US Forest Service and native Minnesotan tribes sign historic agreement

Co-stewardship development is a step in the right direction


Modesty Manion

Recently, an agreement was made between the US Forest Service and three northern Minnesotan Indigenous tribes over the control and regulation of the Superior National Forest area. The historic agreement was made to give the tribes a stronger hold on the management of the forest, showing that the government is trying to stand side by side with Native American tribes rather than against them. This land was ceded to the federal government over 170 years ago, and the new agreement protects the rights of the Fond du Lac, Grand Portage and Bois Forte Chippewa bands over their previously-owned lands.

In 1854, the bands entered a treaty with the U.S. ceding 6.2 million acres of land now known as northern Minnesota on the coast of Lake Superior. 3.3 million acres of that land is now considered the Superior National Forest, where the US Forest Service facilitates camping, hiking and other forms of public recreation. The new agreement, made in conjunction between the Forest Service and the three Chippewa bands, gives joint control over the area for future decision-making, including changes that impact treaty rights.

I took a hiking trip on the Superior Hiking Trail this summer, and it was amazing. The forest is beautiful and there are a ton of breathtaking sights. There are over 300 miles of hiking trail, there are great campsites and it’s on the border of one of my favorite places, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Because I love this area of Minnesota so much, I feel that the indigenous tribes that live there should have control over their land. Not only is the area rightfully theirs, it’s also an integral part of their cultures. 

Especially with the countless pipelines that have been built in recent years, such as Line 3 and the Willow Project, that go through Native territory and contaminate the drinking water, the US government has not treated Native Americans with the respect they deserve. This is why the new agreement is a step in the right direction to correct the wrongdoings of the US government against Native Minnesotan tribes.

But what exactly will this agreement entail? The US Forest Service has already been working with the bands on policy issues like recreational use, timber management, development and access issues. However, the co-stewardship memorandum formalizes the relationship for the future of the Superior National Forest. When announcing it, the Forest Service stated that the agreement “recognizes the bands as original stewards of lands now encompassing the Superior National Forest and outlines procedures to ensure that tribal input is meaningfully incorporated into Forest Service decision-making.” 

All in all, I think this is a great development for the relationship between the Minnesota government and the three Chippewa bands, and I hope that future cooperation similar to this agreement occurs.