Chairwoman says Fond du Lac Band made ‘great inroads’ in 2011The year 2011 was a successful one for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa on economic, community and cultural fronts, Chairwoman Karen Diver said Thursday, hours before delivering her annual State of the Band address.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
The year 2011 was a successful one for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa on economic, community and cultural fronts, Chairwoman Karen Diver said Thursday, hours before delivering her annual State of the Band address.
The band won major rulings in its Fond-du-Luth Casino contract dispute with the city of Duluth, continued progress toward sorely needed housing on the reservation and acquired St. Louis River’s Spirit Island, regarded as sacred Ojibwe land.
The band made “great inroads on building our capacity, our communications abilities, meeting basic needs and maintaining cultural traditions, and we’re pleased with the balance of those activities,” said Diver, who is finishing her first full term as chairwoman.
Diver faces nine challengers in an April primary race for re-election.
She dedicated the address to Mary Northrup, a member of the Reservation Business Committee, the band’s governing body, who died in December. Northrup was finishing her first term as the Brookston representative. The State of the Band address is not open to non-band members because nonpublic financial data is released.
She shared with the News Tribune on Thursday her description of 2011’s highlights and the challenges of 2012.
In 2011, she said:
“We know that veterans are over-represented in homeless populations,” Diver said, and it means a lot to have residences specifically for them on a reservation that has “an incredible housing challenge.”
The reservation’s waiting list for housing has been cut by more than 100 in the past few years, and now sits at about 160, Diver said. In the past five years, 96 housing units have been added to the reservation, when normal growth would put the number at about 20, she said.
“The band won,” Diver said. “The agreements are called illegal. That was a big thing for us. It’s obviously not settled, but it’s something for us to point to as a milestone during the year.”
Both Black Bear and Fond-du-Luth casinos are financially stable, Diver said, but revenue is still not at pre-recession levels.
“It’s tiny but it’s ours,” she said, sharing how elders and other members of the community have been brought to the island to see it since the purchase.
“It was emotional,” she said. “A lot of people said when they stepped foot on it they felt goose-bumps.”
Goals for this year, the band chairwoman said, include planning for more housing, this time for those needing memory care. Ten units would be added to existing assisted-living housing on the reservation. A walking/biking trail will be built along Big Lake Road, and turn lanes will be added to unsafe intersections on the same road. The band also will add 9,700 feet of water line, working with Cloquet, which will allow it to increase fire protection.
Pending financing of the project, the band will be included in an upcoming documentary about tribal government, which “Food Inc.” producer Robert Kenner is involved in. Diver and others were filmed last year for a piece that will be shopped around for funding of the full documentary. The film, Diver said, will be about “the complexity and contributions of modern-day tribal government.”
The challenges for 2012, said Diver, include resolving the Fond-du-Luth issue with the city of Duluth and monitoring state and federal policies and budgets that could affect the band.