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Upper Red Lake meeting on 2006 harvesting - - - 3 messages. Showing 1 through 3.
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a little easyer reading..

A public meeting “How Should We Harvest and Protect the Red Lake Walleye

Into the Future!” was held at the Red Lake Humanities Center on Tuesday, January 17, 2006.

This meeting was intended to gain valuable input from all Tribal Members to make acceptable harvest policies for the Spring 2006 walleye opener.

Hosted by the Red Lake Tribal Council, agenda items included a short presentation by the Red Lake DNR, followed by an open floor discussion between the Tribal Council and Tribal Members to determine the future of Red Lake.

Over 120 people attended this meeting—including all 11 Red Lake Tribal Council members--which included an overview of the walleye recovery and current status, a public question and answer forum, and a questionnaire.

The questionnaire asked 6 question.

1) Should the Band commercial fish in the future?

2) Would you support a community based corporate commercial fishery? Where each community (the 4 Districts) would have a small number of tribally employed fishermen that would set gillnets for commercial sale during the summer fishing season.

3) Would you support Band members selling fish to the commercial fishery during the summer and winter that they caught using hook and line? Daily bag limits and protective size limits would be developed for protection of larger fish and increase the marketability of the catch. Public announcements would be made daily or weekly if the processing plant would be buying fish.

4) Would you support Band members being able to use gillnets for personal use/subsistence fishing?

5) Would you support Band members only being able to use hook and line fishing for personal use? Protective daily bag limits and/or size limits would be developed to protect larger fish.

6) Band members will be able to harvest walleye again sometime in the spring of 2006. For this year, what do you recommend as the way fish should be harvested for personal use/subsistence?

Chairman Jourdain opened the meeting by stating this meeting was one in a series of meetings that had been held in all Red Lake Reservation Districts, along with the two urban areas of Minneapolis/St. Paul and Duluth. He stated they wanted to gather input from tribal members on harvesting Red Lake walleye in 2006.

“In the past the harvest was based on economics,” Jourdain said. “But now we have the science, we have the biology, we have the ability to be able to monitor and determine what safe levels there are, and we can tell now when we are hurting the lake, and we know when to stop.”

Jourdain said the Tribe has been pondering data accumulated in the past several months obtained by the Red Lake DNR and Red Lake members.

Red Lake DNR manager and Redby Representative Allen Pemberton, explained the role the DNR was playing in the process.

“We planned on doing this a little earlier [holding more public meetings], but a lot of other things came up,” Pemberton said. “But we have to make some kind of decisions before spring comes and we want the input of all the membership.”

He said the Fishery crew has been working very hard the last few years and the lake has came back real good. There has been a large increase in what they were catching during the spring in their spawn nets—and there were a lot of big walleyes, more than there has ever been, he felt.

“We have to make some good decisions in the future to preserve our lake,” he said. “We can do it on our own. We have the means to do it. We know the scientific part of it; we know how much can be taken out like Buck said. It can be done and we have the crew that knows what’s going on.”

Pat Brown, Red Lake Fisheries Biologist, went over some of the information they collected over the past 7-8 years during his presentation. He talked about the current status of the walleye population, the biological management plan, and some of the things the DNR was going to do in the future.

In explaining the biology management plan he said the major components of the plan included harvest quota based on biology, quota allocation based on ownership, harvest methods as a jurisdiction decision—the Band chooses how they want to fish—and each jurisdiction is responsible for maintaining under their harvest cap.

Brown said the recommended safe harvest levels when the season opens—May or June—413.000 pounds or less for the Red Lake Band, and 84,000 pounds or less for the state jurisdiction. The Red Lake Tribe owns about 83.2% of both Upper and Lower Red Lake, while the state owns about 16.8% of Upper Red Lake.

“What DNR is going to have to do in the future to make sure that this plan works,” Brown explained, “is if they go back to some type of commercial fishing, then they’re going to have to do the same type of monitoring that used to be done at the commercial Fishery. We basically need to be able to tell how many pounds of walleye are being caught each year…”

Other things they would need to monitor would be hook and line fishing and subsistence gillnetting, if that was going to be allowed.

Francis Brun questioned the DNR being able to monitor all types of fishing. He talked about what was recorded at the Fisheries, yet there was no way to tell what was taken for other purposes—subsistence, hook and line and those walleye taken off the reservation on the black market.

Pemberton stated they were shorthanded on game wardens, but have applied for grants for more. He wasn’t sure if they would receive any help before the spring of this year.

“We have to put some strict rules down and we have to take care of the lake on our own,” Pemberton said. “A lot of the other people out there, we’re going to have to police ourselves in a way. If we don’t do that we’re going to be back where we were before.”

