MN needs to offer more support to reservations

by Jasper Johnson

American Indian Reservations in Minnesota have been in the news recently with several state agencies promising various aspects of reform. 
First, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis President Narayana Kocherlakota voiced the concern that “economic development lagged on most reservations, leaving them as pockets of extreme rural poverty and underdevelopment.” 
Poverty is widespread on reservations, but the Fed is attempting to combat this with new community development operations. These programs should ameliorate some of the economic issues afflicting reservations.
Additionally, education improvement is desperately needed on Minnesota reservations. However, complications arise when dealing with the bureaucratic 
structure of such funding. Rep. John Kline toured an underfunded high school on Leech Lake Reservation and described a “tangle of bureaucracy” as a possible source of the educational inadequacy. 
School buildings themselves are structurally unsafe for students, and the education they provide is subpar. The under-funding is in part due to a lack of coordinated efforts between the United States Department of Education, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education. More communication is necessary to improve the school system.
Finally, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is attempting to maintain a sustainable fishery population in lakes on reservations while still allowing bands to harvest fish. The DNR has a duty to ensure the stability of fish populations, but the tribes also have the right to harvest fish on their land. 
Regulations are constantly changing, with the walleye limit for Mille Lacs reduced to one fish per person. Tribes are also allowed to harvest fish using methods like netting and spearing, which are illegal for other anglers. 
Minnesota tribes need to realize the permanent effects that overharvesting can have on the ecosystem, and the DNR needs to coordinate more effective techniques for fisheries management on tribal lands.
I view the support and cooperation offered by Minnesota agencies as a positive start, one that will hopefully improve the state of affairs for the reservations. The biggest challenge is dealing with the degree of insulation that tribes have from federal guidance. These programs should help reservations while still maintaining some governmental autonomy for the tribes. Ultimately, reservations need to be bettered even if that means sacrificing some sovereignty on the part of the tribes. 
A legacy of inequality and inadequacy has plagued reservations since their inception. An underlying cause of this modern day inequality is the lack of reconcilable
policies. Increased cooperation between the state and reservations is needed in order to improve education, boost the economic condition and support fisheries of Minnesota’s American Indian Reservations.