MILLE LACS HOSTS PRENATAL ADDICTION
ONAMIA, MN – Elected leaders and
staff from Minnesota’s tribal communities and other experts gathered
May 28 on the Mille Lacs Indian Reservation for a summit on the issue
of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.
American Indian communities in
Minnesota face some of the highest rates of NAS, or children born
addicted to opiates. Tribal leaders from Bois Forte, Red Lake, White
Earth, Leech Lake and Mille Lacs were in attendance along with policy
experts from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, staff from
U.S. Sen. Al Franken’s office and Minnesota Sen. Chris Eaton,
Mille Lacs Band Chief Executive
Melanie Benjamin called the problem of opiate-addicted babies "the
single greatest threat to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe." She
said recent data on the prevalence of neonatal abstinence syndrome on
reservations was a wake-up call for tribal leaders.
Benjamin also highlighted the strength
and resilience of Indian people who have overcome disease, genocide,
and relocation. "If there is one thing I’m convinced about, it’s
that we have the ability to fight this epidemic right here in this
Joe Nayquonabe, a retired chemical
dependency counselor and Mille Lacs Band elder, opened the event with
a prayer in Ojibwe, and he also shared his perspective on the opiate
epidemic. "It strikes everybody. It doesn’t discriminate. It’s
not only affecting us but it’s affecting our children. The creator
gave us a wonderful body, and it’s up to us to take care of it."
Additionally, the agenda included
comments by Bois Forte Chairman Kevin Leecy, White Earth Secretary
Tara Mason, Red Lake Chief Darrell Seki and Jim Koppel, Minnesota
Department of Human Services Assistant Commissioner.
It was the second summit on the crisis
of American Indian children in Minnesota. The first summit took place
in September of 2014 at Bois Forte Reservation in northern Minnesota.
MN SWARM MOVES TO GEORGIA
ST. PAUL, MN – The Minnesota Swarm
will be moving to Georgia.
The professional indoor lacrosse
franchise made the announcement on May 29, after finishing its 11th
season in the National Lacrosse League. The organization said it has
agreed in principle on a lease to play home games at the Gwinnett
Center. The arena is located in Duluth, a suburb northeast of
Atlanta. The team will be called the Georgia Swarm.
The NLL currently has nine franchises.
Minnesota finished 6-12 this year.
Owner John Arlotta said earlier this
month that continuing to play at Xcel Energy Center, the NHL arena in
St. Paul that’s home to the Minnesota Wild, wasn’t sustainable
financially for the Swarm franchise.
TRIBAL COURT TO HEAR WALLEYE POACHING
CASS LAKE, MN – A tribal court
postponed a hearing on May 29 for two Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
citizens, charged with selling the walleye they caught in tribal
The case hinges on the question of
whether the tribe has the right to tell its members what they can do
with the resources they hunt, fish and gather on the reservation and
whether members have an obligation to conserve those resources for
The Minnesota Department of Natural
Resources spent three years on an investigation that led to charges
against 21 people for selling, buying or dumping protected game fish
caught by on Red Lake, Lake Winnibigoshish, Leech Lake and Cass Lake.
A federal judge threw out the charges against five tribal members,
saying tribal courts had jurisdiction.
S.D. TRIBE ASKS BIA FOR FINANCIAL
LOWER BRULE, S.D. – The Lower Brule
Sioux Tribe of South Dakota welcomed a delegation from the Bureau of
Indian Affairs in late may to examine its financial documents in late
The BIA agreed to visit the
reservation to inspect the tribe’s financial documents. Vice Chairman
Kevin Wright, who declared himself chairman shortly before the death
of longtime longtime Michael Jandreau in April, has been concerned
“The BIA is closely monitoring the
events at the tribe and we share your concerns.” regional director
Tim LaPointe said in a letter to Wright, media reported.
A report from Human Rights Watch
accused the tribe of failing to account for millions of dollars in
federal funds. The spending occurred under the Jandreau, who led the
tribe for 36 years before his passing, but there has been no concrete
evidence of wrongdoing.
However, the Inspector General at the
Interior Department is looking into the acquisition of a Wall Street
firm that later shut down, the Associated Press reported last month.
The tribe bought the firm with a $22.5 million loan that was backed
by the BIA.
Wright and other council members said
they weren’t able to see the tribe’s financial records when Jandreau
was in charge. Wright is now clashing with some of Jandreau’s allies.