He said he never thought he’d see in his lifetime where people would not be able to catch walleyes on the lake. He said that shouldn’t happen again. In the surveys there were many good ideas and suggestions. But they still needed more ideas and input from all members.

Going after the BIA for game wardens and startup costs associated with the Fisheries, was what Treasurer Darrell Seki Sr. suggested, as it was originally their responsibility under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

Retired BIA employee Mickey Fairbanks stated he believed the BIA had the trust responsibility to assist in any Tribe of their natural resource that needs to be protected. He wanted to know what plans the State of Minnesota had, and said he has never been a person to trust the State of Minnesota and especially the Department of Natural Resources.

Fairbanks also questioned the imaginary line dividing what the Red Lake Band owned and the State of Minnesota owned, and if there were any thoughts to putting up a net or something at that border to keep the fish separated from each jurisdiction.

Chairman Jourdain said there was an “irresponsibility” there by the BIA by allowing the Tribe to extend quotas and keep going, and at some point they do need to be held accountable. He also spoke about the surveys, regulating, and funding for all aspects of the lake.

“The question about the state,” Jourdain said, “the MOU and the Fisheries Technical Committee, we’ve made sure we’re safeguarded the tribe, that there are no blurred lines where the state has any authority over what we do--how we harvest our fish. What we do is how we determine how we do things. The state is cooperating with the Tribe in agreement that biology will be the source of the harvest, to make sure that cooperatively we do not run into the same situation again. We’re not opposed to that; we’re not opposed to working with people to monitor and collectively make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Jourdain explained the imaginary line separating the two jurisdictions, stating the tribe was reluctant by their own hands to determine any boundaries because there were still some treaty issues they were looking at.

“I don’t think there was any way to avoid the fish going back and forth,” Jourdain said. “We want to protect our own interests. We don’t want any definites as far as where the boundaries are because we’ve always maintained that that upper part of the lake was taken illegally from us.”

That was something the Tribe was continuing to pursue.

Darwin Sumner questioned law enforcement issues. He said when he was out ice fishing on Upper Red Lake, they saw people coming way over and apparently into what the Red Lake Band owns.

“Where’s our game wardens at?” Sumner asked. “If we can’t afford game wardens, then let’s get rid of some of those guys at the DNR who do nothing up there and hire some of our own people as game wardens to patrol our waters?”

Robin Stately said he wanted to be able to teach his grandchildren about commercial fishing.

“Our ancestors already set laws down on how many nets to set,” Stately said. “That the lake would take care of. We set our nets and we make our people listen to those laws. If they don’t want to listen to those laws, put them in damn jail. What’s so hard about that? The same way with the people that illegally stole our waters up in the Washkash area. They break our laws, put them in jail—take their equipment. Same way with our own people. They break our laws and stuff like that, put them in jail. That’s what we have a damn multimillion dollar jailhouse for. I want to see fishing back here.”

He said that people who wanted to angle, let them angle—they wouldn’t make a dent in the lake by doing that.

“I know when they said the lake was dead, we didn’t have no fish—we went out there and fished on the ice and we caught fish,” he said. “We caught big walleyes.”

Stately said the ancestors created the laws to govern the lake for food for our people and it should be kept that way. He said if he went out there and broke the laws he should be put in jail—made to pay for breaking the laws. The almighty dollar wasn’t everything to Indian people. Culture meant more. Before they used to stop fishing for a while when fishing wasn’t as good as normal.

Francis Brun talked about a referendum on the matter, that the tribal council needed direction from the people. He also talked about the court system and non-members through that current system.

Pemberton mentioned that the Army Corp of Engineers was going to put a fish bypass at the Outlet this summer so a lot of fish wouldn’t be going down that river every year. This had been brought up at a previous meeting in Red Lake in 2005.

Patty Jourdain talked about being able to teach her sons about what she learned about commercial fishing, and that they were going to need more game wardens than what they currently had because there were people already selling fish. She said she was asked the other day if she wanted to buy some walleyes and she refused the offer. And there were quite a few of them out bootlegging fish.

Darren Defoe of Redby said he came from a generation of people that grew up fishing on the Blackduck River banks. He said he agreed with Darwin and Robin on what we can do with people that violate the laws. We should hold our own people accountable, too.

“We don’t have anybody to blame but ourselves for what happened to this lake,” Defoe said. “An elder told me this one time. If you make a mistake, and you learn from it, then that becomes a teaching and there will be no repercussions for that. But if you make a mistake and you make it again, that’s when repercussions will happen.”

