Cass Lake, MN- Today, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Executive Director Robert Budreau Jr., issued the following letter to Senator Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids, and Representative Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin voicing the Tribe’s opposition to recently introduced bills which would remove protections against sulfates in wild rice waters.
The bills, identified as HF3280 and SF2983 in the letter, would remove the current 10 parts per million limit on sulfate discharges into wild rice waters.
The Band also strongly disagrees with the current listing of wild rice waters compiled by the State of Minnesota.
The full text of the letter is below:
The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe that opposes HF3280 and SF 2983. To repeal legislation that ensures and maintains a level of sulfate entering our waters is illegal as well as negligent.
As Anishinaabe people we have many traditions and cultural traits that we hold sacred, none more than Manoomin (wild rice). Ojibwe prophecy, which we hold as natural law, states that we were instructed by Creator to follow the Miigis (cowrie shell) west along the great lakes until we reached the place where the food grows on the water. Our ancestors were told that this sacred food will sustain and provide life for the Ojibwe to live here (in what is now known as Minnesota) forever! For generations Anishinaabe people have kept these waters the Manoomin stronghold they are today – and it was not through legislation or research but through respect.
The significance that Manoomin holds to Ojibwe people cannot be overstated. When legislators ask if Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe was consulted on this legislation, tell them no. In this regard, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe opposes HF3280 and SF2983. Before the State considers throwing out water quality regulations in order to satisfy industry or commerce, we urge the State to honor the human rights of the Ojibwe Nations and people and treat us with respect.
Manoomin (wild rice) holds a unique, historical, and sacred place in the history and lives of the Ojibwe in Minnesota. So much so that today, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe people still depend on the harvest and sale of this sacred food for our subsistence and income in the fall when the wild rice is harvested.
From an ecological perspective the State of Minnesota and Canada have the largest concentration of wild rice in the entire world. The importance to the State’s water, wetlands, aquatic animals, and waterfowl cannot be measured. Today, natural wild rice faces many current and potential threats in the state. In general, many factors can affect water quality, among them: seasonal water levels, lakebed conditions, climate change, or genetic research or cloning of wild rice which the tribes in Minnesota already vehemently oppose. Of immediate concern is the State’s attempt to throw out protective water quality standards and the arbitrary list of wild rice waters through the actions of HF3280 and SF2983. Just because Minnesota doesn’t enforce its own regulatory standard doesn’t make it right or safe to repeal it with no replacement. The Clean Water Act rules cannot be replaced without replacing them with more protective standards.
During the process the State went through to research and create the new standard it was stated many times that the Anishinaabe are the Manoomin experts. To protect, preserve, and properly care for Manoomin, it is imperative that the state recognize the ecological, historic, spiritual, and cultural importance of Manoomin and to treat the Manoomin and the Ojibwe nations and people with respect. The Leech Lake Band finds the current list of wild rice lakes insufficient and continues to question the arbitrary listing of current wild rice lakes. The State has demonstrated willful intent to ignore tribal documentation of wild rice lakes previously when consulted during the sulfate rulemaking process. To claim in legislative sessions that there is Tribal buy-in on this legislation is disingenuous and should be proven with letters of support from Tribal Nations.
Robert Budreau, Jr.
Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
CC: Members of MN House and Senate Committees on Environment and Natural Resources