Recession didn’t dim 2009 for Fond du Lac BandWith the Black Bear Casino expansion complete and paid in full, 2009 was a bit of an easier year for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune, Pine Journal
With the Black Bear Casino expansion complete and paid in full, 2009 was a bit of an easier year for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
Tribal Chairwoman Karen Diver gave the second annual State of the Band address last week, and despite “only OK” casino revenues in light of the recession, the band was able to accomplish quite a few things.
“2009 just really felt good in terms of no crises to manage,” Diver said.
In her address, she highlighted the top three accomplishments of the year:
# Construction of supportive housing to be open to new residents this summer. The 24 units of townhomes and apartments are being built in response to the overwhelming housing demand on the reservation, and also will provide social services. A new assisted living building will begin construction this summer, paid for by stimulus money, of which the reservation received $5.6 million with another $7.3 million pending. Several other construction projects are under way.
# The band reached an agreement with Enbridge Energy Partners in April that cleared the way for a new oil pipeline to cross reservation land. In exchange for access to the land, Enbridge paid the band an undisclosed amount of money, and arranged to create employment for band members through the band’s construction company, use of timber, gravel, environmental divisions and contractors. The agreement ended a year and a half of negotiations.
# The band was awarded cooperating agency status by the federal government to bring a tribal point of view to the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Polymet mine near Babbitt. Polymet’s draft environmental plan was deemed inadequate by the Environmental Protection Agency last week because of its impact to water sources.
The band was concerned about more than just water quality, Diver said, noting the cultural impact water pollution could have on things like wild-ricing areas.
“Anything that affects the wildlife or the actual land and water has impacts on our hunting and gathering,” she said. “So it was a big deal to be at the table for that.”
In 2009 the band and the city of Duluth entered a dispute about Fond-du-Luth Casino profits. The band stopped paying the city casino revenue because it didn’t feel it was getting a fair return in services. The city filed a lawsuit, and the band filed a counter-claim. The case is moving through the court system, said Secretary/Treasurer Ferdinand Martineau, but the band is still setting aside the payments it would normally be making to the city, pending a legal decision.
Goals for this year include expansion of tribal court services, rebuilding finances and pulling in band members to help plan the reservation’s future and determine priorities; something the band has never done before.
“We want a plan from the community that says, this is how we’re going to develop our reservation,” Martineau said.