Defoe also spoke about policing ourselves, morals and the almighty dollar taking over. He said the lake was never dead, either.

“I really think we shouldn’t start commercial fishing just yet,” he said. “Because if we go ahead and let everybody commercial fish, it’s going to be a big free-for-all. It’s like when you’re at a pow-wow and they throw that candy out there for them kids, they’re all going to come running—they all want a piece of that.”

He said throughout the years he craved fish, and also fish eggs. It was something he enjoyed. He also mentioned the plane and the non-members that landed on the lake, fished, and nothing was ever done to them. Something had to be done about something like that.

“I sure would like to be able to take my boy out and teach him how to catch walleyes with a rod and reel, but I don’t think we should start gillnetting just yet,” he concluded.

Helma Cloud said she didn’t think that commercial fishing on the lake could be sustained in the past because there were too many commercial fisherman at the time. The lake couldn’t sustain that.

Jourdain spoke about the Fisheries Board of the past and there currently not being one that was active. But that needed to be looked at, too. He also talked about illegal netting, selling fish off the reservation, those that didn’t commercial fish, those that did or did not benefit from the lake, and the moratorium.

“No one ever said that the fish were completely gone,” Jourdain said, “that there were no more walleye. There were walleye out there, just the numbers were so dangerously low that we were in danger if we kept going it, that it would never be able to replenish itself. And if not for the restocking and the science and biology, this moratorium might be in effect for fifty years before we get back to the levels of 1983-84.”

He also talked about funding for reopening the Fisheries Plant in Redby, tougher laws and enforcement, and how much fish was actually leaving the Reservation without going through the Fisheries.

Pat Brown explained how they determined the fish counts, along with what was being caught through all forms of fishing, and how they came up with the survey questions.

Archie King said he felt a referendum should be put together at this coming election in 2006.

“And if they do decide to go commercial fishing, set up some damn rules that we’re all going to follow,” he said.

King said the membership should make that decision. He also said time was running out until May and there were a lot of unanswered questions, such as who could fish, who would make that determination, and what happens once the quota was made.

“Time is running out and we have to do something,” he said. “I still don’t want the state (Minnesota) to tell me when I can fish on my own lake.”

He also maintained that members were still entitled to one or two walleyes and he didn’t care what the rules were in respect to that.

King talked about community committees, when he used to commercial fish, and admitted that many years ago he had also bootlegged fish. He had did that because it was a way of life back then faced with tougher times.

“Realistically being so short of time, so short of resources, we didn’t realistically think there would be a full scale operation going,” Jourdain said. “Just because the state is going to be doing whatever it is that they do, we disagree that they can say what we do.”

Jourdain stated there was an understanding with the state, that we reserve the right to regulate ourselves and make our own determinations on how we harvest and how we do those types of things. He said they maintained that for many years and will continue to do so.

Pemberton explained the survey and stated we were going to start fishing when the fishing season opened—that it was a given—whether there was any sort of commercial fishing or otherwise. A limit, if any, would probably be set, but it didn’t have to be whatever the state was setting theirs at.

Preliminary state reports indicated they would have a 2 walleye limit when the fishing season opened for them on Upper Red Lake.

Larry Good said he had been involved with commercial fishing for half his life. He said it was a way of life for him, and eventually a good life. Commercial fishermen did more work by 8 a.m. than many did all day long. It was a good life and you got good things for your family if you worked hard for it.

“We started ten years ago and gave up a lifestyle for ten years,” Good said about the moratorium. “What I mean by a lifestyle, is you could go out there and make money everyday and feel good about yourself, and you pay your bills every month. And at the end of the year, if you hustled—give her hell like I know you guys can—then you got a bonus check. Heck, you felt good.”

Good said that if we played the cards right we could bring a lot of needed income into the reservation. He talked about a baseline price rather than a nickel and dime price like it used to be. A baseline price could be set at five dollars per filet because restaurants were selling fish dinners for $26.00 a plate. He added that at the present quota, that figure could mean $5 million dollars. That could mean income for people and would pay for additional game wardens.

He also talked about the work the DNR was doing, that it was a good thing they were doing. He also spoke about fishing with a rod and reel and the Fisheries buying fish caught that way from Tribal members.

“There are better days ahead,” Chairman Jourdain said. “I know with fishing that was a huge boost to our economy, opportunity for our tribal members, and we do still call the shots on the reservation.”

He said within the next couple of years there are some things happening on the Red Lake Indian Reservation. Things will start to look up. The debt of the casinos will be paid off, they will be able to act on the interest from the forestry settlement, the fishing industry would be up and going.

