Tribe won’t accommodate lower payments to keep disputed roads open

Letter to town says Tribe will 'protect lands and territory'

The street sign for East Ross Allen Lake Lane where Dennis Pearson lives Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Lac Du Flambeau, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

The Lac Du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians said it will not accommodate a plan passed by the Town of Lac du Flambeau Board that would reduce monthly payments to the tribe to keep town roads on its reservation open.

In a letter to Town Chairman Matt Gaulke sent Friday, Tribe President John Johnson wrote that failure to comply with an agreement reached last year between the town and the tribe would “result in the Tribe taking necessary actions to protect lands and territory of the Tribe’s treaty defined Reservation.”

In January 2023, members of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa put up barricades on four roads on the reservation. Town residents on those roads found themselves cut off from their homes. Some used snowmobiles to cross a frozen lake to get on and off their properties.

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The closures came after a decade of dispute between the tribe, the town and title companies over expired easements that have not been renewed.

The roads re-opened in March 2023, when the town made an initial $60,000 payment to the tribe. Since then, the two parties agreed to monthly payments from the town that increase by $2,000 each month to keep the roads open until new easement agreements can be reached.

At a meeting late last month, town supervisors voted to reduce their monthly payments starting in July, arguing that the municipality cannot afford to keep up with the ever-increasing fee.

In his letter Friday, Johnson suggested town officials request a meeting with the Tribal Council. He said the council is waiting on a “substantive” response to a Dec. 1 letter asking the town for $9.6 million in damages to renew the easements and keep the roads open permanently.

Town of Lac du Flambeau officials were not available for comment Friday. The tribe has not provided clarification about whether it intends to close the roads again if the July payment is reduced.