Folks living in Minnesota’s northernmost nub love Canadians.
They just don’t want to be one.
So when word got around this week about a petition asking that the scenic Northwest Angle be given back to Canada, it didn’t go over well.
“We’re proud to be neighbors, but that is where we draw the line — figuratively and literally,” said Lisa Goulet, a fifth-generation “Angleite” who runs the Angle Outpost Resort with her husband and eight children near the Minnesota-Canada border.
“We love being neighbors with Canada,” she said. “We have a U.S. and a Canadian flag on our porch. We started celebrating Boxing Day this year.
“If they gave us to Canada, it would be very personal.”
A petition was launched by an anonymous user Dec. 30 on the White House website, where a section called “We the People” offers citizens a chance to bring issues to the president’s attention. If a petition gets 100,000 signatures, the White House promises to respond.
That doesn’t mean any action will be taken, only that the White House will pay attention. And with fewer than 1,000 signatures as of Wednesday, the Angle petition has a long way to go.
Goulet, for one, is skeptical.
“Have they really considered all the hoops we would have to jump through?” she said. “It just seems really unfeasible. On the other hand, anything that gets us in the news and spotlights our tourism is great.”
The Northwest Angle, the little chunk of land that sticks out atop Minnesota’s northern border, comprises about 600 square miles, most of it — about 80 percent — water. Except in winter, when Lake of the Woods freezes over, the Angle can’t be reached on land without driving through Canada. About 120 people live there year-round, many of them involved in tourism.
This isn’t the first time there’s been talk of making the Angle part of Canada.
In the late 1990s, Angleites were upset when a fishing war broke out with their neighbors across the border. The province of Ontario declared that anglers fishing the Canadian portion of Lake of the Woods — comprising about two-thirds of the lake — couldn’t keep any fish unless they were staying at Canadian resorts.
Minnesota resort owners howled, and U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat who represents the area, proposed a constitutional amendment giving Angleites the right to vote on secession. The issue was eventually settled when Ontario backed off its catch restriction.
The recent petition claims that the Angle was created in error by a surveyor’s mistake more than 200 years ago, leaving it as the only land in the contiguous United States above the 49th parallel.
“Make America great by correcting this critical survey error,” the petition reads.
That proposal doesn’t sit well with the Red Lake Nation, which owns 80 percent of the Angle, held in trust by the federal government.
“It belongs to our tribe. We don’t support that idea,” said tribal Chairman Darrell Seki Sr.
Judy Risser, an Angle resident for 46 years, doesn’t think much of it, either.
“I have nothing against [Canadians],” she said. “And who wants to go through a fight?
“I believe I’m a U.S. citizen and would like to stay that way.”
Still, love of their Canadian neighbors runs strong in the Angle, and at least one resident is willing to entertain the notion of swapping the Stars and Stripes for a maple leaf.
“As long as I don’t have to move, I guess I wouldn’t mind being Canadian,” said Samantha Palmquist, who grew up in Anoka but moved to Oak Island four years ago to manage the Sunset Lodge. “There’s a lot of Canadians up here, and they’re stereotypically nice, mellow. Canada is a beautiful country.
“But if they try to force me out, then forget it.”