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Lac du Flambeau Agrees to Temporary Removal of Road Blockade

Editor’s Note: The following compilation has documents and news articles related to the Lac du Flambeau Tribe and Township dispute over roads access and right of ways. This overall story is very relevant to the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe as we are also in similar situations regarding ownership and jurisdiction over roads on the Reservation which several townships maintain they own, but haven’t been able to provide LCO with proper documentation proving ownership.


The beginning of this compilation is a message from the LDF Tribe regarding the issue, followed by the most recent article issued today regarding the Tribe agreeing to move the barricades that have been in place since January 31, 2023. This article appears in the Green Bay Press Gazette. All other articles and documents printed here are listed from most recent to earliest, so if you’d like to view them in chronological order from the beginning, scroll to the bottom.


Message from LDF Tribal Council


Beginning in the early 1970s, the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians began efforts to regain ownership of our lands and roads under the William Wildcat administration. Our efforts were recently revitalized after the Tribe conducted research of relevant documents from the Town of Lac du Flambeau, the United States government, and Tribal archives that showed the Bureau of Indian Affairs ("BIA") allocated funding for the construction of various roads on the Lac du Flambeau Reservation beginning in the early 1900s and continuing to 1970.


Some of these BIA documents show that when road construction was complete, the roads were entrusted to the Town of Lac du Flambeau for maintenance with the clear understanding that ownership remained with the Tribe and the BIA. Previous town chairs have acknowledged and documented the true ownership, also recognizing that federal funding for road upgrades were contingent on the roads remaining in Tribal and/or BIA ownership.


Over the last generation, the Tribe and the Town of Lac du Flambeau have had many disputes over expired easements and rights-of-way, with each side taking different stances concerning ownership and control. Where disputes existed over ownership, the Tribe had the understanding the Town of Lac du Flambeau was also maintaining records, but it seems their efforts have been minimal. The Town has shown little regard or interest in working together with the Tribe to ensure safe roads for the entire community.


As we continue to locate documentation solidifying our ownership of community roads, we have also obtained records showing the approval of land leases to the federal government gathered by Indian Agents, as they were called at that time, to fund the design and building of roads on the Lac du Flambeau Reservation. It is documented that the Town of Lac du Flambeau accepted these agreements, with the same understanding that ownership remained with the Tribe and the BIA, and the Town would continue to maintain these roads.


Over many years, the Tribe has made repeated efforts to work with the Town of Lac du Flambeau. The safety of the roads in the Lac du Flambeau community is of the utmost importance to the entire Tribal Council. We want what's best for the entire community, and we thought that having government-to-government relations with the Town of Lac du Flambeau would be in everyone's best interest. However, our efforts have been met with untrue accusations, and a complete lack of respect for our burial sites, our Tribal programs, and Tribal law.


We have heard the rumors in our community, and we share today that the Tribe will not deny any resident of Lac du Flambeau access to their home, nor will any "fee" be imposed on residents. Our maintenance of Tribal roads is funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and we will be following the same regulations as the Town of Lac du Flambeau did - and we will be making the needed repairs that are long overdue. The roads in Lac du Flambeau will be safe and accessible for all users.


The Tribal Council

Joseph Wildcat, Sr., Dee Allen, Jamie Allen, Steven Beson, Eric Chapman, Betty Jo Graveen, John Johnson, Frank Mitchell, Alice Soulier, William Stone, Sr., George Thompson and Melinda Young


Lac du Flambeau tribe to reopen barricaded roads in northern Wisconsin as temporary agreement reached


The temporary deal comes on the heels of a federal court decision in favor of the tribe last week.


Frank Vaisvilas

Green Bay Press-Gazette



LAC DU FLAMBEAU - Officials with the Lac du Flambeau tribe and the town of Lac du Flambeau have reached a deal to temporarily reopen four barricaded roads on the reservation in northern Wisconsin.


Town officials held a special meeting March 11 and accepted the tribe’s offer to remove the barricades for 90 days in exchange for $60,000 while negotiations for a more permanent solution continue.


Tribal officials had barricaded the four roads on the reservation Jan. 31, stranding non-tribal residents of some 65 properties by cutting off the only access for vehicle traffic to their homes.


Tribal officials said the easement agreement for the roads expired more than 10 years ago and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and the title insurance companies that handle the properties had not negotiated in good faith to extend the agreements.


Tribal Chairman John Johnson had previously said residents had been trespassing on the illegally built roads on tribal lands and the tribe needs to safeguard what little land it has left.


“The barricades may be coming down temporarily, however the real work of developing a longer-term solution is just beginning,” wrote Dave Kievet, one of the affected residents.


Many residents have been using snowmobiles to travel across woods and frozen lakes to leave their properties for supplies, but the ice will start to melt soon.


“It is a short-term fix so we have a way out when the ice is no longer safe to cross, but it does not solve the long-term problem,” said Marti Hunt, another affected resident.


Many residents are hopeful a long-term deal can be reached.


“I’m so happy to have the opportunity to work with the tribe to get them fair compensation for the past use of their land,” said Elizabeth Lindquist, another affected resident.


