Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fond du Lac Tribal Chair Addressed SLC Board

At their workshop on Monday, June 15, 2009 the SLC Board heard from Karen Diver, Tribal Chair for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

This was a follow-up to a prior county board workshop in January of 2009 at which time the County Board discussed their decision to not sell tax forfeit land to the Fond du Lac Band-land that is within the boundaries of the Reservation. State law requires counties to give “right of first refusal” to Tribes when such land is within Reservation boundaries and the Fond du Lac Band has consistently indicated they wish to purchase these lands in order to provide stability to their community and reclaim land that was originally theirs to begin with.

Chair Diver started by giving the Board some historical information, including the Treaty of 1854 and Federal Government policy that tried to “terminate” tribes. Additionally, she described government policies that led to the taking of Indian lands and subsequent mismanagement of lands. She also described a variety of policies that sought to destroy Indian culture and communities.

FDL has 2000 employees and 28 divisions. They are funded at 36% of identified need. (Federal Government information) 4200 people are enrolled Band members.
Reservation is 100,000 acres.

Chair Diver described a variety of social services provided by FDLHHS. In 2008 total income distributed by Band was 105 million dollars-she indicated that many counties would welcome them with open arms and put them in a tax free zone-Fink said, “make your case” and Chair Diver said she was making her case. They have 900 job descriptions on their reservation; not only “gaming” jobs.

Commissioner O'Neil asked what her perspective was on this land issue. This is the Federal Government’s land being held on behalf of FDL. Feds take land into trust on behalf of the Band. Feds are supportive of tribes reclaiming land, as is the State.

Here is a bit of what the conversation included:

Diver: These lands are already tax forfeit. I need to stabilize our community. In order to become self-sufficient we need to reclaim our land. It should never have been on the SLC tax rolls anyway!

FINK: I have no difficulty with you buying tax forfeit land but I do have an issue with land going from tax forfeit into trust. We have got to protect tax land.

DIVER: We will continue to buy land within our borders. We will continue to consolidate land within our borders.

NELSON: Makes a point that any other recordings of workshops are not official. Says he could not have more respect for Annishinaabe people but he is concerned.
Says the most basic unit of government is the family and if we do not work for the good of the family we are not effective. Says that in this particular case it is “all of our people” and recognizes that tribe is sovereign. Says he will not apologize for Federal officials that “treated us as children”. Indicated concern that 35% of folks incarcerated are Native in SLC while only 4% are Native in population.

Says we try to run county on 39% of property. Says he wants to work with FDL in the same effective way they have worked with Bois Forte. Whenever individuals choose to sensationalize they do harm. (speaking to the audience)

DIVER: I am interested in partnering and finding the win/win. I will continue to ask for indulgence of commissioners and staff in trying to reclaim our land. I need to stabilize families.

O’NEIL: Am encouraged by spirit of communication and hopeful we can move ahead. We did have a straw vote on a given day….we need to re-visit policy as a Board.

DIVER: How about we meet in my neck of the woods? FINK: As long as we go back and forth.

The workshop ended promptly at 3:00PM. it should be noted that three commissioners were not present-Dahlberg, Forsman and Raukar did not attend.