State Will Sit On Tribal Grant Until After Spear-Fishing Negotiations End

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The state building commission will wait for tribal spearing rights negotiations to end before voting on a historic preservation grant to the Lac Du Flambeau tribe.

The $250,000 grant that has been in the works for almost two years would fund the construction of a cultural education center in Lac Du Flambeau. State Rep. Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah) had planned to ask the building commission to revoke the grant because the tribe has increased the number of Walleye it plans to spear this season, thereby limiting the number of fish available for non-tribal anglers.

But Kaufert says he holds out hope that a meeting between the tribes and the Department of Natural Resources scheduled for April 30 will lead to increased bag limits for sports anglers.

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“There’s a whole bunch of folks up north who really have some serious concerns about the impact of this. We’ll give it a month. There’s some meetings going on. I’m trying to send a message that I am willing to be kinder, gentler and [will] really extend an olive branch to the tribes.”

But a member of the Lac Du Flambeau Tribal disagrees. Ruben Santiesteban says linking funds for the cultural center to tribal spearing rights does not qualify as an olive branch.

“We should be able to balance tourism and our treaty rights in the state of Wisconsin, [that] being our heritage. Now today to defer those meetings to a meeting to see what happens at a spearing and treaty rights meeting – not only do I not appreciate it, but it shouldn’t be happening.”

Governor Scott Walker says he supports funding the cultural education center, but agrees with postponing the decision. He plans to discuss spearing and a range of other issues at his quarterly meeting with the tribes in May before the building commission takes up the issue again.

Updated: We originally identified Dean Kaufert as a state senator; he is in fact a state representative to the Assembly.

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