-called “bans” on over-water teal hunting during the experimental season, I’d sure like to know if you got a response. Outdoor News didn’t. And if you let that ban on hunting reservation waters – the justification of which was to ensure the safety of wild ricers – spoil your hunt, that would be nice to know, too.
Leading up to the early, experimental teal season, which ran Sept. 4-8 (see front page for more coverage), the tribes’ little bombshell seems to have been mishandled at a number of levels. Exactly how? Hard to tell. Last I heard, state DNR conversations with tribes aren’t exactly open to public scrutiny. What we have been told is this: Minnesota DNR officials have been “in communication” with both bands. So, regarding the teal hunt, who knew what, and when?
An Aug. 30 DNR news release (just prior to Outdoor News’ deadline last week) told early teal hunters this: “Hunters should also be aware that there may be tribal restrictions on hunting wild rice lakes within the boundaries of the White Earth and Leech Lake reservations.”
After our deadline, a follow-up news release from the department announced that those bands had banned teal hunting during the early season on wild rice lakes, and that “the DNR believes that these closures may be inconsistent with state/tribal agreements and potentially in conflict with state statute and federal case law,” but that the matter couldn’t be resolved prior to the early teal and early Canada goose openers last Saturday.
Who was going to enforce the bans on waterfowl hunting? Certainly not DNR Enforcement’s conservation officers.
“They (the bands) don’t have the authority to post those lakes closed,” Lt. Col. Greg Salo, Enforcement’s assistant director, told me earlier this week. “For hunters who called me – and a lot did – I said to hunt it … but to be respectful.”
So that left tribal wardens, who, I’m told, weren’t too keen on teal hunting ban enforcement, either.
In the Leech Lake Band’s resolution to place rice lakes off-limits during the early waterfowling seasons (a vote of two for the resolution, none against, and none silent – which seems shy of what I’ve come to know as a typical quorum), band officials said, among other things, that the state DNR “failed to engage the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in meaningful government-to-government consultation” in the matter, thus violating Gov. Tim Walz’s Executive Order 19-24, signed in April 2019.
So, my questions, which are many, begin here: Given tribal concerns, why were those worries not brought forth until Aug. 23? The early teal season’s been in the making for months. And the early goose season’s been in place for years. Further, given the DNR’s seemingly intense relationships with tribes of late, how is it possible that “meaningful consultation” was foregone in this instance?
And, ultimately, why weren’t state waterfowlers given better direction regarding the issue leading up to this new season?