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Regional and Local Briefs: May 2015
Monday, May 04 2015
 
Written by The Circle Staff,
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FOND DU LAC DECIDES AGAINST NETTING ON VERMILLION

LAKE VERMILION, Minn. – After planning to gill net a maximum of 2,500 pounds of walleye on Lake Vermilion this spring, the Fond du Lac Band decided not to undertake the operation, according to a news release from the Bois Forte Band.

The decision came after a meeting in late April between leaders of the three bands who have fishing rights on Lake Vermilion under the 1854 Treaty — Bois Forte, Fond du Lac and Grand Portage — and staff members of the Department of Natural Resources and the 1854 Treaty Authority.

Prior to the decision, the Bois Forte Reservation Tribal Council passed a resolution urging Fond du Lac not to issue netting and spearing permits due to reasons including methods and the upcoming Governor’s Fishing Opener event.

In response to this request, the Fond du Lac Band agreed to suspend fishing this year. “Fond du Lac has the right to harvest fish in the 1854 ceded territory, and we defend their right,” said Bois Forte Tribal Chair Kevin Leecy. “But we have significant concerns about them harvesting in our backyard. Fond du Lac tribal members use motorized boats to net, while Bois Forte tribal members net in the traditional way with canoes only. Also, Fond du Lac has access to many lakes in the ceded territory besides Lake Vermilion, which we consider part of our reservation.”

With the governor coming to Lake Vermilion in a few weeks, Leecy said that the spotlight should be on the community and tourism, not tribal netting. “Our Fortune Bay Resort Casino is an active member and the single largest tax contributor to the Lake Vermilion Resort & Tourism Association,” Leecy said, “we have fostered good relationships with neighboring resort owners. The opener should be a time for all of us to shine.”

Last month, the Fond du Lac Band informed the state of Minnesota that it intended to allow its citizens to net and spear on Lake Vermilion. The Band, as well as many others, were looking for alternative spots to harvest fish since the restrictions on Lake Mille Lacs indicated that the walleye population is in trouble. An Associated Press story reported that only 11,400 pounds of walleye would be available for netting this year on Mille Lacs.

As a sign of respect, most bands that have previously netted there have given their shares to the Mille Lacs Band, and Fond du Lac has indicated they will not net on the big lake. This fishery issue could lead to nearly 80 lakes in central and northern Minnesota seeing additional tribal harvesting of walleye.

WHITE EARTH COLLEGE NOW OFFERING FOUR FREE SUMMER CLASSES TO ALL

MAHNOMEN, Minn. – The White Earth Tribal and Community College in Mahnomen is offering free, accredited college classes to anybody this summer who is qualified to take them, regardless of tribal citizenship or student status.

“You still have to go through the admissions process and have a high school diploma or GED, but you don’t have to be an enrolled student,” WETCC Communications Specialist Joe Allen said.

There are four free classes to choose from that go throughout the summer semester: Ojibwe Language 101, Humanities, Plant Science and Education. Prospective students are allowed to take up to seven credits free, which essentially means two classes. “But people still need to pay for books or any fees associated with the class,” Allen said. “But it’s still quite a deal.”

The college’s offer is valid only for the summer, but Director Terry Janis said the college will likely offer free classes again next summer. “We’ll take it on a year-by-year basis,” Janis said. “We wanted to open ourselves up for people to come and have an understanding that not only does the college exist, but that there are high quality, amazing higher education opportunities here.”

Enrollment at the college has taken a hit over the past couple of years, going from a high of 150 to a low of 58 last year. Leadership at the college came under scrutiny a couple of years ago, but since Janis took over last year, he and the staff have a goal to see enrollment up to 200 within three years. Today, enrollment today sits at 65 students.

Most of the summer classes begin May 18 and are typically two days a week. Three of them are on-campus only and the Humanities course is hybrid, meaning one day is done on-campus and one day online. For more information visit www.wetcc.edu.


PE’SLA DETAILS STILL IN WORKS, EXTENDED 60 MORE DAYS

RAPID CITY, S.D. – The request for the Pennington County Commission to submit comment to the U.S. Department of Interior regarding the property known as Pe' Sla has been extended multiple times and April 21 saw a continued extension.

Pe' Sla, near Deerfield Lake, was purchased by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe and Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in 2012.

