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Regional & Local Briefs


Regional and Local Briefs: March 2015
Wednesday, March 11 2015
 
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FOND DU LAC BAND TO SPEND $3 MILLION ON MORE MODERN LOOK AT CASINO

DULUTH, MN – The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians will spend $3 million on upgrades at its casino in Duluth, Minnesota.

The Fond-du-Luth Casino will get a more modern look. Work will start this summer and take about four months, WDIO reported.

The casino has been the subject of numerous legal battles over a revenue sharing agreement that was invalidated by the federal government. The tribe paid $75 million to the city of Duluth before payments stopped in 2009.

In November, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments over an additional $12 million that is in dispute. A decision hasn't been announced.

In addition to the Duluth upgrades, the tribe is installing a one-megawatt solar panel near the Black Bear Casino Resort in Carlton.


APPEALS COURT RULES FOR TRIBAL FISHING RIGHTS

ST. LOUIS, MO – The federal government can’t prosecute members of an Ojibwe tribe who gill-netted fish on a Minnesota reservation and sold their catch off-reservation, an appeals court ruled on Feb. 10.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that U.S. District Judge John Tunheim correctly dismissed charges against four Native men who were indicted in April 2013 for fish poaching. “We conclude that the historic fishing rights of the Chippewa Indians bar this prosecution of defendants for taking fish within the Leech Lake Reservation and selling them,” the appeals court said.

The four arrests came as part of a federal crackdown on poaching on some of northern Minnesota’s most popular lakes.

“The ruling affirms the traditional fishing rights that the Chippewa Indians have had for more than 150 years. The ruling upholds what they negotiated in 1837,” attorney Paul Engh said, referring to a treaty Chippewa Indians signed at Fort Snelling. Regrettably, he said, defendant Marc Lyons died a month ago, “before he could see his victory.”

Chris Niskanen, a spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources, said the DNR was disappointed by the decision. “These were very serious violations that involved the illegal and black market sale of protected game fish,” he said, adding that they would be encouraging prosecution of the individuals in tribal court.

Rich Robinson, natural resources director for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, said the cases are in tribal court. “We did not think the cases should be in federal court because we have our own laws here. One of them is that you cannot sell or barter game fish.”

Tunheim had ruled in November 2013 that the four federal indictments should be overturned because the 177-year-old Indian treaty trumped the legal case brought by the U.S. attorney’s office. Charges against four others were dropped last year at the request of federal prosecutors. Two other cases were put on hold, awaiting the outcome of the 8th Circuit.

Attorney Jan Stuurmans represented one of the two, Alan Hemme, a restaurant owner accused of aiding and abetting the Indians by buying fish. Stuurmans said he expected federal prosecutors will dismiss charges against Hemme “because the principal claim has been dismissed.”

 


Regional and Local Briefs: February 2015
Friday, February 06 2015
 
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DEADLINE PASSES FOR CITY TO APPEAL HOTEL DECISION

DULUTH, Minn. – A 30 day deadline passed for Duluth to file an appeal regarding the federal decision to allow the Carter Hotel to be put into trust by the Fond du Lac Band.

The tribe bought the Carter Hotel in 2010, and later began the application to move the land into trust. The city alleged the band broke its contract when it requested to put the land into trust without first talking to the city.

However, a federal judge ruled on Dec. 22 that the band was legally allowed to that.

Duluth attorneys had said they might appeal that decision, but the deadline to do that was Jan. 21.

 

FOND DU LAC TRIBAL COUNCIL VOTES TO CONTINUE SMOKING AT CASINOS

CLOQUET, Minn. – The Fond du Lac tribal council voted on Jan. 22 to ban smoking within their offices. More details will be added to the band’s smoke-free policy, including no smoking inside tribally-owned government offices and businesses starting Feb. 15.

However, this smoking ban does not include the Black Bear or Fond–du–Luth casinos. The Fond du Lac tribe is located in Cloquet, but it owns and operate the Fond–du–Luth Casino and the Carter Hotel building, in Duluth.

There has been a push for casinos across the country to ban smoking, even in Wisconsin. According to a survey conducted by the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council of Wisconsin, a smoke-free policy at casinos would not reduce tribal casino patronage, but actually increase it. The survey found that over 75 percent of casino patrons are non–smokers.

As the Fond du Lac Band expresses its interest in the health of the community, that may signal a shift by looking at all non-smoking options, including casinos possibly in the future.

 

TAX LIENS FILED AGAINST LOWER BRULE CHAIRMAN

LOWER BRULE, S.D. – The chairman of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe may owe the Internal Revenue Service hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes, according to public filings.

The IRS has filed tax liens on Chairman Michael Jandreau and his property that total more than $664,000 since 1994. That amount could include unpaid taxes as well as interest and penalties.

Jandreau, who has presided over the tribe for more than 30 years, is at the center of a report issued last week by Human Rights Watch. The report, which followed a two-year investigation by the international nonprofit, concluded that $25 million in federal funds is missing. That money was supposed to have paid for social services and other essential programs on the reservation.

The report blames the tribe's leadership, including Jandreau and some former and current tribal council members, for overseeing a government that hides basic information from the public. That information includes financial reports, salaries of public officials, resolutions of the tribal council, minutes of council meetings, audits and more. In a statement, the chairman denied the report's conclusions as "baseless."