The temporary deal comes on the heels of a federal court decision in favor of the tribe last week.


A law firm representing many of the residents had filed a lawsuit Feb. 28 against the tribe demanding that the roads be reopened.


“The defendants (Lac du Flambeau Tribe) took the law into their own hands and illegally barricaded public roadways, despite the fact that they must be ‘open and available to public use’ under federal law,” the lawsuit read.


A federal judge disagreed with that assertion and denied the request and questioned whether the federal court has jurisdiction to issue an injunction on tribal land.


“We feel for the impacted property owners and hope this ruling encourages all property owners to press for immediate action by the town of Lac du Flambeau, the involved title insurance companies and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to resolve this matter,” Johnson said in a statement. “As we have said before, this entire situation could have been avoided if the town and the title insurance companies would have negotiated in good faith.”


Last week, Gov. Tony Evers wrote another letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as well as the title insurance companies and tribal and town officials, urging them to come to a resolution.


“While I cannot dictate the terms of settlement of a private dispute, I remain committed to encouraging open and frank communication and negotiations between the parties to find a resolution as quickly as possible,” Evers wrote. “Come to the table. Mediate this dispute. Do so with commitment and haste. Your neighbors are relying on you.”


He said his administration will take all legal steps to ensure the title companies are providing the coverage they committed to homeowners.


Rhetoric toward the tribe and town had been increasing in animosity by some residents and observers.


The issue has been reported in the Washington Post, New York Times and Fox News.


Last month, U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Wausau, wrote a letter to LDF Tribal President Johnson saying the move by the tribe appears to be a shakedown attempt and threatened legislative action.


And last week, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson wrote a letter asking the federal government to intervene in the private dispute. He requested that the total amount of federal funding administered to the tribe for the four roads be made known and that a legal analysis be conducted to determine the legality of the tribe blocking access to the roads.


The administrators of a Facebook page “Behind the Barricades in Lac du Flambeau” wrote they had to pause public comment on the page because of increasing negative rhetoric.


“This Facebook page was started with the intent of letting everyone know what we were dealing with here in northern Wisconsin,” wrote Dave Kievet, administrator of the page. “The posts and comments indicate that there are strong feelings on both sides of this issue. Rather than deescalating the situation our page appears to be creating a greater divide.”


He wrote that the root of the issue really started in 1887 when Congress passed the Dawes Act, which allowed non-tribal people to purchase land on the reservation in the first place.

Kievet wrote, “The federal government created this issue and the federal government should be responsible for rectifying the situation.”


Lac du Flambeau Tribe Statement On Temporary Roads Access


LAC DU FLAMBEAU—MARCH 13, 2023—The Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians offered the following statement on issuing temporary access permits that allow roads with expired easements to re- open as part of a temporary agreement with the Town of Lac du Flambeau.


“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.”


Lac du Flambeau Tribe Statement On Federal Court Decision


LAC DU FLAMBEAU—MARCH 10 2023—The Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians issued the following statement on the recent federal court order in Pollard v. Johnson related to reservation roads access.


“The federal court’s ruling not only denies the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order, it also calls into question whether the court has jurisdiction to issue an injunction and how the plaintiffs presented their case,” Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians Tribal President John D. Johnson, Sr. said. “We feel for the impacted property owners and hope this ruling encourages all property owners to press for immediate action by the Town of Lac du Flambeau, the involved Title Insurance Companies, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to resolve this matter.”


“As we have said before, this entire situation could have been avoided if the Town and the Title Insurance Companies would have negotiated in good faith” President Johnson said. “The Tribe feels for the property owners impacted by the actions of the Town and the Title Insurance Companies. In fact, we share in their frustration in dealing with government and lawyers, as well as the associated costs that add up quickly over a short period of time—much less over the 10 years that we’ve been trying to get this resolved with the Town and Title Insurance Companies.”


“The Town of Lac du Flambeau and the Title Insurance Companies have repeatedly tried to circumvent the negotiations with the Tribe over the last 10 years,” President Johnson added. “By acting disingenuously and delaying the negotiation process, we arrived at this point.”


Landowners sue Lac du Flambeau tribal leaders to reopen roads blocked for a month


Tribe is seeking $20M from town of Lac du Flambeau, title companies over expired easements


By Danielle Kaeding

wpr.org Wednesday, March 1



Around 40 landowners are suing tribal leaders with the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to reopen four roads that have been blocked by barricades for a month.


The landowners filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. They're asking the court to require the roads be immediately reopened and that they remain open for public use.


"(T)he Defendants took the law into their own hands and illegally barricaded public roadways, despite the fact that they must be 'open and available to public use' under federal law," the complaint states. "The Defendants also installed cameras and threatened Plaintiffs that any attempt to use the unlawfully barricaded roadways would be subject to criminal prosecution for trespass."


