D.K. Sprague Retires after Twenty-Four Years as Chairman of the Gun Lake Tribe

D.K. Sprague Retires after Twenty-Four Years as Chairman of the Gun Lake Tribe  

Sprague Led Tribe from Pre-Recognition to Successful Modern Tribal Government 

(Bradley, Mich.) – Today, the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (Gun Lake Tribe) (Tribe) announced the retirement of David K. (D.K.) Sprague as chairman.  Sprague served as chairman since his initial election by the Bradley Settlement Elder’s Council in 1992.  He is distinguished as one the longest serving tribal chairman, in consecutive terms, throughout Indian Country in the Unites States.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve my community as chairman for the last twenty-four years,” said D.K. Sprague, former chairman.  “I thank my family and the Tribe for supporting me, and God for allowing me to serve at a time when our dreams came to reality.  I give recognition to our tribal leaders who came before me, as I merely finished what they started when the Bradley Indian Mission was established in the 1830s.”

The Tribe achieved federal re-acknowledgment in 1999 after many years of working through the federal acknowledgment process.  The Tribe’s goal of reaching self-sufficiency through its pursuit of economic development under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act would take over a decade.  During the last twenty-four years the Tribe went from having nothing to becoming a modern tribal government that can now provide for the needs of its people.

“I am proud to have served the Tribe under the leadership of D.K. Sprague,” said Vice Chairman Ed Pigeon.  “I witnessed steady and consistent leadership in extremely difficult situations over a long period of time.  It was amazing to see him put to the test so many times, but never waver.  The Tribe is truly blessed that a person with such rare leadership qualities was in place at a time when it was most needed.”

Many friends, family and staff members have expressed their gratitude to the former chairman for his dedication to the needs of tribal government staff and the team members who work in the gaming enterprise.  He was always approachable and jovial with everyone around him.

“No one ever wanted this day to come,” said Leah Sprague-Fodor, Tribal Council member.  “However, asking him to continue serving would be selfish of us.  We know he served with everything he had for so many years.  He has earned his retirement and now he should enjoy golf, traveling, baseball games and spending time with his family and friends.”

Sprague grew up in the Bradley area where he remained most of his life.  He joined the U.S. Army and served in the Vietnam War.  He served in 14 natural disasters worldwide as a Red Cross volunteer, which included an extended time of service in Louisiana for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  He is a lifelong member of the Methodist Church at the Bradley Indian Mission.

In the next 90-120 days the Tribe will hold a special election to fill the seat on the Tribal Council vacated by Sprague’s retirement.  Afterwards, the Tribal Council will select the next chairman.  In the interim, Vice Chairman Ed Pigeon will serve as acting Chairman.

Timeline of Gun Lake Tribe events occurring under the leadership of D.K. Sprague

1992 Bradley Settlement Elder’s Council elects D.K. Sprague to serve as Chairman.
August 23, 1999 Federal re-acknowledgment by the United States as a sovereign tribal government.
August 2001 Tribe submits land-into-trust application to re-establish reservation lands for the purpose of economic development under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
January 30, 2009 Federal government takes land in trust for Tribe to construct Gun Lake Casino.
February 10, 2011 Gun Lake Casino opens.
May 14, 2014 Bradley Indian Mission Church building turns 100 years old, at that time the Mission is approx. 176 years old.
September 26, 2014 President Obama signs into law the Gun Lake Trust Land Reaffirmation Act.
October 2014 Approx. 300 acres of additional land placed into trust.
August 2015 Government Campus opens to tribal citizens and tribal government staff.  Becomes the “Capitol Building” of the Gun Lake Tribe.
January 29, 2016 D.K. Sprague retires as chairman.

Who Won American Indian Law and Policy 2014? Third Round Bracket 1 of 2

Now it’s getting tight. We’re down to the last 16.

Category 1 — Indian nations

#1 Alaska Native tribes v. #12 Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin

Alaska Native tribes once again won handily, earning 86 percent of the votes over the Omaha Tribe. The Wisconsin Oneidas continue to surprise, knocking off the Cayugas and their impressive Second Circuit tax victory with two-thirds of the vote.

Interesting matchup here, with two contenders that had a big year facing off against state and local governments.

#7 Gun Lake Tribe v.#3 Bay Mills Indian Community

Enrollment numbers don’t matter! The Gun Lakers earn 61 percent of the vote and take out the Sault Tribe and its vast membership. It can’t be that there’s no internet in the UP, right?

Well, the internet worked for Bay Mills, winning by one vote over LCO and the Wisconsin treaty tribes. Bay Mills makes a living winning by one vote.

So another ‘Nish matchup. Will Gun Lake be able to get past another Upper Peninsula Chippewa community?

Category 2 — Laws, Doctrines, and the Like

#1 Indian Child Welfare Act v. #5 Intra-tribal disputes

In the battle for Indian civil rights, nonvoters prevailed over voters, and ICWA moves on with 57 percent of the vote. Maybe that TT post on South Dakota came a day too late.

Well, intra-tribal disputes took down Indian gaming, with 58 percent of the vote. I hope that won’t be true in real life.

#2 Tribal sovereign immunity v. #3 VAWA

With 72 percent of the vote, it turns out sovereignty does predate knowledge of sovereignty. Cool, I guess.

VAWA and the hopes it encourages for tribal governance in the future (as well as its 67 percent vote tally) easily defeated tribal court exhaustion, which wilted with fatigue near the end.








