Your Task

  1. Read the overall briefing materials (current and proposed wild rice standards, Environmental Justice Framework, timeline) and note key points.

  2. Read your group’s briefing materials on this page and note key points.

  3. Discuss an appropriate standard for wild rice protection from tribal nations’ standpoints, considering political, economic, social, and cultural factors..

  4. Fill in the Rainbow Diagram for Stakeholder Visualization. Think about the following questions:

    • Differences within your group (is there a shared worldview?).

    • How much influence your group has, or might have?

    • How the group has or might exert that influence?

    • How large is the group or how large could it become?

    • How is the group organized to make decisions?

    • What are the financial resources or social capital of the group?

  5. Consider if your group is “affected by” or is “affecting” wild rice protection, or both.

  6. Prepare key talking points for a brief presentation of your group’s analysis, above.

  • Read the highlights from the MPCA’s Final Technical Support Document: Refinements to Minnesota’s Sulfate Water Quality Standard to Protect Wild Rice
  • Review the multimedia resources below


In Minnesota, there are at least 12 American Indian Tribes that are fundamentally sovereign nations with rights and self-determination. The legal and cultural rights to land and resources that accord to American Indians in Minnesota include the wild rice harvest. Ojibwe Tribal Nations are located in the northern half of Minnesota and contain lakes with large quantities of wild rice and strong annual harvest traditions involving many community members. In the 1837 Treaty with the Chippewa stated in Article 5, “The privilege of hunting, fishing, and gathering the wild rice, upon the lands, the rivers and the lakes included in the territory ceded, is guarantied [sic] to the Indians, during the pleasure of the President of the United States.”

The Role of Treaties

A project called “Treaties Matter” (,, designed to explain treaty rights to Minnesotans without such knowledge, provides valuable  information about the unique status of American Indian people within the lands of Minnesota.


Treaties guarantee rights to land well beyond tribal nation lands, covering a much larger area called “ceded territory.” The 1854 Treaty Authority represents two Ojibwe tribes, the Grand Portage and Bois Forte Bands, located close to the proposed copper-nickel mine sites. For the Treaty Authority, “The goal of the wild rice program is to improve knowledge of wild rice ecosystems to lead to better management, protection, and restoration of viable wild rice waters in the Ceded Territory while promoting cooperative efforts between tribal and non-tribal agencies.”

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
The rights of the Ojibwe tribes, and other American Indian tribes in this region as applicable, to the lands on which tribal members traditionally gather wild rice is protected by the United Nations in its 2007 Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People. Article 26 of that declaration states that “Indigenous Peoples have the right to the lands, territories, and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied, or otherwise used or acquired.”

The Dakota and Ojibwe relinquished millions of acres through treaties with the United States. This map shows the dates of the principal land cession treaties, the extent of the land loss, and the location of present-day Ojibwe and Dakota communities. Source: Minnesota Historical Society.

What Led to the Increased Focus on Wild Rice Regulation

The possibility of new mines and new pipelines running through American Indian nations led to increased concerns and organizing by the tribes about their environmental, cultural and economic rights, including the vulnerability of wild rice to these changes in land use. Journalist Stephanie Hemphill, provided significant coverage of these efforts.

Read this article

Approaches to Addressing the Sulfate Standard

Different tribal groups have taken different approaches to the matter of working out the sulfate standards as determined by the State of Minnesota. While some Ojibwe tribes worked closely with scientists and MPCA agency staff in the wild rice standard research and policymaking process, including offering access to reservation water bodies and being involved in hearings and other processes, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe chose not to become involved. The Leech Lake band did continue in their cultural traditions of caring for wild rice.

Read this article

Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Six of the Minnesota Ojibwe tribes (the Bois Forte, Fond du Lac, Grand Portage, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, and White Earth) are organized together as the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (MCT). As part of its work. the MCT has an environmental program that supported a recently drafted “Tribal Cumulative Impact Assessment,” focused on wild rice and water from a TEK perspective. The assessment was undertaken in partnership with Honor the Earth, an organization supporting native environmental concerns, and with collaborators from each Band of the MCT. The assessment was conducted in response to the proposed Line 3 Replacement Project by Enbridge Energy in Minnesota, not because of mining, but contains thorough explanations of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) approaches to wild rice and water.


Ojibwe bands continue to hunt, fish, and gather wild rice as they have for centuries. These rights are recognized in the land cession treaties of 1837 and 1854. By signing these treaties, tribal leaders ensured that future generations would be able to access natural resources on former tribal lands.

Treaties Matter

To Be Partners With Knowledge: An Ojibwe perspective

Larry Aitken is an Ojibwe / Anishinaabe traditional knowledge keeper from Leech Lake, MN. Videography by David McDonald. Edited and produced by Timothy B. Powell.