On Jan. 31, residents living along Center Sugarbush Lane, East Ross Allen Lake Lane, Elsie Lake Lane and Annie Sunn Lane had access to and from their homes blocked by an order of the Lac du Flambeau Tribal Council. The closures were the culmination of failed negotiations over right-of-way easements that expired in 2010. The tribe had attempted to secure 25-year easements from the town of Lac du Flambeau and title companies that handle the properties accessed by the roads. The tribe has said it made "numerous" attempts without success to resolve the expired easements by working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.


Bridget Hubing, an attorney representing landowners, said in a statement late Wednesday that her Madison-based law firm Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren is now representing 41 of 65 families affected by the roadblocks.


"During the four weeks that the barricades have been blocking access, we made two settlement offers, presented a mediation proposal and requested an informal meeting with the Tribe. Thus far, the Tribe has failed to substantively respond to any of our communications and has refused to remove the illegal barricades," Hubing said.


She went on to say the decision to file the lawsuit was not made lightly. Hubing said they hope the tribal council will remove the barricades and engage in negotiation to reach an amicable and appropriate resolution.


The tribe has said it wants $20 million from the town and title companies to secure an agreement. Tribal officials say that would allow property owners access and make up for illegal use of tribal lands since the easements expired. A spokesperson for the tribe and Lac du Flambeau Tribal President John Johnson, Sr. did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


In the complaint, landowners argue the roads are the only way in and out by vehicle, noting trees and snow prevent access around the barricades. They contend the roads must be open to the public because they're listed in the National Tribal Transportation Facilities Inventory. The complaint states only the Interior Secretary or a public authority with jurisdiction over those roads — in this case the town — can restrict use or close them temporarily, and only under limited circumstances.


University of Wisconsin-Madison law professor Richard Monette said landowners are suing tribal leaders to force them to comply with federal law that authorizes funding for roads in Indian Country under the federal program.


Monette said those homeowners will likely have to bring their case to tribal court first. He said that’s due to the relationship landowners have with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the tribe or both relative to the roads in question. In such instances, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it's important to exhaust remedies at the local level first, which includes the tribe, especially when there’s a consensual relationship like situations with a lease.


"It's important to exhaust the local sovereign’s remedies first for a whole bunch of reasons, (including) efficiency for the court system, etc., but also get the benefit of the local sovereign’s reading of what's at play," Monette said.


While landowners contend the roads are public because they’re funded by a federal program, Monette said that argument wouldn’t hold sway with areas like national parks and military bases.


"And I don't think that anybody's going to conclude that just because those are included in their inventory of reservation roads, that somehow that makes them public in that way," Monette said.


Monette said there’s plenty of blame to go around. Still, he said some fault lies with the tribe. If it had set up a property records office, title companies would be able to work more directly with them rather than relying on the Bureau of Indian Affairs.


Landowners also claim actions by tribal leaders have caused an "imminent threat" to public health and safety. The tribe does allow people to come and go for medical needs. However, the complaint states law enforcement and first responders must stop to open a locked chain between blocks and a wooden barricade that could extend the amount of time to receive emergency services. In one instance, they say it took tribal police 50 minutes to get the right key to open the locked chains.


"Some Plaintiffs and other residents impacted by Defendants’ unlawful closure of the Roadways have been forced to flee their homes in order to ensure that critical care for infirm family members or for themselves is not interrupted," the complaint states.


Rachel Pearson is among residents who filed the lawsuit. She and her husband Dennis have their vehicles parked at a nearby neighbor’s home. To get to them, they cut a trail through private roads and cross a frozen lake by snowmobile. Pearson, who drives an hour to work in Rhinelander, said it’s added about an hour to her day just to get to and from work.


She’s concerned about how they’ll get to work once the lake starts to thaw.


"Once ice is off all of the way, I could potentially kayak," Pearson said. "But at that point, it's getting ridiculous. I leave too early in the morning and come home too late that I'd hate to be doing that in the dark."


She’s upset with the title companies and town for not informing residents about the dispute over easements for more than 10 years. She thinks the town, the title companies and the tribe are at fault for putting residents in this situation.


Even so, Pearson said she wants a fair outcome for the tribe.


"I'm trying to be as respectful as possible, but I feel like all my rights have been taken away, so it's more and more difficult to feel that way," she said.


A spokesperson with the Bureau of Indian Affairs said in a statement the federal government has an obligation to uphold tribal sovereignty.


"(That) includes ensuring that Tribes have the ability to consent to the use of its lands. We have been in communication with the Lac du Flambeau Tribe, as well as state and other officials, and will continue to support efforts to reach a positive outcome," the spokesperson wrote. "It is important that people seeking access to the Tribe’s lands communicate directly with the Tribe. The Bureau of Indian Affairs will follow all applicable laws and regulations when reviewing any agreements for use of Tribal lands."


A message left for town of Lac du Flambeau chair Matt Gaulke was not immediately returned.


Multiple elected officials have called for a resolution to the road dispute, including U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Gov. Tony Evers, and Congressman Tom Tiffany.


The Lac du Flambeau reservation has a population of more than 3,500 residents. The tribe’s lands span 86,600 acres in northern Wisconsin, primarily in Vilas County.