The tax liens raise questions about the sources of Jandreau's income and its origins. Marshall Matz, a lawyer representing the tribe, addressed the issue in a statement. "There was a dispute over 'sovereignty' and its impact on tax deductions," Matz said. "The dispute has been resolved and the lien is being satisfied."

The liens were filed with the register of deeds in Lyman County. The first lien was filed for taxes in 1994 and the final one for taxes in 2010. Between 1994 and 2010, the IRS filed liens against Jandreau and his now deceased wife, totaling $664,373.

The taxes in question relate to Jandreau's Form 1040, which is the federal individual income tax return. Although other taxes could be involved, the common taxes arising out of a Form 1040 would be individual income tax and self-employment tax, experts say.

The earliest liens, from 1994 to 1997, might have been released because the last day to refile already has passed. The other liens have refiling dates between this year and 2022. It isn't clear how Jandreau amassed the tax liabilities. Human Rights Watch estimated that tribal council salaries were about $81,000 per year, but as chairman, Jandreau probably makes more.


Regional and Local Briefs: January 2015
Tuesday, January 13 2015
 
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OGLALA LAKOTA COUNTY SET FOR S.D. LEGISLATURE APPROVAL

PINE RIDGE, S.D. – In the November general election, voters in Shannon County overwhelmingly approved changing the name to Oglala Lakota County, but the new name cannot go into effect without legislative action.

Patrick Weber with the Gov. Dennis Daugaard's office said it's unknown when the South Dakota Legislature intends to pass the needed joint resolution to rename Shannon County.

The county includes the majority of the land on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. It had been named after Peter Shannon, a chief justice of the Dakota Territory Supreme Court who later assisted in land deals negotiations with the Lakota. Shannon isn't well thought of among many Native Americans.

When the name change is finalized, it will mark the first time in more than 100 years that a South Dakota county has undergone a name change, according to the South Dakota Historical Society.

Once the state legislature passes the joint resolution, Daugaard will issue a public proclamation and Shannon County will officially become Oglala Lakota County on the first day of the month following the proclamation. Then the South Dakota Department of Transportation will have to change highway maps and roadside signs.

Oglala Lakota County's new name will have to be recorded at the federal level. The U.S. Census Bureau keeps the official list of county names, according to Lou Yost, executive secretary of the U.S. Board of Geographic Names in Virginia. Changes in the U.S. Geological Survey's mapping system also will be made. The county will need new stationery and seals for all official business.

Ziebach County was created in 1911 when portions of Schnasse, Armstrong and Sterling counties were merged to form Ziebach. And in 1983, Washabaugh County, an unorganized county within the Pine Ridge reservation boundaries, was absorbed by Jackson County.

Regional and Local Briefs: December 2014
Friday, January 09 2015
 
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BOIS FORT BAND RECEIVES NEW CLINIC

TOWER, MN – The Bois Forte Band is celebrating the completion of its new 11,000-square-foot health and dental clinic in Vermilion, which replaces a smaller clinic in the community. Band members and guests gathered on Nov. 20 for the official grand opening of the new Vermilion Clinic.

Along with an increased number of examining and treatment rooms, the new clinic includes a pharmacy, dedicated space for diabetes education, expanded lab services and telemedicine capabilities that will allow clinic providers to communicate directly with providers at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Funding for the clinic was provided through loans and grants from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Indian Health Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Iron Ranges Resources and Rehabilitation Board. Clinic equipment was provided by Indian Health Service.


Regional and Local Briefs: November 2014
Saturday, November 01 2014
 
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NUCLEAR WASTE CHALLENGED BY TRIBE

RED WING, Minn. – The Prairie Island Indian Community is joining three states in a lawsuit over the storage of nuclear waste.

The tribe says it will join with New York, Connecticut and Vermont in a lawsuit against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant near Red Wing is just 600 yards from the tribal community. The NRC in August opened the door for on-site nuclear waste storage for 100 years or more.

The tribe says the NRC has failed to do a complete analysis of the risks associated with the onsite storage of nuclear waste.

Prairie Island plant executive Kevin Davison agrees with the NRC assessment that the nuclear waste is safely stored near Red Wing. But, Davison says the federal government still has an obligation to create another storage option.

 

ONLINE NATIVE MEDIA GOES TO PRESS

FT. YATES, N.D. – Last Real Indians, an online Native media and advocacy Web site, unveiled its first print edition in October.

A nearly three year-old endeavor, founded by Chase Iron Eyes (Standing Rock Sioux) in January of 2012, LRI features almost daily content provided by writers from across Indian country. “Our network continues to expand as we inform our own, inform the world, strengthen our ties, shatter stereotypes, protect our image, essence and portrayal against appropriation, objectification & [sic] mascotry and share our stories,” Iron Eyes wrote in the first edition.

According to the mission statement on its Web site, “LRI is a media movement grounded in our pre-contact ways of life. We are independent media with direction. We are an adaptation of our story-tellers. We are content creators of many origins with a vision of returning Indigenous peoples of all

'races' to a state of respect for generations unborn.”

Its first edition features topics on environmentalism, Lakota tribal politics, lacrosse, Lakota language, law and health. The paper is headquartered on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in South and North Dakota.

 

 

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