Regional and Local Briefs: January 2015
Tuesday, January 13 2015
Written by The Circle Staff,
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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.


RAPID CITY, S.D. – Some Rapid City Native American leaders are upset that they were left out of a meeting Dec. 22 with Mayor Sam Kooiker over the death of a tribal citizen who was shot and killed by a Rapid City police officer because he allegedly charged at the officer with a knife.

Allen Locke, 30, was shot several times by Officer Anthony Meirose on Dec. 20 after the officer responded to a call of an unwanted person in the Lakota Community Homes addition. The South Dakota Department of Criminal Investigation is investigating the shooting.

Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker met with some Native leaders Dec. 22 to discuss race relations and show his support for Meirose and the Rapid City Police Department. Some members of the Native American community are unhappy with Kooiker's message and say more people should have been included in the discussion.

Kooiker and Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris met with form Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan Brewer, Lakota Community Homes manager Fred Eisenbraun, Locke family representative Chase Iron Eyes and activist Cody Hall.

Local Native leaders were wrongly excluded and Kooiker "just made it worse," said Tad Montgomery, chairman of the Sioux addition that sits next to the Lakota Community Homes addition, where the shooting occurred.

Kooiker said he's open to more discussion on race relations, but that he wanted to send a firm message that he stands behind the Rapid City Police Department and Meirose. He said it would be wrong to assume that race was a factor in this case.

Local leader and activist Karin Eagle told reporters there's confusion and apprehension within the Native American community. She said her community will ask tribal leaders and others to work toward meaningful dialogue to change attitudes in the city. Kooiker issued a press release thanking the Locke family for their request for peace during a time of grieving.


ONAMIA, MN – The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is nearing completion of a major redevelopment of the Eddy’s Mille Lacs Resort on the western shores of Mille Lacs Lake in Onamia.

The redevelopment, anchored by a new lakeside hotel and restaurant, is meant to position Eddy’s as “a world-class resort and restaurant on the lake,” tribal representatives said.

Construction is scheduled to be done before the 2015 spring fishing opener. Mille Lacs Lake, long known as a place to wet a line, is being rebranded as a destination that offers more than good fishing, Joe Nayquonabe, CEO of Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures said. “It’s actually a great recreation lake, too – sailing, canoeing, kayaking in the summer and kite boarding in the winter. We realized that we needed to play a part in that rebranding and bring new amenities to this area. Our opportunity was a rebuild of Eddy’s Resort.”

The band isn’t disclosing the cost of the project. But the construction cost for the hotel and restaurant is $10 million, according to a Mille Lacs County building permit.

Amenities include 64 new hotel rooms, a “Parlour” suite, and two- and three-room cabins north of the resort across the access road. The new space will offer a large meeting room, a restaurant, a marina, and a retail/bait shop, Nayquonabe said.

One major change includes moving the building closer to the lake so visitors can better enjoy the views. Previously, a parking lot stood between the hotel and the lake.

The project, designed by Minneapolis-based BKV Group, comes at a time when the Mille Lacs Band is diversifying its investments. Last year, the band purchased two hotels in downtown St. Paul: the 251-room DoubleTree Hotel at 411 Minnesota St. and the 468-room Crowne Plaza at 11 Kellogg Blvd.

Nayquonabe said the band was “developing and refining” its strategic investment criteria and that it had identified the hospitality industry as its main focus. The band purchased Eddy’s Mille Lacs Resort in 2002, according to its Web site.

Native American construction crews are playing a big role in the project. At this stage, 48 percent of the construction workers are Native Americans, according to Nayquonabe. The goal was 20 percent. Officials say the workforce ranges between 40 and 65 workers.


DULUTH, MN – A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the City of Duluth against the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa regarding the Carter Hotel.

The city had filed the suit in response to the band's request to have the Carter Hotel declared part of the reservation. The move would have allowed the tribe to use the property in conjunction with the Fond-du-Luth Casino to either build a parking lot or expand the casino.

The tribe bought the Carter Hotel in 2010. The city alleged the band broke its contract when it asked the National Indian Gaming Commission for permission to buy the hotel.

However, Minnesota District Judge Susan Richard Nelson ruled on Dec. 23 that the band was correct; city approval was not needed to make the purchase. The city has 30 days to file an appeal.

