New highway signs marking the boundary of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe reservation went up last month, but a protracted border dispute is far from over.
Minnesota Department of Transportation crews put up signs that read "Misi-zaaga'iganiing / Mille Lacs Reservation / Established in 1855 Treaty" on Hwys. 169, 27 and 47 on the outer edges of the reservation as spelled out in the treaty.
The signs come after Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Gov. Tim Walz last year sided with the band in an opinion that asserts that it still has 61,000 acres on the southern shore of Lake Mille Lacs in central Minnesota.
In 2015, the Office of the Solicitor in the U.S. Department of the Interior agreed, concluding the reservation established by the 1855 Treaty remained intact.
But Mille Lacs County officials say the 1855 Treaty has long been dissolved and the reservation is much smaller, consisting of about 4,000 acres of scattered lands held in trust by the federal government.
The case is expected to be heard in federal court this spring.
The Mille Lacs Band says it is happy to see the signs, which serve as a reminder of the establishment of the reservation.
"Our ancestors withstood a decadeslong campaign by powerful timber companies, non-Indian settlers, and federal, state and county officials to force them from the Reservation," the Band wrote in a Jan. 8 Facebook post. "Given our history, and the modern-day efforts of Mille Lacs County to erase all memory of our reservation, we greatly appreciate the State's public recognition of its establishment in 1855."
The county said the signs do not accurately mark the boundary and don't resolve the dispute.
"For more than 100 years, it has been settled law — accepted by the County, the State, the Federal government and even the Band itself — that the Mille Lacs Reservation was disestablished," Mille Lacs County Administrator Pat Oman said in a statement. "Now that the Band has sought to reopen that question, it will be decided by the federal courts and not by the Minnesota Department of Transportation's placement of highway signs."
MnDOT isn't part of the lawsuit, said spokesman Jake Loesch.
"The attorney general clarified the state of Minnesota's position on the reservation boundary for the Mille Lacs Band," Loesch said. "MnDOT will continue to use this boundary, which is also consistent with the position of the federal government."
It's not unusual for MnDOT to post signs at reservation borders. The agency has about 25 reservation boundary signs statewide.
All-Day passes discontinued
Some riders have noticed Metro Transit has discontinued sales of its All-Day pass, and wonder if it will be back.
Maybe, said agency spokeswoman Laura Baenen. Metro Transit will reevaluate offering the pass when the pandemic is over and riders return, she said.
The All-Day pass, which allowed unlimited rides for the day on local buses and light-rail trains, was popular with fans heading to sporting events and concerts. In 2019, Metro Transit sold 705,000 of the passes.
With fewer public events due to COVID-19 and Metro Transit encouraging transit use for essential rides only, the agency stopped selling the pass.
Passes previously bought but unused are still valid. "We will honor them," Baenen said.
Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail email@example.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.