PUBLIC STATEMENT FROM THE LAC DU FLAMBEAU BAND OF LAKE SUPERIOR CHIPPEWA INDIANS


February 9, 2023


How much is Tribe asking for? Some think it's $10 million while others think it's $20 million. It’s important people understand what the Tribe offered 10 years ago. It’s equally important people understand easements are a common practice granting permission to use another

person’s land. What’s uncommon, yet increasingly expected over the last 10 years of negotiating with the Town of Lac du Flambeau and Title Companies, is their refusal to agree to fairly standard easement arrangements, and what appears to be the Town and Title Companies not being straight with the individual property owners. The Town and Title Companies want the Tribe to give them ‘right of way’ access forever. Essentially, they are asking us to give up our land. We have given up millions of acres of land over generations. We now live on a 12-by-12 square mile piece of land known as a Reservation. This is all we have left.


The Tribe originally offered to renew the access road easements (or leases) for 25 years. We have Tribal Members who have property leases that come due every 25 years. We believe if our own Tribal Members can live with 25-year leases, it’s fair to expect others who use Tribal Lands to be treated the same. For years, we’ve worked cooperatively with the WisDOT on easements without ever reaching a point like we have with the Town and these Title Companies. This entire situation could have been avoided if the Town and the Title Companies would have negotiated in good faith and implemented fairly standard easement agreements used by municipal governments.


The Town of Lac du Flambeau and the Title Companies, however, have repeatedly tried to circumvent the negotiations with the Tribe over 10 years. By acting disingenuously and delaying the process of securing 25-year easements, we arrived at this point. Over 10 years, anyone who has dealt with government and lawyers, can just imagine how quickly the costs add up.


The Tribe arrived at $20 million by accounting for all the fees and expenses we’ve incurred trying to secure an agreement to provide access for property owners using Tribal Lands, as well as the cost of illegally using Tribal Lands over 10 years since the easements expired.


A number of years ago, the title companies requested that maps of definite location be conducted on the roads traversing Indian lands. In good faith, the Tribe agreed to that request. Afterwards, the title companies requested that federally sanctioned appraisals be conducted on these same parcels. Again, the Tribe agreed in the spirit of good faith and wanting to resolve this issue. Unfortunately, it became apparent to the Tribe that the appraisal process was defective due to confusion within the federal government concerning the methodology that would control the scope of work pertaining to the appraisals. Despite the Tribe raising these concerns, the title companies have insisted that the negotiations be controlled by defective appraisals that have languished at the Bureau of Indian Affairs and have not been received by the Tribe. Despite all of this, the Tribe attempted to negotiate a global settlement that did not rely upon the faulty appraisals, which the title companies have refused to engage in. It may be difficult for others to appreciate this, but the Tribe has been a victim of faulty paper documents for over 200 years dating back to the Treaty of 1837. This historical trauma informs the Tribe’s steadfast decision to safeguard what little land it has left.


Claims have been made by title company representatives that the Bureau of Indians provided past reassurances that the going rate for easements on the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation was $25,000 per easement. The Tribe respectfully disagrees with any statement that says federal law and regulations place a static amount on easement applications. Any reading of 25 CFR Part 169 would lead a reasonable person to the conclusion easement amounts are determined by the Tribe who owns the land.


How many other roads (or which roads) also have leases expiring soon that may also be in the predicament? The Tribe had been directing property owners to seek out information from the Town of Lac du Flambeau and Title Companies. Unfortunately, the Tribe is getting feedback from property owners about unsatisfactory service when contacting the Town of Lac du Flambeau related to determining if their properties have easements. Property owners are sharing their being treated disrespectfully and told, if they want to dig through thousands of documents, they can come down during Town Hall office hours. The tone has been described as not very kind or helpful.


Short of demanding better service from Town Officials and Town Attorney Greg Harrold, the best way to determine if a property is impacted by expiring easements is to do an online search for Vilas County GIS. If property owners find they access their property by crossing Tribal Lands, which are also are found on the GIS mapping system, they likely will find an easement. We believe there are about 30 additional properties with easements.


Why was now the time for the Tribe to blockade the roads after 10 years?


For 10 years—a decade—the Tribe has been trying to get the Town and Title Companies to agree to 25-year easements, a fairly common practice granting permission to use another person’s land. Over those years, costs and expenses have continued to be incurred by the Tribe in an effort to resolve this matter.


The Tribe feels for the property owners impacted by the actions of the Town and the Title Companies. In fact, we share in their frustration and can relate. We’re hearing many property owners feel like the Town and the Title Companies misled them and are currently running them around in circles rather than solving the matter.


How much longer should the Tribe allow Town of Lac du Flambeau elected officials, Town Attorney Greg Harrold, and Title Company lawyers to string us along, saying one thing and doing another, before saying enough using our property without a formal agreement in place? Ask yourself, would you tolerate someone using your property for 10 years without your permission? Would you expect compensation for using your property for those 10 years? How would you feel if you had been trying for 10 years to sign a pretty standard agreement to clarify who could use your own personal property? Remember, the Tribe initially wanted a 25-year easement agreement 10 years ago.


