DEADLINE PASSES FOR CITY TO APPEAL
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
TAX LIENS FILED AGAINST LOWER BRULE
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
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
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
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
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.
MAYOR HODGES FOCUSES ON REACHING OUT TO
MINNEAPOLIS – In her push to make
Minneapolis more equitable, MayorBetsy Hodges is turning her
attention to the group facing the city’s greatest disparities in
wealth, employment and education.
Since she was elected, the mayor has
made a point to spend time with American Indian organizations. She
gave her first state of the city address at the Minneapolis American
Indian Center and she’s participated in cultural events along
Franklin Avenue, the cultural hub for the city’s Indian population.
And late last year, Hodges began
making good on a promise she’d made to a tribal leader: that she’d
visit each of the offices that function like embassies for members of
different tribal nations living in the Twin Cities.
Hodges’ effort marks the most
significant mayoral outreach to the city’s Indian community in
recent history. Tribal leaders say Hodges’ drop-ins have surprised
many in the community, who have often felt overlooked by city leaders
or wary of politicians. They say it’s the first time a mayor has
requested to meet at the urban offices.
The visits – four so far, with two
more planned this winter – have left those leaders feeling
encouraged. In addition to the Mille Lacs office, Hodges has visited
those of the Boise Forte, Fond du Lac and Red Lake bands. Leech Lake
and White Earth are left on the visit itinerary.
The urban offices help direct tribal
members to local government and nonprofit services of all kinds. The
disparities between white residents and minorities that Hodges often
references are particularly stark for Natives, who have the highest
poverty rate of any group in Minneapolis.
Census data from 2011 put the Native
poverty rate at just over 53 percent. The city’s overall poverty
rate was close to 24 percent. Meanwhile, the most recent four-year
graduation rate for Native students enrolled in Minneapolis public
schools was just under 34 percent, the lowest of any racial group.
Overall, about 54 percent of Minneapolis students graduated in four
Former City Council member Robert
Lilligren, a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe and president
and CEO of Little Earth of United Tribes Housing Corporation, said
the relationship between the city and Natives has tended to be a
“reactionary” one. In the past, he said, members of the community
would do most of their interacting with officials after some kind of
negative event, perhaps protesting someone’s treatment by the
police, or a lack of affordable housing.
Peggy Flanagan, a White Earth citizen
and a board member of the Native American Community Development
Institute, said tribal members have taken note of Hodges’ support
for protests against the Washington NFL team’s mascot and the
council vote to transform Columbus Day into Indigenous Peoples Day.
PROPOSED STATE AND FEDERAL AID TO
TRIBAL SCHOOL CAUSE OVERLAP
BENA, Minn. – The Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig
school in northern Minnesota, held up as an example of the decrepit
conditions found at Indian schools across the country, now is getting
caught in the crosshairs of competing efforts to rebuild it.
State Sen. Terri Bonoff
(DFL-Minnetonka), spurred by reports of the school’s deterioration,
has proposed a bill that would rely on state and private funding to
finally fix the tribal school. But tribal leaders, who have been in
Washington lobbying for federal cash, fear the Bonoff bill could wind
up hurting more than it helps, dropping Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig even
further down the federal priority list and putting major upgrades out
of reach if the state pulls through with funding. It could also set
an expensive precedent.
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.),
who has been working with tribal leaders for years to secure more
federal money, said Bonoff should have coordinated with the tribes
before launching her own effort. The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe,
McCollum noted, has its own school board and elected officials.
Bonoff says she is standing by her
bill and is frustrated with the slow pace of progress in Washington.
She said she stands “100 percent” with McCollum on the need for
the federal government to “keep their promise with regard to our
BIE schools, and I’m very disappointed that it hasn’t happened.”
Bonoff’s bill would provide $5 million in a matching state grant
that would supplement any private money raised.
McCollum, the ranking Democrat on a
House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Bureau of Indian
Education, said she’s optimistic funding will come soon, despite
years of inaction by Congress.
Leech Lake Band Chair Carri Jones said
the bill introduction surprised tribal leaders; they expect to meet
with Bonoff next week to discuss her legislation regarding the
Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig school in Bena.
The BIE operates 183 schools on 64
reservations in 23 states, including Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig and three
other Minnesota schools. Sixty-three of those schools are rated in
poor condition, including the Bena school. BIE schools have been
underfunded for years, particularly compared to Department of Defense
schools, another federally funded system that serves military
In 2010, the Department of Defense
requested $3.7 billion to replace or modernize 134 schools. In 2014,
the Indian Education budget received just $55 million for
construction and repairs – for the entire system. The estimate to
replace the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig school alone is about half that.
McCollum, who also co-chairs the House
Native American Caucus, said she has worked with U.S. Sen. Al Franken
and U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and is making headway on the years-long
effort to secure more funding for Indian schools.
MILLE LACS CHIEF EXECUTIVE URGES
CITIZENS TOWARD CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY
ONAMIA, Minn. – More than 1,200 members
of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe gathered on Jan. 14 to hear Chief
Executive Melanie Benjamin share her vision for the future at the
31st annual State of the Band address.
Benjamin focused her address on the
importance of exercising cultural sovereignty and embracing Ojibwe
language and spirituality as a way to prosper and thrive as a Band,
according to a news release. “Cultural Sovereignty is our inherent
right to use our values, traditions, and spirituality to protect our
future," Benjamin said. "It goes much deeper than legal
sovereignty, because it’s a decision to be Anishinaabe, to not just
protect a way of life, but to practice living Anishinaabe, every
Benjamin highlighted progress that the
Band made in 2014, including the addition of new Native physicians, a
Native nurse practitioner and expanded physician services in
Districts II and III, new wrap-around services for Band members and
families in crisis, the restoration of Ogechie and Nammachers Lakes
and an expanded tribal college.
Benjamin also announced that violent
crime on the reservation has decreased, thanks to the efforts of the
tribal police department. In addition to the progress being made on
public safety, the Mille Lacs Band’s economy is strong and growing.
Benjamin said that for the first time in the Band’s history, every
single business owned by the Band is making a profit. "While
some other tribes must cut services when gaming declines, the Mille
Lacs Band of Ojibwe no longer depends on gaming alone."
Despite the positive developments of
2014, Benjamin addressed an ongoing crisis for Mille Lacs Band
families: Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or babies born addicted to
opiates. To confront this challenge, Benjamin announced a Band-wide
summit to be held this winter, including sessions directed at youth.
The Mille Lacs Chapter of Women Empowering Women for Indian Nations
will be organizing the event.
In addition to sharing her plan for
addressing the problem of opiate addiction, Chief Executive Benjamin
also instructed her cabinet to develop a program to provide one-stop
services for families in crisis; continue working with the state to
restore the health of our walleye population; protect manoonmin (wild
rice) from the threat of water pollution that could arise from
pipelines, including the Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline, and mining;
create a teaching recruitment plan to attract and keep the best
teachers, especially those who speak Ojibwe; grow jobs and drive
economic development across the reservation, with a special emphasis
on the East Lake region; and bring more cultural practices into the
Band’s government and businesses.