Chairwoman notes progress in housing, legal battles and maintaining cultural traditionsThe year 2011 was a successful one for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa on economic, community and cultural fronts, Chairwoman Karen Diver said last Thursday, hours before delivering her annual State of the Band address.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Pine Journal
The year 2011 was a successful one for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa on economic, community and cultural fronts, Chairwoman Karen Diver said last Thursday, hours before delivering her annual State of the Band address.
She dedicated the address to Mary Northrup, a member of the Reservation Business Committee, the band’s governing body, who died in December. Northrup was finishing her first term as the Brookston representative. The State of the Band address is not open to non-band members because nonpublic financial data is released.
She shared her description of last year’s highlights and the challenges of 2012 on Thursday afternoon.
In 2011, she said:
+ Fond du Lac secured funding for supportive housing for veterans and low-income housing for families, which will be built this year.
“We know that veterans are over-represented in homeless populations,” Diver said, “and it means a lot to have residences specifically for them on a reservation that has “an incredible housing challenge.”
The reservation’s waiting list for housing has been cut by more than 100 in the past few years, and now sits at about 160, Diver said. In the past five years, 96 housing units have been added to the reservation, when normal growth would put the number at about 20, she said.
+ A federal court and the National Indian Gaming Commission ruled that the city of Duluth can’t collect about $6 million a year it used to receive from the Fond-du-Luth Casino. The court also ruled the band must pay the city for payments missed since 2009; the city and band are both appealing the ruling. The Gaming Commission said that Indian casinos are to operate only in the interest of the band, and the agreement with the city spanned too long a time period.
“The band won,” Diver said. “The agreements are called illegal. That was a big thing for us. It’s obviously not settled, but it’s something for us to point to as a milestone during the year.”
Both Black Bear and Fond-du-Luth casinos are financially stable, Diver said, but revenue is still not at pre-recession levels.
+ The band purchased Spirit Island, the sixth stopping place in the migration of the Anishinaabe people from the northeastern part of the continent. The 5.9 acres of land near Clough Island on the Minnesota side of the St. Louis River, bought for $150,000, was a “significant reclamation” of Ojibwe land, Diver said.
“It’s tiny but it’s ours,” she said.
+ Fond du Lac bought two radio stations, in Cloquet and Moose Lake, and started another on the reservation. WGZS, named for the Ojibwe word “giizis,” or moon,” began broadcasting at 89.1 FM in September. The two purchases were an economic development effort, Diver said, which provided eight jobs.
Goals for this year, the band chairwoman said, include planning for more housing, this time for those needing memory care. Ten units would be added to existing assisted-living housing on the reservation. A walking/biking trail will be built along Big Lake Road, and turn lanes will be added to unsafe intersections on the same road. The band also will add 9,700 feet of water line, working with the city of Cloquet, which will allow it to increase fire protection.
The challenges for 2012, said Diver, include resolving the Fond-du-Luth issue with the city of Duluth and monitoring state and federal policies and budgets that could affect the band.