Letter to Town from Tribe – Response letter Feb. 13


Re: Rights of Way over Annie Sunn Lane, Center Sugarbush Lane, East Ross Allen Lake Lane, and Elsie Lake Lane


On behalf of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (the "Tribe"), please consider this letter a response to your letter February 6, 2023.


In response to your proposal, the Tribe respectfully declines your offer. If the Town truly respected the Tribe as a sovereign nation, the Town would not have declared to the public, your taxpayers, the County of Vilas, or the State of Wisconsin that the entire length of the above-mentioned roads (with the possible exception of Annie Sunn Lane) are Town Roads. See Town Plat Record for Town of Lac du Flambeau (https://maps.vilascountywi.qov/webdocs/dot/Lai::%20du%2DFl ambeau.pdf). The Town has no legal authority to declare the portions of the above-mentioned roads, that traverse Indian lands, to be public roads without the express authorization of the Tribe. Your taxpayers and the public have relied upon Town declarations concerning the above-mentioned roads to their detriment. The Town's declarations concerning land tenure on the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation do not trump the Tribe's ownership interest in its land held in trust by the United States nor the Tribe's territorial jurisdiction over its treaty-bounded reservation. The Tribe respectfully urges the Town to fix these inaccuracies with haste. Additionally, the Tribe urges the Town to conduct its own due diligence concerning its continual claims of jurisdiction over Cemetery Road, East Fence Lake Road, Little Trout Lake Road, Old Prairie Road, Pokegama Lake Trail, Wayman Lane given the fact that in 2018 the Tribe demanded return of these roads and the Tribe's assumption of maintenance since that same time.


The Tribe believes the monetary amount offered by the Town is not sufficient to cover the Town's responsibility in contributing to the past trespass on the above­ mentioned roads. We urge you to work with the taxpayer residents of these roads and the title companies to make a reasonable and good faith offer to the Tribe. In the last correspondence to the Tribe from Atty. Briget Hubing, on behalf of land owners (and potentially title companies), Gregory Harrold, the Town's attorney, and Nancy Appleby, another title company attorney, were copied. The Tribe is assuming the Town is communicating with the title companies and their attorneys to coordinate negotiation strategies. If this is the case, please consider providing a coordinated offer to the Tribe.


Town letter to Tribe in response – Dated Feb. 8


On behalf of the Town of Lac du Flambeau (the "Town"), please consider this letter a response to your letter dated February 6, 2023. The Town Board respects the Tribe as a Sovereign nation and looks forward to working together on Issues of mutual concern, now and in the future. Years ago when the Town was made aware of the easement expiration on the Roads, it confirmed that title insurance companies were working actively to complete applications, do all the surveys and obtain appraisals with respect to the Roads. At that time, the Town was assured that the title insurance companies were engaging in active communication and efforts to negotiate renewals of the easements for the Roads.


On January 19, 2023, in a letter from you to property owners, the Town learned that the negotiation process between the Tribe and the title Insurance companies was not making progress, The Town apologizes if the Tribe had expected the Town to provide compensation for these Roads. At no time previously was the Town ever asked to participate in such negotiations or to provide compensation.


The Town however, is vitally interested in working with all parties to achieve a resolution so as to not block in our neighbors in the community. The Town believes that respectful and open communication In a face to face meeting with the Tribe to discuss the options for compensation and resolution would be vital for the process and everyone involved. The Town will take whatever steps necessary in order to make such a meeting successful.


One potential proposal the Town Board could make is that it could enter into a renewable government to government maintenance agreement with the Tribe whereby the Tribe would be contracted to perform all necessary maintenance, snowplowing and other duties with respect to the Roads. In exchange for those services, the Town would pay the Tribe the entire amount received by the Town for road maintenance through gas tax payments made by the State to the Town. In addition, the Town will pay the entire amount received through gas tax on said Roads for the past 10 years to the Tribe In the amount of $64,289.60.


The Town is also open to considering any other proposals that could be discussed at a face to face meeting for resolving the Issues. These other proposals would undoubtedly be subject to a Town meeting approval.


We look forward to engaging in good faith efforts to alleviate the hardship our citizens and neighbors on the Roads are enduring as a result of the barriers.


Letter from Tribe to Town


Re: Rights of Way over Annie Sunn Lane, Center Sugarbush Lane, East Ross Allen Lake Lane, and Elsie Lake Lane


On behalf of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (the "Tribe"), please consider this letter a response to your letter to Secretary Jamie Allen dated February 2, 2023.


First and foremost, we have no intention of removing the barriers that we installed on our lands until the Town, title companies, and right-of-way applicants make a good faith offer to the Tribe for compensation for over ten years of trespass and valid rights-of-way over the Tribal lands these roads traverse. As early as 2011 and 2013, the Town has been aware of the access issues on these roads since the Bureau of Indian Affairs transmitted notices of easement expiration to the landowners. Over this same period, the Town has collected significant property taxes from these same landowners while taking no steps to resolve this issue with the Tribe. Your failure to properly notify your landowner taxpayers the Town did not possess adequate legal interests (proper right-of-way over Tribal lands) to declare the roads as fully public has directly contributed to this situation.