Who Won American Indian Law and Policy 2014, Second Round, Bracket 1 of 4

32 are in, 32 are out. Let’s proceed to the eight remaining in Category 1, Indian nations.

#1 Alaska Native tribes v. #8 Omaha Tribe

The Alaska Natives tribes, my overall top seed, took 95 percent of the first round vote. The Omaha Tribe took 75 percent, easily routing the Kialegee Tribal Town.

#4 Cayuga Indian Nation v. # 12 Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin

All-Haudenosaunee quarterfinal! Cayuga took a narrow victory over the Big Lagoon Rancheria, with 58 percent of the vote. MHA Nation is taking some bad press lately, and the Wisconsin Oneidas wiped the floor with them, taking 77 percent of the vote.

#2 Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians v. #7 Gun Lake Tribe

All Michigan ‘Shinob quarterfinal. Sault Tribe took 64 percent of the vote over Fond du Lac, and I’m sure it’s not because of their sheer enrollment numbers. Or was it? Gun Lake, which took 2/3 of the vote from the Wind River Tribes, better hope not.

#3 Bay Mills Indian Community v. # 11 Lac Courte Oreilles and other Wisconsin treaty tribes

Bay Mills eked its way out of the first round with 51 percent of the vote over Cowlitz; apparently winning a Supreme Court case isn’t all that impressive compared to a win in federal district court. Huh.

Unlike Sault Tribe, enrollment numbers didn’t help Navajo, which lost handily to the Wisconsin treaty tribes, 63-37. Wisconsin’s not giving up on that treaty case, so stay tuned there.



Who Won Indian Law and Policy in 2014? First Round Bracket — 2 of 8

Here we go again (first bracket here):

# 2 Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

Perhaps the most immediate beneficiary of the Bay Mills win in the Supreme Court, which persuaded the State of Michigan to seek another route to fighting Sault Tribe’s Lansing casino proposal. But not before Sault Tribe proposed two huge off-reservation casinos. Oh yeah, they won a $74 million contract case, too. Pretty good year.


# 15 Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe

Still embroiled in disputes (here and here) with the City of Duluth over the Fond du Luth Casino and related properties. Won one right before Christmas though.

# 7 Gun Lake Tribe

Seeding might be a little high; a little hometown bias. Anyway, who else got Congress to overturn a Supreme Court decision in 2014, hosted the Potawatomi Gathering, and is an overall, good citizen?


# 10 Wind River Tribes

Lots of action this last year, what with Wyoming going berzerk over the EPA’s decision to let tribal agencies measure air quality, and with much internal strife. 2015 should be a real interesting year.

# 3 Bay Mills Indian Community

Well, they won a Supreme Court case. Not a whole lot else going on. Sault Tribe, as we noted, passed them in the seeding.


# 14 Cowlitz Tribe

Along with Interior, won a big one over neighboring tribes who claimed Cowlitz is a tribe barred from eligibility for trust land acquisitions by Carcieri.

#6 Navajo Nation

How can Navajo be seeded so low? They’re arguably the most important tribe every year, right? Well, yes, but they took some hits this year, too. Lost a tribal civil jurisdiction case in the Ninth Circuit, lost (or did they concede) on whether New Mexico can transport tribal members off rez to take drug tests, is going through one of the ugliest tribal election disputes in recent memory, fighting off Hopi and enviro challenges to their energy generators, lost a big water rights case, suffered through an ugly internal fight over a tribal resources company, lost one in the D.C. Circuit, got some bad news on uranium pollution, and lost legendary code talker Chester Nez. On the other hand, Navajo settled a huge trust case with the feds, won one against HUD, won a big one in the Ninth Circuit on Navajo’s tribal preference in employment statute, and hosted Michigan and Michigan State law students over spring break.

All in all, no one beats Navajo on volume, but this one’s a mixed bag.


# 11 Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe (and other Wisconsin treaty tribes)

Won a huge treaty rights case in the Seventh Circuit (miigwetch Judge Posner) on the night deer hunting controversy.

Testimony in Mich. House Committee Hearing on Little River Band Off-Rez Gaming Proposal

Here, from the Michigan House Regulatory Reform Committee:

LRB Testimony

Fruitport Twp Testimony

Gun Lake Tribe Testimony

Nottawaseppi Huron Band Testimony

Saginaw Chippewa Testimony

Dorr Business Association Testimony

Intertribal Fight in Michigan over Little River Off-Rez Casino Proposal

From the K’zoo Gazette via Pechanga:

FRUITPORT TOWNSHIP — A top official of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians is lashing back at other Indian tribes, accusing them of delaying a proposed Fruitport Township casino to choke off potential competition for their casinos.

“We understand other casino interests do not want competition, but don’t delay jobs for the Muskegon region. Don’t delay revenues to the state School Aid Fund,” said Robert Memberto, commerce director for the Little River Band, which wants to build a casino at the former Great Lakes Downs race track.

He accused the other tribes of “throwing all kinds of minutiae to delay, delay and delay this project.”

Memberto delivered his plea last week to the House Regulatory Reform Committee in Lansing, which is deciding on a resolution that would pave the way for a Fruitport Township casino.

Leaders from three other tribes — the Gun Lake Tribe, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi — testified against the Little River Band proposal. They claimed that state approval of a casino in Fruitport Township would break an agreement that tribes in Michigan would not pursue off-reservation gambling unless all the tribes agreed. They also suggested that the authority of taking land into trust for off-reservation casinos rests with the U.S. Department of Interior, not state leadership.

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