Lisa Colombe, a Rosebud Sioux Tribal citizen said this is about protecting one of the few natural, sacred pieces of land the Natives have left. "It's more to ensure that the tribal members and community members that wish to take part in ceremonies, which could just be on your own, going up on the hill and praying on your own, for your own needs or your own family, but that basically we are never denied access, you know, and also there were some other interested parties that looked into purchasing the same area and do some commercialization of the area."

A consultant for the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community says that if the land is accepted in "in trust" status then it is Indian land and will be under Indian jurisdiction, not county jurisdiction.


HUNDREDS GATHER TO MOURN LOWER BRULE CHAIRMAN

LOWER BRULE, S.D. – Hundreds of mourners, representatives from South Dakota's tribal governments and state and federal leaders gathered on April 9 to remember late Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Chairman Michael Jandreau, who was considered an icon in Indian Country.

Leaders from other tribes in South Dakota and neighboring states paid respects to Jandreau and told stories to a packed gymnasium of funeral-goers at the Lower Brule Community Center. The 71-year-old Jandreau died on April 3 from heart problems at a Sioux Falls hospital after serving as a leader in the tribe for more than 35 years.

Jandreau was elected to the Lower Brule Tribal Council in the early 1970s and later became chairman. He earned praise from tribal members and state and federal leaders for economic development projects that benefited the 1,300 Native Americans on the reservation.

The tribe owns the Golden Buffalo Casino & Motel, a propane plant, a construction company, hunting and tourism enterprises, and a farm that is known as one of the nation's top popcorn producers and processers.

But Jandreau spent his final days defending himself against allegations of financial wrongdoing outlined in January by Human Rights Watch. The group accused him and others of diverting money and concealing financial activity. Jandreau and Marshall Matz, who has been an attorney for the tribe, have vigorously denied those allegations.

Those present described Jandreau as a tireless champion of the Lower Brule Sioux and Indian Country as whole who was unconcerned with taking credit for his work. Crow Creek Sioux Tribal Chairwoman Roxanne Sazue said Jandreau was a very spiritual man, and the ceremony included both Catholic and traditional Native American elements.

"I don't know if we have someone within our whole, big nation to do what Mike has done keeping us together," Oglala Sioux Tribal President John Yellow Bird Steele said.

Jandreau was born Oct. 20, 1943, in Fort Thompson on the Crow Creek reservation. He was educated in Catholic American Indian schools. His wife, Jackie, died in 2011.


CHEYENNE RIVER SIOUX TRIBE PREPARES FOR COBELL BUY-BACK OFFERS

FT. YATES, N.D. – Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe citizens could see $69 million in offers under the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations, South Dakota Public Radio reports.

The tribe signed a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Interior in January to help facilitate outreach for the program. Offers are expected to go out to 8,000 landowners. 'The Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation is one of the most highly fractionated reservations in the country. The Land Buy-Back program will assist us in our continued effort to consolidate our land base," Chairman Harold Frazier said in January.

The $3.4 billion Cobell settlement provided $1.9 billion for Indian landowners who want to sell their fractionated interests. DOI will pay "fair market value" as required by the Indian Land Consolidation Act.

Participation is entirely voluntary. Any land that is acquired will be returned to tribes. As of April 3, DOI has extended $924 million in offers to nearly 49,000 owners. Some $365 million in transactions have been concluded so far, according to a chart posted on the program's website.

The equivalent of more than 577,000 acres have been returned to tribal governments as a result of the program.


PINE RIDGE SELECTED AS FEDERAL PROMISE ZONE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation was designated one of eight new Promise Zones, the Obama Administration announced on April 27.

Promise Zones are high-poverty communities, in which the federal government partners with local leaders to increase economic activity, improve educational opportunities, leverage private investment, reduce violent crime, enhance public health and address other priorities identified by the community, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

All Promise Zones receive: priority access to federal investments that further their strategic plans; federal staff members on the ground to help implement a zone's goals; and five full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members to recruit and manage volunteers and strengthen the capacity of the Promise Zone initiatives.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new Promise Zone designations Tuesday in the following communities: Camden, N.J.; Hartford, Conn.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Sacramento, Calif.; St. Louis/St. Louis County, Mo.; Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, S.D.; and South Carolina Low Country.

The new Promise Zones join five others that Obama designated in January 2014: San Antonio, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Southeastern Kentucky Highlands and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.


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