New Highway Signs Recognize Minnesota’s 1854 Treaty Boundaries – Hometown Focus

A dozen road signs like this have been placed on Minnesota highways describing and acknowledging the 1854 treaty boundary. Photo submitted.

If you’ve traveled the highways of northeast Minnesota, you may have noticed new street signs being installed in the fall of 2021. These 1854 Treaty boundary signs mark the area ceded to the United States under of the treaty of 1854.

Under this treaty between the tribes and the US government, approximately 5.5 million acres were ceded to the United States. The 1854 ceded territory encompasses present-day northeast Minnesota (all of Cook and Lake counties, most of St. Louis and Carlton counties, and parts of Aitkin and Pine counties). The treaty helped create Minnesota in 1858, opened the area to settlement and development, and benefits residents who lived and worked here. In exchange, the tribes retained the right to hunt, fish and gather in this area.

To focus on this point, these were not special rights given to tribes, but rather rights still possessed and ultimately retained by treaty. This exercise of treaty rights in the territory ceded in 1854 continues today by the bands of Bois Forte, Fond du Lac and Grand Portage. The tribes are sovereign nations and govern themselves, including the management of natural resources. Bands set their own harvesting seasons and rules (sometimes through legal agreements) and cooperate with other government agencies to protect and enhance resources.

The 1854 Treaty Authority ( is an intertribal resource management agency governed by the Bois Forte and Grand Portage bands. The organization implements off-reserve harvesting activities for these two bands and works to preserve and protect treaty rights and resources in the territory ceded in 1854.

To raise awareness of the 1854 treaty and associated tribal sovereignty and reserved rights, traffic sign discussions with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) began in 2010. Although the MnDOT has worked on other tribal projects such as posting reservation limits, no policy existed for surrenders. territories. It took years to go through policy development and sign construction, and in November 2021, the first sign was installed near the Canadian border on Highway 61. A ceremony was held attended by the chiefs of the Bois Forte, Fond du Lac and Grand Portage bands. with MnDOT management and staff.

Road signs have been installed at 12 locations on major roads entering the 1854 ceded territory:

• Highway 53 (near Cook)

• Highway 169 (near Chisholm)

• Highway 37 (near Hibbing Airport)

• Highway 2 (near Floodwood)

• Highway 210 (near Tamarack)

• Highway 27 (west of Moose Lake)

• Highway 65 (west of Sturgeon Lake)

• Highway 65 (west of Sturgeon Lake)

• Interstate 35 (near Sturgeon Lake)

• Highway 23 (near Duquette)

• Highway 53 (entrance to Duluth from Superior)

• Highway 61 (near Grand Portage)

Darren Vogt is the Director of the Resource Management Division of the 1854 Treaty Authority.

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