Fond du Lac Band Chairwoman Karen Diver issued the following statement regarding the judge's decision: “The Band is pleased with the latest ruling. The Courts continue to rule that the various agreements related to the Fond-du-Luth Casino are illegal under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The City has another opportunity to focus its attention on repairing its relationship with the Band, rather than on misguided litigation and harmful public rhetoric.”

The tribe says they did not need to obtain the city's approval to take land into trust, ultimately becoming tribal land because their agreement contained plain language and did not require the band to obtain consent.

In the future, the band will have to receive approval from Duluth for their purchases within city limits, due to tribal territory now being defined as land located within the limits of Duluth, which is transferred to the band.

In 2013, the federal court ruled that the tribe had to pay $10.4 million in unpaid rent for the Fond-du-Luth Casino to the city.


MCGREGOR, MN – Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe activists presented Aitkin County Commissioners with manoomin at a Dec. 11 informational meeting about a proposed Enbridge pipeline replacement project through McGregor.

The $7 billion Line 3 project is proposed to assist the current, outdated pipeline boost its crude oil capacity to 700,000 barrels a day – roughly double it's currently capacity of 390,000 barrels a day. The existing 1,000-mile route, built in 1968, runs to the north of McGregor. But the new route would have Line 3 follow Enbridge's proposed Sandpiper Pipeline route from the point where both lines meet at the Clearbrook, MN Terminal, all the way to Superior.

The shift would take Line 3 out of Bemidji and Grand Rapids, and re–route it through McGregor, further south. During the meeting, a group of Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe members presented Aitkin County Commissioner Brian Napstad with wild rice, a sacred plant to the Ojibwe, traced back to their ancestors' migration. "It's just something that I felt in my heart needed to be said," Algin Garyt GoodSky said to media. "I figured make a big impact because nobody else would."

He said his family is concerned that a possible oil spill in the future would be catastrophic to the Band's way of life. "[We are] trying to tell these people otherwise – tell them that this isn't what we need,” GoodSky said.

Enbridge spokespersons said they've spent roughly 150,000 hours on the ground, analyzing the route with input from impacted landowners. Now, in the plan's beginning stages, when Enbridge spokesperson Kevin O'Connor said it's important to have landowners weigh in "where it's going to be routed, why it's going to be routed here."

The company's need will be determined in February by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, when Enbridge brings its proposal for approval.


WASHINGTON – Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar (DFL-Minn.) along with Rep. Rick Nolan (DFL-Minn.) authored a legislative fix to include the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa in a previous bill that would ensure certain benefits.

H.R. 3608, the Grand Portage Band Per Capita Adjustment Act, excludes funds paid by Minnesota to members of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians for hunting and fishing from federal or state income tax. The House passed this bill by voice vote in November, meaning it now heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature before becoming law.

"This bill ensures that members of the Grand Portage Band will receive important benefits they are entitled to under the federal Treaty of 1854," Nolan said. "It means a great deal to the Band and to our region, and I was pleased to work with Senators Klobuchar and Franken to get this done."


CASS LAKE, MN – The Cass County Board voted Dec. 16, to form a partnership with Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and the city of Cass Lake to seek federal Environmental Protection Agency money to do a Countywide Brownfields Assessment.

Levi Brown, Leech Lake land and environmental director, explained to the board that Superfund sites are those where pollution is caused by a known responsible party, while a Brownfields is usually a smaller site where the responsible polluter is unknown.

He said Leech Lake Band has been trying to apply for a Brownfields assessment grant, but has not been successful, because the federal government prefers applicants who work in partnership with other agencies. That is the reason, the band seeks to work with the county and city, he said.

If a grant is approved, it would be used to try to locate any polluted area in any part of Cass County or the reservation that is on public land, Brown said. Once those sites are known, then the county and band could apply for clean-up grants, he explained.

Cass County Administrator Robert Yochum reported Leech Lake Band indicated its support for the Association of Minnesota Counties position on tribal and state child welfare agreements. With the band supporting, the county now also will support the AMC position.

The Band will provide a written proposal for the county board to consider for offering support for school funding to replace the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School. The commissioners indicated at the meeting that they support the need for the school replacement, but would prefer to see funds shifted from somewhere else rather than adding new taxes to pay for it.

Brown said federal school construction money generally has been channeled more toward reservation in western U.S. states rather than the Midwest.

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