NO JAIL TIME FOR DEFENDANT IN LAKOTA
RAPID CITY, S.D. – A Philip man
accused of racially charged misconduct at a Rapid City hockey game
last winter won’t face jail time, a judge ruled.
Fourth Circuit Magistrate Judge Eric
Strawn said May 28 that Trace O’Connell will face only fines if
convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct in a case involving beer
spilled on Pine Ridge grade school students at a minor league hockey
game at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in January. The decision also
means that O’Connell will not face a jury trial.
Prosecutor Joel Landeen, who is Rapid
City’s city attorney, said he did not want to see jail time "taken
off the table. I was prepared to seat a jury and go forward."
Strawn made his ruling at a motion’s
hearing in Pennington County Court where he also set a new trial date
of July 22. The case, which received wide attention and prompted
demonstrations and social media debate, was originally scheduled for
trial on June 28. O’Connell’s lawyer, Michael Butler of Sioux Falls,
had requested a delay to acquaint himself with the case after
O’Connell’s first attorney, Patrick Duffy, died May 8. Butler
declined to comment after the May 28 court appearance.
Strawn ordered that O’Connell’s trial
be held in Rapid City’s Performing Arts Center in the main theater in
order to accommodate all of the people involved in the case as well
as interested members of the public.
A small group of protesters gathered
outside the courthouse. "I’m here to ensure that justice is done
in the right way," said Dan Merrival. "This fellow was
charged with a misdemeanor but in my mind it should have been a
On Jan. 24, a group of 57 students, 9
to 13 years-old, boarded a bus in Allen, S.D., on the Pine Ridge
Indian Reservation for the two–and–a–half hour ride to Rapid
City. The American Horse School students were headed to a Rapid City
Rush hockey game, the first professional sporting event many of them
had ever attended. The students earned their spots on the bus through
exemplary scholarship and comportment at school.
During the third period of a close
game between East Coast Hockey League rivals, the Rapid City Rush and
the Wichita Thunder, a group of fans in a luxury suite allegedly
spilled beer and racially charged taunts on the students who were
sitting in Section Q of the Rush’s 5,132 seat arena in the
municipally owned, and operated Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. Civic
Center security officers were alerted to the incident. No arrests
were made, and no one was asked to leave the arena.
CITY APPEALING DISMISSAL OF
FOND-DU-LUTH CASINO CASE
DULUTH, MN – The Fond du Lac Band of
Ojibwe said it’s baffled by Duluth’s continuing failed legal
strategies against them.
The City of Duluth’s suit against the
National Indian Gaming Commission was dismissed by the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. At the time, the court wrote that a
previous ruling by U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson that the Band
should make retroactive casino payments to the city was
over-reaching. “The district court abused its discretion on remand
by failing to consider congressional policy and its intent that
tribes be the primary beneficiaries of Indian gaming,” the Eighth
And now the city is appealing that
dismissal. The district court dismissed Duluth’s case challenging the
gaming commission’s ability to call the Fond-du-Luth Casino
The Fond-du-Luth Casino agreements
required the band to share revenues with Duluth, and the gaming
commission ruled those agreements violated the Indian Gaming Act.
In 2011, the gaming commission ordered
the band to stop the payments.
The band said the city’s relentless
litigation and misunderstanding of the law, is further undermining
any potential for a future relationship with the tribe. City
officials made no comment to media at press time.
FOND DU LAC CLARIFIES CURRENT LEGAL
POSITION OF MARIJUANA
CLOQUET, MN – In the Fond du Lac Band
of Ojibwe’s April newsletter, a tribal attorney says marijuana is
illegal on the reservation at this time.
Attorney Sean Copeland says the band
has been receiving questions from tribal citizens about marijuana
legalization. The attorney said that if a tribe legalizes marijuana
and develops a regulatory system then the federal government will
focus on prosecuting a limited number of marijuana offenses, such as
those involving drug cartels or distribution to children.
He adds that the legalization presents
major public policy and business issues for the band to consider,
even though it could generate more money, it could also lead to
substance abuse and public safety problems.
Since the tribe is privy to Public Law
280, Minnesota maintains jurisdiction over criminal offenses. Even
though the state has legalized some forms of marijuana, the issue has
not been litigated and needs to be resolved before any decision would
In the future, the attorney says band
members might be able to take advantage of the state’s medical
marijuana law, which allows cannabis in pill or oil form with a
doctor’s order for patients with qualifying conditions.
The tribe is reviewing legalization
issues, but is not taking any action at this time. The band is
interested in learning their members’ views on legalizing marijuana.