Reflections from the Ah­nish­i­nah­bæójib­way (We, the People)

June 1, 1988

The tribal elections in Red Lake this year were very quiet.  Not only was campaigning subdued, but also there weren’t any of the large ads in the Pioneer, “WARNING,” “ARSONISTS,” etc., that the B.I.A. and their puppets usually pay hundreds of dollars of our money for.

The Red Lake Tribal Chairman was quoted in the Bemidji Pioneer the day after the referendum as saying that Indians were the first conservationists.  But, when the Indian Reorganization Act was fraudulently brought onto Red Lake Reservation, the moratorium on cutting was lifted.  The jackpine have almost all been cut down, oak and aspen are being clear-cut, and many square miles of good timber have been wasted by the Government—either burned or piled and left to rot.  If the concern of the referendum was conserving wildlife, there should have been a prohibition on clear-cutting, on destroying wildlife habitat; not a blank check for the B.I.A., through their puppets the Tribal Council, to abrogate Treaty hunting and fishing rights.

In interviewing one unsuccessful candidate for councilman, we asked by the hunting and fishing rights referendum was not a part of his campaign literature.  He stated that he did not know that the referendum was on the ballot until he went to vote.  The issue of the Treaty Rights Referendum was never discussed, nor even made public,  prior to the election.

We feel that the issue goes much deeper than “protecting nursing fawns and keeping people from killing bears for their claws only,”  which is how the Bureau explained the referendum on election day.  No Traditional Indian would ever do either of these things.  No Traditional Indian would clearcut the forests, or deliberately plant sheephead in the lake, either.

In 1959, another orchestrated “Referendum” was held on Red Lake Reservation: the B.I.A. wrote in one internal memorandum that it was not advisable to create factions, quite yet, and then later in a second memorandum advised the Red Lake Agency Office not to inform the Red Lake Indian people that the proposed constitution was a 1934 I.R.A. boilerplate constitution, because if that became knowledge it would not pass.  Indian people were told that the Constitution of the old Chiefs Council was being revised, when in reality the Bureau was playing a sleight of hand trick, using the members of the “Constitution Committee” as pawns, and entrenching their power by slipping a 1934 I.R.A. Constitution onto Red Lake.  The B.I.A.’s “federally recognized” colonial “chief” was among the very few people who knew what was really happening.  When an Indian complains to the Bureau about something, we are told “you voted for it.”

Also, the acculturated Indians and almost-whites that the B.I.A. has packed onto the tribal Rolls (and thus also onto the voter registrations) and onto the Reservation as a part of their colonial administration are the ones who have been killing more deer than they needed and taking them to the dump, wasting bears, fishing with 50 nets, and clear-cutting.  These people do not have traditional Indian values, and because of the colonial government, the traditional Indian community is powerless to make them abide by Traditional Indian values.  Maybe the people who do not belong here don’t care if they destroy what isn’t theirs.

Francis Blake, Jr.

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