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Part 4: Treaty Rights and You

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In this episode, we listen to Dr. Joseph Bauerkemper, Samir Grover, and Tadd Johnson on the foundational issue of treaties. As you know, Broken Lands is a podcast series that came about because of the Duluth Reparation made to the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. The financial amount offered in this reparation symbolizes the treaties of 1854, 1855 and 1866, in which the Anishinaabegkake granted the federal government this land and what settlers now call Northeastern Minnesota. This episode is all about the implications for a society built on promises that have been broken.

When we talk about treaty violations, it's not long before we begin to touch on larger historical ideas like the doctrine of discovery, Manifest Destiny, white supremacy, and progress. Examining these dogmas of Western civilization helps us understand how and why settler narratives often lack attention to the relationships spelled out by these treaties. We will also listen to our elder Tadd Johnson speak to us about the failure of our judicial system to fully understand the implications of our treaty-making and the basics of Indian law. This abdication of responsibility is predicated on a dysfunctional system that goes all the way to the top. So since we've witnessed this Duluth reparation, isn't it time to consider how our relationships are at the center of these treaties mapped out seven generations ago?

Dr. Matthew Cobb So knowing the context of northern Minnesota and the arrowhead, knowing the demographics, knowing some history, the three guests today are going to provide a real wide breadth of understanding about treaty rights and how they might impact us directly in our lives together here. So, Joseph, would you start us with a quick introduction?

Dr. Joseph Bauerkemper Yeah, thank you. So I'm Joseph Bauerkemper, tuning in here from Duluth, Minnesota, where I live and work at the University of Minnesota's Duluth campus in the Department of American Indian Studies. I currently serve as one of your other guests' successor as the director of the Tribal Sovereignty Institute now, at the University of Minnesota. And I also am an affiliate faculty at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. And I'm here today to shed a bit of my perspective as a settler person, a non-Indian, primarily of European descent, though having, you know, in a kinship network, a family that's lived on this continent for nearly a couple hundred years. So I'm here to share that perspective. I don't speak on behalf of the university, though the work there certainly informs where I'm coming from and the ideas that I'm working toward, I suppose. But it's good to be here. I appreciate the conversation. Thank you.

Samir Grover My name is Samir Grover. I'm a law student at Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law in Phoenix, Arizona. I'm part of the Indian legal program, pursuing the Indian legal certificate there. And prior to that, I worked at Anishinaabe Legal Services in Cass Lake, and I did work in White Earth, Red Lake, and Leech Lake Reservations regarding disability cases. And, yeah, I'm Indian and Pakistani, specifically Punjabi. So I come from, I guess, that perspective. But I think part of what drew me towards Indian law was that my family was forcibly removed from Pakistan, and had to relocate to India, due to a border being drawn.

Tadd Johnson So my name's Tadd Johnson, I'm a member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, which is part of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. I spent most of my life as an attorney and came to the academy fairly ... well, I was 52, and worked with Joseph, and we started a couple of graduate programs, a Master of Tribal Administration and Governance and a Master of Tribal Resource and Environmental Stewardship. And we also worked closely with MNDOT, Minnesota Department of Transportation, and the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, which is essentially all the tribes in Minnesota, and created a tribal state relations program. And together, we've trained about 5,000 state employees. So we've been doing it since 2013. I think of the things we've done, that's one of the things I'm most proud of is actually training non-Indians on federal Indian policy. And we have a lot of fun doing it, so I'm honored to be here.

Dr. Matthew Cobb To set up this conversation. I wanted to start with Joseph Bauerkemper first, speaking to us about how the treaties between European settlers and the Anishinaabeg on this land are at the very foundation of our society as an example of how this affects our relationships with one another today. He references a recent Supreme Court case which calls into question Indian sovereignty, and even Indian identity. He notes that such deliberations are bound to be wrongheaded if we don't recognize the fundamental reality of these treaties. At the center of these treaties is the basic human relationship between the Anishinaabeg and European settlers. The principle and foundation of these treaties are that they recognize the rights were granted to settlers by the tribal nations, not the other way around.

Dr. Joseph Bauerkemper I've got a bit of a certain kind of privilege in this conversation, because I'm not an attorney, I'm certainly not an attorney, nor am I studying to be one. And so, I get to maybe have, instead of a more realistic tilt, I get to maybe have a little more of a moral tilt when I do an analysis of some of these things. And, you know, to my mind, the treaties are at the core of it, in the sense that it's only by way of treaties that we have this entity called the federal government.

It's only by way of treaties that we have these state governments. You know, those treaties are the pathway through which those things were created and exist, and they're doing a terrible job of upholding their obligations under those treaties, and therefore, they're doing a terrible job of upholding the reality that allows them to exist.