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home : news : news August 19, 2017

3/14/2017 7:29:00 AM
LdF tribe wants control of 29 roads
Town of Lac du Flambeau up until now had control

Brian Jopek

The tribal council for the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians would like 29 roads back.

The town of Lac du Flambeau, currently the responsible entity for those roads, would like more time to study the matter and the town chairman, Matt Gaulke, has requested a meeting with the tribal council after the April 4 election to discuss the matter further.

In a letter to Gaulke dated Feb. 20, tribal president Joe Wildcat said over the years, the tribe and the town have discussed the rights of ownership and maintenance to several roads and rights-of-way.

Those roads and rights-of-way, he wrote, are within exterior boundaries of the Lac du Flambeau reservation as created by the Treaty of Sept. 30, 1854.

"The Tribe would like to meet with the town to come to a final resolution on the issue of ownership and maintenance rights and responsibilities of the separate sovereigns over the roads as located on the Reservation," Wildcat wrote. "The last comprehensive review by the Tribe and the town was completed with the assistance of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in or around 2008."

He said under the treaty of 1854, the United States government established the Lac du Flambeau reservation and set aside lands for the exclusive use by the tribe. Although some lands within the boundary have since passed from tribal ownership to fee land, Wildcat said "those lands that have not are still held in trust for the Tribe and retain their distinct Tribal character."

"Namely, the Tribe can make use of and exercise inherent authority over such lands," he wrote. "Although the Tribe retains control over such trust lands, it may not alienate or encumber the land without the approval by the Secretary of the Interior, including the assignment of rights-of-ways."

Wildcat said states and local governments also lack general governmental authority over tribal trust lands located within their jurisdictions.

"This includes governmental power to exercise eminent domain, require the granting or dedication of right-of-way, or any other encumbrance," he wrote. "The only way a state or local government may acquire a right-of-way through tribal lands is by obtaining the approval for such right-of-way from both the Secretary and the Tribe."

Federal enactments have been authorized for rights-of-way over tribal trust lands, Wildcat contends.

"Initially, there were several precursor federal statutes that authorized the Secretary to approve rights-of-ways," he wrote. "Then in 1948, Congress enacted a general right-of-way statute that gave the Secretary the power to grant rights-of-ways on Tribal lands with the approval of the affected Tribe."

Wildcat told Gaulke his letter should serve as notice to the town the tribe was going to begin taking what he described as "affirmative steps to rescind all Tribal resolutions concerning maintenance agreements negotiated between the Tribe, federal government, and town government."

He said the tribe has identified 29 roads on the reservation "for re-assumption and jurisdiction."

Among them are Annie Sunn Lane, Artishon Lane, Big Thunder Lane, East Cross Allen Lake Road, Florsheim Road, Ike Walton Road, Moccasin Lane, Pokegama Lake Trail, Raven Lake, Schilleman Road, Thorofare Road, Thunderbird Lane and Woodtick Lane.

Wildcat said the tribe has conducted research concerning the roads on the reservation and the list of 29 roads illustrate "those without sufficient instruments granting the town rights-of-way or any other property rights."

"Without such instruments the town lacks authority to claim any right-of-way or other legal ownership over such roads," he wrote. "Therefore, if the town cannot produce evidence that such instruments establishing property rights in said roads exist by March 6, 2017, the Tribe will assume maintenance of such roads thereafter."

Town response

In a letter dated March 6, 2017 - the deadline given the town by Wildcat - Gaulke responded and said he received Wildcat's letter Feb. 27, the same day the two men spoke on the telephone regarding the matter.

"During our telephone conversation, I informed you that the town would like to convene in a meeting with the Tribal Council sometime after the Spring elections so that the full complement of elected town board members can be present," Gaulke wrote to Wildcat. "We agreed that the entire Tribal Council and attorneys for both sides would be present. We discussed the fact that the meeting may also require attendance by representatives of title companies, the federal government and state government."

He told Wildcat the town, although it had previously produced written evidence concerning property rights in most of the 29 roads listed by Wildcat in his letter, would not have time to produce additional evidence by the March 6 deadline.

"Hopefully, during our initial meeting in April we will be able to identify areas of mutual interest," he wrote. "Furthermore, the town would be very interested in reviewing the research concerning roads which the Tribe has conducted and which you referred to in your letter."

Efforts to reach tribal council members for comment were unsuccessful as of Friday afternoon but Gaulke told The Lakeland Times there really wasn't any use having a meeting with the tribe before the election in April.

"I don't want to make agreements for another board coming in," he said. "I don't think that's right."

Brian Jopek may be reached via email at bjopek@lakelandtimes.com.

Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, March 16, 2017
Article comment by: paul jones

As of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, there are no more "Indians" within the original meaning of the Constitution nor 'Indian treaties' as the Constitution makes for no provisions for treaties with its own constituency. The land U.S./State citizens with "Indian ancestry/race" reside on is owned by the People of the United States and they are merely renters with rare exception according to federal documents readily available on-line. In short, politicians are lying to the citizens of Wisconsin.

Posted: Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Article comment by: Art DeMartini

Missing from this otherwise well written feature is the why behind the move by the tribe. Is this a step toward a larger end? Why does the Times walk on eggs around these guys?

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