In the last couple of years Red Lake has been struggling, Jourdain said about the history of the tribe, but things were going to start to pick up. He said there was a good future ahead for everyone. And he agreed with what people were saying, that fishing was a way of life for some.

Red Lake Tribal Secretary Judy Roy talked about the Army Corp of Engineers referring to Red Lake as a reservoir, and scientists and biologists refer to Red Lake as a fishery.

“I told them to true Red Lakers, neither one of those terms apply,” Roy said, “because to us it’s neither a reservoir nor a fishery, it’s a sacred, living body to us who are Red Lakers. It’s something that our Chiefs kept for us. They had a specific reason for keeping it for us, and that was for subsistence, for sustaining our families into the future. Now I think we kind of started in the middle when we started with the question, do we want sport fishing or commercial fishing on Red Lake when we can open it again? And we got the message loud and clear, we do not want sport fishing. That’s our lake.

“And so, that question has been resolved. But we need to go back, we need to ask ourselves, what is that lake, what does it mean to us, and what would be the proper and appropriate use for it? Do we want it to provide jobs? Do we want it to provide economic development? Do we want it to be sustinance for every member of the Band to have access to fish to feed their family? However we answer that question, that will determine how we’re going to use that lake.”

Roy stated the point has been made that we’re running out of time or we have to decide something quickly. She said there was no clock ticking that said by a certain time we have to say yes or no or this way and that way.

“We have to take the time, like our Chief’s did, to ensure that we know what that lake means to us, and what it means to future generations,” Roy said. “And so if we need that time, let’s take it. Who’s pushing us? Who’s pushing us to make a choice one way or another? It’s our decision to make. Let’s do it right, because it will determine the future, it will determine if the dads or the mothers can take their kids out and teach them to fish one way or another. It’ll determine what we’re going to do with our great-grandchildren.”

She said there were so many important choices ahead of us. We have to learn how to be deliberate, as well as what the consequences were going to be. She stated often we make choices because we feel rushed or there’s a deadline, and do something without really thinking it through. This is going to be the result 20 years from now because of the choices we make today.

“So I hope that we’re not driven by this ticking clock that doesn’t exist,” she added. “By our need to rush out there and make sure we get our share before the white people get it. We’ll get our share. It’s our lake. But one thing that I’m going to still insist on—and people think I have a vendetta against a certain person—that’s not it. We have to learn by our mistakes in the past. We have to learn why the lake collapsed, whether we think it was totally or there were still walleye in there, it was not enough to sustain us and it would have not been back up if we wouldn’t have intervened.”

Secretary Roy said we had to hold the Bureau of Indians Affairs accountable, regulated or not regulated, by the federal government under the BIA. They failed in their duty to protect Red Lake resources.

“And if we don’t get answers to what happened in the final years of that Fishery operation, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes that were made in running it into the ground to begin with,” she said. “The Tribal Council has passed 2-3 resolutions calling for an audit of the Red Lake Fisheries Association. We have money that disappeared, we have resources that were mismanaged, and no one yet has been held accountable for that. If we don’t proceed and find out what went on in that operation, we are just saying, okay, we’ll just charge ahead and maybe we won’t make the same mistakes again, maybe we’ll do it right this time.

“So I urge us, not to feel like we have to just do something for the sake of doing something, That’s one of our most precious holdings, one of our most precious resources. People go out to the lakeshore when they’re feeling down.”

She said the lake heels us, it reminds us of who we are, it reminds us of the best we can be and where we came from, as well as what our ancestors gave up for us. One should not see dollar signs, nets and quotas when looking at the lake, but see what we have determined from that lake—and sincerely take the time necessary in making a decision.

“To have a good referendum and to say this is what the majority of the people want, you need one good question,” Roy stated. “So that people can either answer option A or option B, or yes or no, then we will know what the majority of the people want. I don’t think we’re anywhere near formulating the question. And if we think we can do it by May, fine, let’s do it, but let’s not think that the Council is going to make the decision for you. We know this is the people’s decision and that’s where we’ll be.”

Bill May said he enjoyed the meeting tonight. It was his 8th meeting he had attended about the walleye. It was good to see so many people because of the significance of the issue, and the feedback of the people. He agreed with Secretary Roy about not having a ticking clock to make the decision. And he said he could relate to Good’s stories about being a commercial fisherman as a young boy and on through the years. He had been involved in the industry from a young boy to the collapse.

May was a board member of the Fisheries Association and was also elected president by other members of the board prior to the shut down and moratorium.

More meetings are planned on this matter. Minnesota’s fishing season begins on or about May 13, 2006. Red Lake Tribal elections are set for May 17, 2006.

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