The Tribe will not agree to remove the barriers or agree to your proposed meeting until the Town presents in writing a good faith offer to the Tribe to compensate for the ongoing trespass.


PUBLIC STATEMENT FROM THE LAC DU FLAMBEAU BAND OF LAKE SUPERIOR CHIPPEWA INDIANS RE: GOVERNOR EVERS MEETS WITH LAC DU FLAMBEAU TRIBAL LEADERS


February 6th, 2023


Governor Tony Evers, and members of his administrative team, traveled to Lac du Flambeau on Saturday, February 4th, to meet with the Lac du Flambeau Tribal Council, Tribal Land Management Director, Tribal Administrator, and the Tribe’s legal counsel. The purpose of this meeting was to listen to tribal leaders, as they shared the historical facts behind the events leading to recent road closures on the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation. They also provided Governor Evers and his team, with current updates regarding the status of communications between the Tribe, the Town of Lac du Flambeau, the title companies, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and shared the Tribe’s efforts to ensure that the health, safety, and general welfare of all involved is being protected.


Governor Evers shared his support of the Tribe’s efforts to resolve this difficult situation, and agreed that his office would assist the Tribe’s efforts to provide current and factual information, in light of the undercurrent of misinformation that has been offered through the media, and from various local, state and federal governmental officials. It is the Tribe’s position, that comments expressed by these officials, are made for the purpose of bringing undue attention to themselves, and only serve to undermine the Tribe’s authority as a sovereign nation.


The Tribe will be working to provide additional updates to the community, as it becomes available.


Gov. Evers Releases Statement Regarding Meeting with Lac du Flambeau Tribal Leadership


MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers today released a statement regarding his meeting with leaders of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. The governor met with President John Johnson and the Tribal Council on the Lac du Flambeau Reservation this weekend regarding an ongoing, private dispute over right-of-ways on land that is part of the Lac du Flambeau Reservation. Gov. Evers released the following statement:


“I want to thank President Johnson, the Tribal Council members, and other officials from the Lac du Flambeau Tribe for a good and productive meeting over the weekend. I appreciate the Tribe’s commitment to ensuring affected residents have the information they need and can continue accessing critical services and assistance.


“As this is an ongoing private dispute, my priority as governor is encouraging everyone in the area to engage amicably and peacefully with each other while working to bring all parties to the table to resolve this issue quickly. I remain hopeful that with everyone at the table, the parties will be able to reach meaningful resolution.”


At issue in the private dispute are right-of-way easements that expired more than 10 years ago and are now affecting several local residents’ property access. To date, attempts to negotiate and execute new right-of-way easement agreements over the interceding decade have been unsuccessful, leading to recent road closures on the Lac du Flambeau Reservation. Last Friday, the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa also released additional information regarding the dispute, which is available here.


PUBLIC INFORMATION FROM THE LAC DU FLAMBEAU BAND OF LAKE SUPERIOR CHIPPEWA INDIANS


February 3, 2023


In light of recent events regarding the recent road closures on the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation, due to long-expired right-of-way (ROW) issues, a great deal of misinformation has circulated through a number of public media outlets. In order to correct those inaccuracies, the Tribe recently released a public statement, and we feel that an additional statement is critical to share these facts.


Over ten years ago, the Tribe became aware of multiple expired ROW easements. The Tribe communicated to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Midwest Regional office, to notify them of the expirations. The BIA responded by drafting and sending notices of easement expiration to the affected property owners. Upon receipt of the notices, property owners reached out to their Title companies, who subsequently contacted their attorneys.


The Town of Lac du Flambeau (LdF), the BIA, and the subsequent Title companies representing property owners, have all played a contributing role, in the situation that we are responding to today.


Despite statements made at the recent Town Board meeting, the Town has known about this issue. As evident through correspondence, the attorney representing the Town of LdF, Mr. Gregory Harrold, reached out to the Tribe’s attorney, Andrew Adams III, as early as February 5th, 2018 (see attached letter), with acknowledgement that the town leadership was aware of easement expirations and trespass issues on three of the four existing tribal roads recently closed. Tribal leaders have met throughout the years with the Town of LdF Chairman, Matt Gaulke, and Town of LdF Attorney, Greg Harrold, on these issues. Our stance is that both individuals failed to give this issue the proper attention, nor have they appeared to make a genuine effort to communicate their willingness to fully understand the Tribe’s concerns.

Throughout the past ten years, the Tribe has made numerous, and ongoing attempts to the BIA’s Midwest Regional office’s administrative leaders, to work together, in good faith, to resolve the expired ROWs, to no avail. BIA representatives have made very clear, through their inactions, by failing to respond to the requests from Tribal leadership, during this period, have demonstrated a sincere commitment to respecting the federal government’s “trust” responsibility, and an utter lack of recognition of the Lac du Flambeau Tribe, as a sovereign nation.


