Well-timed stock sale gave Fond du Lac band a boost
The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa escaped the furor of the financial markets by about three weeks in September. A need to free up cash flow led the band to sell its stock portfolio and pay off $112 million in Black Bear construction ...
The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa escaped the furor of the financial markets by about three weeks in September.
A need to free up cash flow led the band to sell its stock portfolio and pay off $112 million in Black Bear construction debt long before the loan's January 2011 due date.
"The time was right to free it up," chairwoman Karen Diver said. "In hindsight, the timing was even more right."
The Reservation Business Committee shared the news of that decision and its results with band members last week at Fond du Lac's first state of the band address. The meeting was open only to band members.
The decision to hold an address -- something other Minnesota American Indian reservations have done for years -- was made to publicly set goals for the coming year and to update members on the past year. Though the reservation has held monthly public meetings, attendance is usually sparse, Diver said. And the RBC has an ambitious agenda for 2009.
Goals include expanding the Fond du Lac tribal court by taking on such issues as small claims, property disputes on trust lands, evictions from tribal property and employment grievances -- areas normally handled by the RBC or the band's housing department. The band also will consider a wellness initiative and a drug court.
Other band goals are to present new laws on violence, rebuild financial reserves and seek independent accreditation for the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College -- so the tribal college is governed solely by the band.
Band Treasurer Ferdinand Martineau wouldn't disclose how much money remains in band coffers but said it is enough to sustain operations.
"But low enough to make us a little uncomfortable if we meet any unforeseen circumstances," Diver said.
Band accomplishments in 2008 -- besides paying off the casino debt -- included getting money for a 24-unit supportive housing building, creating the Big Lake sanitary district and increasing wages for Black Bear employees.
The RBC hopes that by being frugal and more efficient the band will weather the next year, which could have been much bleaker had it not paid off its debt when it did, Martineau said.
Consequences could have included layoffs, cuts to band members' per-capita payments, zero financial reserves, reduced community center and resource management hours, and more part-time workers than full-time, Diver said, noting: "We would have been bankrupt."
What's important now, Martineau said, "is to keep us from going backwards."