Lac du Flambeau Tribe, residents reach agreement on temporary road access
LAC DU FLAMBEAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians has released a statement on issuing temporary access permits that allow roads with expired easements to reopen as part of a temporary agreement with the Town of Lac du Flambeau.
As NewsChannel 7 previously reported, for 50 years, an easement between the Lac du Flambeau Tribe and its non-native residents was held in place. That easement expired in 2013. Last month, the Lac du Flambeau Tribe set cement barriers on four different roads that run through their land, roads that also lead to homes owned by non-native residents.
On Monday, the Tribe issued this statement:
“The Tribe has agreed to provide temporary access permits to the Town of Lac du Flambeau to open the roads with expired easements to provide a window of opportunity for the Town and the Title Companies to make a viable offer to get this situation resolved,” Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians President John D. Johnson, Sr. said.
“The permits are in 30-day increments and the Tribal Council has only authorized three total (90 days) for each road.”
“To be crystal clear, the Tribe still expects compensation for unauthorized land use and disregard of our private property,” President Johnson said. “This includes expenses incurred over 10 years as well as terms to protect Tribal Lands from unauthorized use, so future generations of Tribal Membership can live peacefully without worry.”
“We hope this encourages impacted property owners to press for immediate action by the Town and the involved Title Insurance Companies to resolve this matter,” President Johnson said.
“More specifically, the Tribe believes the involved Title Insurance Companies and Town are financially responsible,” President Johnson said. “The Tribe also believes the involved Title Insurance Companies and Town know they are financially responsible. With this in mind, it makes sense as to why the involved Title Insurance Companies and Town have low-balled the Tribe in the negotiations and seemingly misled individual property owners. This leaves individual property owners on the hook financially while the involved Title Insurance Companies and Town portray themselves as being on the side of the property owners. In fact, it appears the fox is watching the hen house.’
“Furthermore, both the Town and the involved Title Insurance Companies have disregarded our Tribal Sovereignty,” President Johnson said. “This is important because our Tribal Sovereignty allows us to set and enforce laws and regulations on our land to preserve and protect the 12-by-12 square mile reservation we have remaining after ceding millions of acres of land to the federal government. Tribal Sovereignty is a political status recognized by the federal government, protected by the U.S. Constitution, and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
“The Town and the involved Title Insurance Companies, and in some cases realtors who sold unknowing property owners land without clear title, appear to have ignored or disregarded the private property rights associated with Tribal Lands,” President Johnson said. “This likely influenced the Town and Title Companies’ decisions on whether they would negotiate in good faith, meaning they accept and take responsibility for their actions or inactions in informing property owners of easements.”
Following a meeting on March 11 between the Lac du Flambeau Tribe and the Town of Lac du Flambeau, a deal was reached to reopen the previously barricaded roads.
Denny Pearson lives on the piece of disputed land in Lac du Flambeau and said they just want this issue to be resolved. He stated that neighbors have been let out for doctor’s appointments, but it’s been a frustrating 41 days. “We’re glad to see them open today, it’s a short-term fix to a long-term problem, so hopefully we can get it resolved, get moving forward, and come back together as a community,” said Pearson.
“The four roads have been released and unlocked for the next 30 days, with two more 30-day extensions based on goodwill negotiations between the title companies, town, and bringing a fair offer to the Tribe,” added Pearson.
Some people had to be creative by using alternate means like snowmobiles to drive on the lake to get to work. Others have had a more challenging time. “My health is not the best, so right now, that’s been hard but I’m ready to go back up, ready to go back to school and just get back into life,” said Ming Kester of Lac du Flambeau.
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