Negotiations between attorneys for the insurance companies and the Tribes attorneys started in 2017. Those negotiations have gone back and forth for years. The Tribe also reached out to the First American Title Company, and Chicago Title, both representing property owners affected by the expired ROWs, as early as September 2022, to notify each of the Tribe’s to restart negotiations over new ROW agreements. The Tribe also provided both companies with an October 27th deadline to respond to their request and received no communication from either party. Both companies were also provided with a list of possible actions that the Tribe could impose, including trespass citations, and access restrictions to roads leading to homeowner’s property.


In December 2022, the attorney for First American Title Insurance, Nancy Appleby, reached out to the Tribe, to request property appraisal documents, that had not been shared with the Tribe from the BIA. These documents were not relevant to the ROW negotiations, and were viewed as merely an attempt to delay the negotiation process.


While the Tribe has acted on previous communications, to add physical barriers, to prevent access to the four current expired ROW roads, our leaders have taken significant caution, to ensure that the safety and general welfare of the residents affected by the road closures, are given the highest priority. Prior to the installation of these barriers, the Lac du Flambeau Tribal Police department went to each of the residences, and spoke with all residents whom were available.


All affected residents have access to EMS services, propane, mail delivery, and waste disposal services. The Tribal Police have been conducting health and welfare checks on all residents, twice daily. Staff have assisted at least two residents by offering to pick up and deliver medications at off-reservation pharmacies. Tribal program staff have also reached out with offers of food box delivery, and have also reached out to provide additional assistance, as needed. We understand that this is a difficult time for those residents, and have tried to show compassion for their predicament. Compassion that has clearly not been considered by the representatives from the Title Companies, whom have willingly misinformed these residents, by their lack of transparency, nor willingness to negotiate in good faith.


We are currently aware that there are going to be upcoming ROW/trespass issues for property owners, as we work through this issue. At this time, we would highly recommend that all current property owners within the exterior boundaries of the Lac du Flambeau reservation, review their existing ownership documents and title policies, for any defined access issues.


We are sharing the facts from our standpoint so that you may be fully informed and assured that we are operating with full transparency. We are hopeful that this situation will be resolved in a timely manner, and are committed to ensuring the health and safety of the affected residents, while working to ensure that the Town of Lac du Flambeau, the BIA, and the aforementioned Title companies, respect the rights and the sovereignty of the Lac du Flambeau Tribe.


Statement from Tribe on January 31st Regarding Road Blocks



Letter to Tribe from Attorney on January 27


Andrew Adams III, Esq.

Hogen Adams PLLC

1935 County Rd. B2 W., Suite 460 Saint Paul, MN 55113


Dear Attorney Adams: Re: Rights of Way Over Annie Sunn Lane, Center Sugarbush Lane, East Ross Allen Lake Lane and Elsie Lake Lane


As you know, I represent various land owners (herein collectively, as my "Clients"), who access their properties by way of Annie Sunn Lane, Center Sugarbush Lane, East Ross Allen Lake Lane and Elsie Lake Lane, and have submitted applications for new rights of way to the Bureau of Indian Affairs ("BIA"). I write in response to the letters sent to several of my Clients from Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa President John Johnson, Sr., dated January 19, 2023. I enclose a sample copy of the letter for each road.


My Clients are disappointed that your client, the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (the "Tribe"), decided to notify my Clients directly and threaten to inhibit access to and from their properties. As you know, Attorney Nancy Appleby, counsel for First American Title Insurance Company ("First American"), and I have been working diligently with you, as the Tribe's counsel, to acquire new rights of ways over the aforementioned roads for the last several years. Admittedly, the process has been excruciatingly slow, but the pace has been largely due to the matters out of my Clients' control.


For example, it took the BIA almost three years to approve the surveys that Steigerwaldt Land Surveying, LLC ("Steigerwaldt") completed in late 2018/early 2019, and provide us with a scope of work for the appraisals. The Tribe could have, but did not, waive the right to have the appraisals conducted. Instead, Attorney Appleby and I reached out on numerous occasions over that time span to keep this process moving along, and worked diligently with the Tribe and BIA to assemble the information necessary for Steigerwaldt to complete the appraisals.


My Clients had hoped that once the appraisals were complete, the terms and conditions of the Tribe's consent to the rights of way could be finalized and the grants put in place in short order. However, progress was once again interrupted because, without any explanation, the Tribe refused to response to numerous requests from my Clients and First American to review the appraisals for which the insurers paid. Attorney Appleby and I informed you on multiple occasions that the insurers were requesting to re ie the appraisals in order to respond to the Tribe's settlement demand of $10,000,000 for the continued use of, and trespass damages for, Annie Sunn Lane, Center Sugarbush Lane, East Ross Allen Lake Lan and Elsie Lake Lane.


It was not until January 17, 2023, that you informed us of the Tribe's decision to bar my Clients and First American from receiving copies of the appraisals, without any explanation.

Two days later, President Johnson sent his letters to my Clients, asserting that because "significant progress has not been made," the Tribe was taking steps to limit access to these four roads, including possibly "physical barriers." On several calls, Attorney Appleby, you and I discussed the Tribe's threat to close the roads, and you agreed that it was not an action that the Tribe was likely to take given its current Tribal Resolutions assuring that the four roads would remain open and the need for emergency vehicles to access my Clients' properties.


