Politics and Government

Bill calls for all of Upper Red Lake to be returned to Red Lake Nation

Upper Red Lake
A bill was introduced in the Minnesota Legislature this week to return the entire Upper Red Lake and some nearby state forest land to the Red Lake Nation.
MPR News file photo

A group of House Democrats introduced legislation this week to return the entire Upper Red Lake and some nearby state forest land to the Red Lake Nation.

The bill calls for a report and appropriation of funds facilitate the transfer. Its chief sponsor is Rep. Sydney Jordan, DFL-Minneapolis, but there are House members of Native American heritage as co-sponsors. As of Tuesday, no companion bill had been introduced in the state Senate.

Upper and Lower Red Lake
Only the eastern portion of Upper Red Lake is accessible to non-tribal members. Lower Red Lake is completely contained within the Red Lake Reservation.
William Lager | MPR News

If passed, the legislation would create a 1-mile buffer around the lakeshore extending the reservation to cover “real property” and also land that is currently state owned.  

This would include land within Red Lake State Forest boundaries which would also be returned to the tribe.  

The Minnesota Department of Revenue defines real property as “buildings and structures erected on the land and intended to be permanent.”

It includes building and structure improvements or fixtures intended to be permanent that cannot be removed without causing substantial damage to it. 

Currently, a handful of off-reservation businesses are located within the proposed boundaries. 

Upper and Lower Red Lake
Upper and Lower Red Lake.
William Lager | MPR News

Under the bill, the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Revenue would have until the beginning of 2025 to identify any funding restrictions or legal barriers related to the property. The commissioner would also have to report back to the legislature on ways of addressing or eliminating those barriers.  

The bill would further appropriate $20 million in 2025 so the commissioner can identify state-owned land and real property. Some of those funds could be used to “acquire any land necessary to facilitate the required conveyance.”  

The one-time appropriation would be available to use until June 30, 2034.