Most of the time, story elements click, contacts call back and the stories come together easily. Sometimes, everything seems out of synch. That was the case Friday when Monte Draper and I went to cover the demonstration the First Nations United organization planned on Upper Red Lake. They went fishing the day before the Minnesota Fishing Opener to affirm their treaty rights to fish, hunt, gather and pass through the territory ceded to the United States. Some American Indians conducted a similar demonstration last year the day bewfore the opener by illegally setting nets on Lake Bemidji and watching the conservation officers confiscate their equipment. A big crowd gathered and the protesters received the media coverage they craved.
This year, an organizer for First Nations United sent out an email April 25 describing the Red Lake demonstration near Waskish. Now, without public attention, such a protest would just mean a day on the lake on a cold drizzle day. The media arrived at noon, the appointed hour. A Lakeland Public Television reporter, two reporters from Minnesota Public Radio, and Monte and I waited around at the old fish hatchery that seemed like the logical send off point. The organizer had been a little vague about the actual site of the demonstration, but the mouth of the Tamarac River where it empties into Red Lake seemed the best guess.
Also waiting around were half a dozen Department of Natural Resources conservation officers. A little later a group of spectators and a representative from the ACLU arrived.
Monte and I waited until around 2 p.m. and then decided to give it up. I had other stories to write and piles of copy to read. I asked the would-be spectators to call me if anything happened. I could at least talk to the fishermen by phone.
Shortly after 4 p.m. one of the folks who stuck it out on shore called me, and I was able to talk to one of the demonstrators and get something of a story.
They didn’t catch anything, and they weren’t arrested, something they hoped for so they could make a case in court.
Thank goodness most appointments work out better and the stories come together in a less frustrating manner.