With that said, I assure you that my Clients' insurers have committed, and will continue, to negotiate in good faith with the Tribe to acquire rights-of-way over the portions of Annie Sunn Land, Center Sugarbush Lane, East Ross Allen Lake Lane and Elsie Lake Lane that cross Indian­ owned land. Our hope is that the Tribe shares the commitment to negotiate in good faith and that the Tribe will not act contrary to its assurance to fee owners that Annie Sunn Lane, Center Sugarbush Lane, East Ross Allen Lake Lane and Elsie Lake Lane are public roads and that the Tribe \i ill not interrupt the fee owners' access to their respective properties.


Letter to BIA from Attorney on January 27


Jeremy Larson, Realty Specialist

United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs

Great Lakes Agency

916 West Lakeshore Drive West Ashland, WI 54806-1357


Dear Realty Specialist Larson: Re: Rights of Way Over Annie Sunn Lane, Center Sugarbush Lane, East Ross Allen Lake Lane and Elsie Lake Lane


As you know, I represent various land owners (herein collectively, as my "Clients"), who access their properties by way of Annie Sunn Lane, Center Sugarbush Lane, East Ross Allen Lake Lane and Elsie Lake Lane, and have submitted applications for new rights of way to the Bureau of Indian Affairs ("BIA"). I write in response to the letters sent to several of my Clients from Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa President John Johnson, Sr., dated January 19, 2023. I enclose a sample copy of the letter for each road.


It appears that President Johnson's letter was intended to serve as notice, under 25 CFR 169.410, that my Clients are trespassing on Indian land. In addition, President Johnson claims that because "significant progress has not been made to bring this issue to a resolution," commencing on January 31, 2023, the Tribe may take action to limit my Clients' access to their property over the four aforementioned roads, and that such actions may include "posting of signs, road checkpoints, and/or physical barriers."


I write to inform the BIA that the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (the "Tribe") and my Clients have been, and continue to be, engaged in good faith negotiations to obtain new rights of way. Such negotiations include discussions regarding compensation, trespass damages and other matters to be addressed in the Tribe's consent to the new rights of way for which my Clients have applied. Therefore, my Clients respectfully request that the BIA refrain from taking any action pursuant to 25 CFR 169.410 at this time.


Moreover, neither the BIA nor the Tribe should take any action to impair, interrupt or block my Clients' access over the roads for several reasons, including, but not limited to the following:


• First, each of the four roads -- Annie Sunn Lane, Center Sugarbush Lane, East Ross Allen Lake Lane and Elsie Lake Lane - have been, and continue to be, listed on the Tribe's National Tribal Transportation Facilities inventory, and therefore, are required to remain open to the public.

• Second, by the Tribe's own admission, federal money was used to construct, and federal money is used to maintain, the portions of the roads that cross Indian land, pursuant to 23 U.S.C. 204.

• Third, the Tribe signed an agreement with the Town of Lac du Flambeau (the "Town"), titled "Acknowledgement of Public Authority Responsibility (APAR) in 2007, in which the Tribe agreed that three of the four roads -- Center Sugarbush Lane, East Ross Allen Lake Lane and Elsie Lake Lane - were town roads and that the "routes will continue to be owned by the Town and opened to the public for travel."

• Fourth, these roads are the sole means of access to and from my Clients' properties, and therefore, it is crucial that the four roads remain open for emergency vehicles, such as fire and rescue.


Letter from Tribe to Landowners on January 19


Re: Expired Rights-of-Way Over Annie Sunn Lane, Center Sugarbush Lane, East

Ross Allen Lake Lane, and Elsie Lake Lane


The Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (the "Tribe") is sending this letter to you as a landowner on the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation who has applied for a right-of-way over Annie Sunn Lane, Center Sugarbush Lane, East Ross Allen Lake Lane, or Elsie Lake Lane. As you know, the Tribe has been working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (the "BIA"), Bridget Hubing (legal counsel to some of the landowners), and Nancy Appleby (legal counsel to First American Title Insurance Company) to address the issue of your nearly ten-year old expired right-of-way and continued trespass over Indian lands on the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation.


Unfortunately, significant progress has not been made to bring this issue to a resolution that is mutually beneficial for all parties. Due to this, the Tribe considers your right-of-way to have expired nearly ten years ago and your use of said right-of-way since expiration is and will be considered trespassing under 25 C.F.R. §169.410. Additionally, commencing on January 31, 2023, the Tribe reserves the right to limit access to Annie Sunn Lane, Center Sugarbush Lane, East Ross Allen Lake Lane, and Elsie Lake Lane as the rightful owner of lands those roads traverse. This right to limit access may include, but is not limited to, posting of signs, road checkpoints, and/or physical barriers.


The Tribe will do its best to continue working with the BIA and the respective legal counsel for the individual applicants and the respective title companies to resolve this issue. In the meantime, the Tribe must take steps to protect its own interests in this current situation.

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