Treaty Rights Victory at Chief Lake Landing
By Joe Morey News Editor
The Lac Courte Oreilles Office of the Attorney General said today, Friday, Feb. 15, the concrete barricade at the Chief Lake boat landing is being moved, an announcement made following discussion with Town of Hayward Chairman Jeff Homuth.
The barricade was placed at the boat landing to block access to the public, which, according to Attorney General Kekek Stark, infringed upon the treaty rights of tribal members who have been placing their fish shacks on the lake for many years.
“The Chief Lake Boat Landing is now open thanks to the dedicated work and efforts of the Lac Courte Oreilles Office of the Attorney General and the Tribal Governing Board,” said TGB member Tweed Shuman.
Stark, Assistant Attorney General Dyllan Linehan, and Shuman attended a Town of Hayward Board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 12, and made the tribe’s position on the issue clear, namely that the landing must be open to tribal members under the decision in LCO v. Voight.
The town board had not put the issue on the agenda and stated that they could not speak to the issue specifically at the meeting, but Stark explained during the public comment period the 1983 LCO v. Voight Case to the town board and further clarified that “the federal court order in that case guaranteed access for tribal members.”
Stark further stated, “any individual or entity interfering with tribal member’s access at the landing was violating that court order and could be held in contempt of court.”
Linehan also addressed the town board and said that “the issue needed to be remedied immediately, as every day the barricade blocked the landing was a day that tribal members were being unlawfully restricted from exercising their rights on the lake. Hopefully we can remedy this soon, or the tribe will have to take legal action.”
The town board ordered the concrete barrier to be put in place in January, after Chief Lake residents brought to their attention a court order from 1982 that ordered the Town to close the boat landing from December 1 to April 30 every winter. According to one town board member there hasn’t been any action to block the landing in at least eight years, however, there have been reports that snow had been plowed to restrict access in the past.
Town Chairman, Jeff Homuth, told Shuman and the attorneys for LCO on Friday morning that the board had a resolution drafted asking Judge John Yackel to rescind the 1982 court order. Homuth said the last remaining party involved in the 1982 case, Jackie Seddon, owner of Pat’s Landing resort nearby to the boat landing, wasn’t opposed to rescinding the original court order, a requirement for the resolution to move forward.
“Thank you for your patience,” Homuth said. “I want everyone to be happy. I absolutely hate this, I’ve been working hard to get this settled.”
According to Dan Cousins, Town of Hayward Board member, the blockade was put up after discussion to move the landing from its present location to a nearby location at Schultz’ Restaurant. Neighbors of Schultz’ opposed the landing placed there.
Shuman expressed to the town board Tuesday night that he didn’t feel it was right that they blocked the landing before building the proposed new landing and that many tribal members were rightfully upset.
Tribal members have noted that other accesses to the lake were several miles away, and the other proposed landing was also more than a mile away from that particular area, which is “where the best fishing is.”
Stark told the town board that “the LCO v. Voight decision supersedes the prior court order and effectively overturned the holding in case that the town board had mistakenly relied upon.”
According to Stark, while the tribe maintains that the 1982 court order is invalid, and as such does not require the order to be rescinded, the tribe is appreciative that the town board has finally taken steps to remedy their actions.
“Any action which infringes upon tribal member’s treaty rights would be aggressively fought in tribal, state and federal court, and that ensuring tribal member’s rights to provide a subsistence-based lifestyle for their families is of utmost importance to their office,” Stark commented.