By Shereen Siewert | Wausau Pilot & Review
The Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians agreed this week to temporarily reopen roads that have been blocked to residents for months, while working with the town and title companies to form a permanent agreement.
The tribe released a statement on Monday afternoon about the temporary agreement, which will expire in 90 days.
In January, access to Center Sugarbush Lane, East Ross Allen Lane, Elsie Lake Lane and Annie Sunn Lane was blocked by an order of the Lac du Flambeau Tribal Council. As a result, residents living along those roadways were caught in a tug-of-war over right-of-way easements that expired in 2010.
An earlier statement from the tribe placed the blame on the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Town of Lac du Flambeau supervisors and title companies for actions they say reflect “an utter lack of recognition” of the tribe’s sovereignty.
In February, the tribe issued a new public statement that said it was seeking $20 million to secure 25-year easements for road access across reservation land, according to a Wisconsin Public Radio report. That figure, WPR reported, “accounts for all fees and expenses incurred by the tribe as it worked to secure an agreement, along with 10 years of illegal use of the roads.”
The Lac du Flambeau tribe allowed ambulance, fire, rescue, road maintenance, mail and food delivery along the blocked roadways. Residents were not allowed to use the roads to go to and from work, forcing alternate passageways including using snowmobiles on ice-covered lakes. As temperatures warmed, safety concerns increased as residents found themselves stuck in the middle of a decades-long tussle.
Many insiders blame the current situation on the Dawes Act, which was passed by Congress in 1887. Because of the way the policies were enacted, the tribe doesn’t own all the land within its reservation.
Tribal leaders and representatives from the Town of Lac du Flambeau could not be immediately reached Tuesday for comment.