By Joe Morey News Editor
The LCO Tribal Governing Board (TGB) voted 3-2-1 in favor of allowing only LCO Tribal Members ATV/UTV access on all roads within the LCO Reservation Boundary in accordance with the current ATV/UTV Tribal Ordinance.
LCO Secretary-Treasurer Tweed Shuman made the motion to take effect immediately and was supported by members Don Carley and Gary “Little Guy” Clause. Voting in opposition were LCO Vice Chairwoman Lorraine Gouge and member Michelle Beaudin. Abstaining from the vote was Glenda Barber.
LCO Chairman Louis Taylor who only votes in case of tie expressed his support for the motion and said he would have voted in favor if there was a tie.
The most recent ordinance was created in 2005, and the TGB said the Legal Department was to present any new amendments if necessary. Shuman made clear his motion was for use of roads only and that non-Tribal Members would still have access to designated trails through the Reservation.
Any amendments to the ordinance will address where roads are and what roads can be used, as well as speed limits on those roads.
Discussion on the motion brought up several questions, such as how Tribal Police are to determine when a tribal member is or isn’t driving the ATV/UTV. The Legal Department is proposing that tribal members register their ATV/UTV’s just like a vehicle would and that when pulled over, the driver will have to show Tribal ID, and if not, they will be issued a citation which if proven they are a resident in Tribal Court, the citation can be dismissed.
In a previous LCO News article, the TGB cited its opposition to local Townships and Sawyer County opening up the roads within the LCO Boundary to all ATV/UTV access because of safety concerns in the tribal communities, damage to tribal property, and lack of protection sacred sites.
Brian Bissonette, LCO Conservation Director, and James Schlender, Tribal Attorney General, reminded the local governments of the tribe’s jurisdiction over tribal lands and its own lawful capacity to regulate ATV/ITV use.
It was reported in a tribal statement “Bisonette expressed concern with the legitimacy of the designated ATV/UTV routes within the Reservation boundaries. The Tribe has an ATV/UTV use ordinance but expressed concerns about enforcement with additional routes being processed. Schlender informed the TGB that a forfeiture and possible confiscation of the vehicles for trespass on tribal land may be needed to ensure adherence to marked trails under the tribe’s code of law. Currently logging roads and other trails are seeing increased ATV/UTV usage leading to concerns for sacred sites and overall wear and tear common with ATV usage.”
At the TGB meeting to make roads open to only tribal members, the question of ownership of town roads was brought up and whether townships have the authority to open the roads to all ATV/UTV usage. Schlender stated, “In the absence of clear ownership of these roads without a clear title of governance, we assert our ownership of the roads and have the townships say no rather than never asserting based on the 1854 treaties.”
Town Roads Jurisdiction
After several years of the Tribe asking townships to show ownership of the roads within the Boundary, Schlender said we need to stop asking them to prove ownership and just assert our ownership.
“Let them take us to court,” Schlender told the TGB.
Bisonette added that we have asked for a jurisdictional transfer, but asked why the Tribe should do that when they haven’t been able to prove ownership.
“We decide what happens on our Reservation,” Bisonette stated. “It’s about our Sovereignty.”
Bisonette said they have requested to town managers if they have recorded deeds of ownership over a handful of town roads on the rez, but they haven’t shown any yet.
In a meeting with the TGB in November of 2020, Nita Kemp, Director of LCO Realty Services, told the TGB that the townships do not possess the original patents issued by the BIA for roads through Indian lands, yet claim them on their inventory and receive federal transportation aid on a quarterly or annual basis. She said she’s asked the BIA to do a records search of these patents.
Kemp said a couple of chairman’s of townships extending into the Reservation have expressed interest in turning over their roads to the Tribe. Although some claim to have spent a lot of money on the roads, Kemp said they are compensated for that.
There is concern that we’d block access to these roads but Kemp said that’s not the Tribe’s intention.
“The Tribe needs to get their roads back. They’ve had these roads all these years and it’s time we get them back and we take care of them,” stated Kemp.
Tweed Shuman said he too believes the Tribe would be better custodians of the roads on the BIA inventory as it is the Tribal people who travel the roads every day.
TGB member Glenda Barber noted that Tribal Leadership gets the blame for the condition and neglect of these roads within the reservation when they aren’t responsible for them. She agreed it’s time the Tribe takes care of them.