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TGB Seeks to Get State-Owned Swamp Lands Returned to Tribe

Updated: Jan 15

By Joe Morey

News Editor

LCO Vice Chairman Tweed Shuman attended a state/tribal consultation at Stockbridge Munsee Tribe and met with staff of the WI Department of Natural Resources (DNR), including deputy secretary Steven Little, to discuss certain issues important to Tribes, which included the wolf hunt and DNR held land parcels.

As a follow up to the meeting, Shuman sent a letter on Dec. 5th on behalf of the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board, to members of Governor Evers’ administration, particularly to staff of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regarding swamp lands owned by the state within Reservation boundaries.

The letter, addressed to Wenona Wolf, Director of Political Engagement and Planning for Evers, and Steven Little, Deputy Secretary of WI DNR and other staff members, states when Evers was elected in 2018, LCO Chairman Louis Taylor contacted his administration to discuss the swamp lands that were owned by the state and DNR within our reservation boundaries.

“We were successful in getting the swamp lands conveyed back from the Bureau of Public Lands, but there has been no response for several years despite a letter sent to Secretary Cole and attorney Kris Goodwill in 2021 regarding response on 16 parcels, 525.94 acres of land owned by WI DNR within the external boundaries of Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation,” Shuman wrote in the letter.

He went on to say Secretary Cole under Governor Evers promised to return the lands owned by the DNR.

"There has been no movement from the DNR in several years,” Shuman noted. “We are asking the DNR to honor their promise to LCO!”

Shuman is requesting an in-person update to Chairman Louis Taylor and himself on the land conveyance or sale as soon as possible.

The issue discussed at the Stockbridge-Munsee consultation is that the state of Wisconsin (including the DNR) has acquired tribal land parcels at LCO under various congressional and state legislative acts. One of the acts was the Swamp Act, see WI Stat 24.01 et  sec.

“Our state has considerable land holdings that were once tribal reservation parcels,”

Shuman said. “Governor Evers started the process for swamp land reclamation through the Bureau of Public Lands and this led to LCO purchasing parcels the state had acquired under state law. At the same time, the DNR has tribal land parcels and offered to convey the land back to LCO. The parcels have been identified by LCO and DNR realty employees.”

Shuman said LCO is still waiting for the DNR leadership to complete the transaction, whether it’s conveyance or land sale.

The definition of the state statute is as follows; 24.01(9) (9) "Swamp lands" embraces all lands which have been or may be transferred to the state pursuant to an act of congress entitled "An act to enable the state of Arkansas and other states to reclaim the swamp lands within their limits," approved September 28, 1850, or pursuant to an act of congress entitled "An act for the relief of purchasers and locators of swamp and overflowed lands," approved March 2, 1855, as well as any land received under s. 24.09 (1) (bm) in exchange for such land.

Shuman and LCO Sec-Treasurer Bill Trepanier, along with LCO Attorney General James Schlender Jr., attended another state-tribal consultation in Black River Falls with Department of Administration and Department of Revenue to discuss gaming exclusivity and taxation of tribal member-owned property within boundaries. Those stories coming in our next issue.

Additionally, the Chippewa Federation is meeting Thursday, January 18th, in Lac du Flambeau, and that story will appear thereafter.


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