Rhonda Silence

An update from the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa on COVID and a slow reopening

During the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic, WTIP Community Radio has been checking in with local government officials to learn more about community response to the virus. WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribal Chair Beth Drost on Wednesday, June 24 to learn how the Grand Portage community is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic—and the lifting of some of the restrictions on Grand Portage roads and enterprises.

Chair Drost tells WTIP that of June 15, the Tribal government removed barricades on roads in residential areas on the Reservation. The area trails and roads are now open.

However, in a statement on the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Facebook page, the Tribal Council reminds visitors that the Grand Portage Reservation is Tribal land held in trust for the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Anishinaabe).

The Tribal Council write, in part, “We maintain our own trails and many of our own roads for the benefit of our members to be able to hunt, fish, gather, recreate, and practice our spirituality. These are the lands that were not ceded by Treaty. Of the millions of acres that were ceded in the Treaty of 1854, these 47,000 acres of our homeland are all that were reserved. This is our home.

“All non-band members are considered guests within the boundaries of the Reservation and are not automatically guaranteed to be granted access. Tribal land should be considered private land “owned” by the members of the Grand Portage Band,” according to the announcement.

The Tribal Council provides the following information for visitors who are not sure if they should visit an area on the Grand Portage Reservation:

The best way to find out if you can visit a certain lake, river, or trail on the Reservation is to ask a band member or a representative of the Tribal government or Tribal staff. Trust Lands and Natural Resources can be reached at 218-475-2415. The Tribal government office phone number is 218-475-2277.

There are two publicly accessible parks within the Reservation. Grand Portage State Park, home to High Falls, is the only park in the Minnesota State system that lies entirely within a reservation. It is co-managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Grand Portage Band. For more visitor information, visit the Minnesota DNR website here.

The Grand Portage National Monument includes the historic fort, the Heritage Center and the Mount Rose and Grand Portage trails. The monument is managed by the National Park Service. Visitor information can be found on their website.

Chair Drost told WTIP about the excitement building around the planned reopening of the Grand Portage Lodge and Casino on Monday, June 29. For more information on the lodge and casino, visit their webpage here.

Click and listen to the interview below.