Chairman Wesaw to Take Position as Executive Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights


DOWAGIAC, MI — Matt Wesaw will retire from his posts as chairman of the Pokagon Band Tribal Council and president/CEO of the Pokagon Gaming Authority as he takes on a new professional position.
Wesaw, who has been tribal chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and leader of the Pokagon Gaming Authority since 2008, has been named executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

Court Improvement Project Coordinator Position at Pokagon Band

Job Posting here.

Position Summary:
The Tribal Court Improvement Project (TCIP) Coordinator is responsible for achieving the goals and objectives of the TCIP Grant and ensuring compliance with all federal grant requirements.  The Coordinator will work closely with an Advisory Team consisting of the Chief Judge, Director of the Department of Social Services, the Pokagon Band Presenting Officer, member(s) of the Family Welfare Commission and member(s) of Tribal Council.  Primary grant goals and objectives include: (1) assessment of Pokagon Band Tribal Court child welfare system, processes and proceedings, and Tribal child welfare services; (2)  collection and analysis of data regarding child welfare processes and proceedings as part of the Pokagon TCIP; (3) establishment of data gathering and sharing mechanisms with other tribal and non-tribal entities; (4) organizing and conducting community discussions; and (5) coordinating trainings identified to build capacity and improve systems and services.  The Pokagon Band TCIP is a 36-month project funded by the Administration for Children and Families.  This is a part-time grant-funded position.

News Coverage of Pokagon Band Casino Revenues

From Indianz:

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians continues to report strong slot machine revenues at its casino in Michigan. The Four Winds Casino took in $311 million on slots from August 2008 to August 2009, according to the Michigan Gaming Control Board. That’s slightly more than the $309 million reported in the casino’s first year of operation, from August 2007-August 2008.

“It’s still a new property. People still are coming to test it out,” spokesperson Tom Shields told The South Bend Tribune. The tribe shares 6 percent of slot revenues with the state and 2 percent with local communities.

Get the Story:
Four Winds rakes in $1 million per day in 2nd year (The South Bend Tribune 10/21)

Pokagon Band Election Results

From Indianz:

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians of Michigan has a new chairman and vice chairman.

Matt Wesaw replaces John Miller as chairman. Wesaw most recently served as vice chairman and served as chairman in the 1990s.

Butch Starrett was elected vice chairman. He replaces Wesaw in the post.

The tribe held its election last Saturday, July 11.

Get the Story:

Pokagon Band elects Matt Wesaw (The Dowagiac News 7/17)

Op-Ed on Pokagon Band Revenue Sharing

From Indianz:

“The release of $6.2 million in revenue sharing from the Four Winds Casino to local governmental units this month was welcome news. The schools, libraries, New Buffalo township and city, Berrien County, as well as the state of Michigan, sorely need the funds that had been accruing since the Pokagon band of the Potawatomi Indians opened the New Buffalo casino in 2007. This first revenue sharing payment was nearly a year and a half overdue. Meanwhile, the entities kept anteing up services, including police protection and road work, to support the gaming operation. This month’s distribution of funds ought to be the start of something good for both the Pokagons and the community. The cash-strapped governmental units should now receive an annual infusion of money to provide needed services. And those entities that helped establish the Four Winds will have good reason to support the Pokagons’ enterprise. ”

Get the Story:
Editorial: Governmental units win with casino payout (The South Bend Tribune 5/19)

Pokagon Band Revenue Sharing Update

From tv (via Pechanga):

It’s an apparent case of ‘better late than never.’ The tribal owners of the Four Winds Casino are about to make good on a promise to share revenue with the communities that are closest to the facility.

The break through came today in New Buffalo.

During the first 20-months of operation, the promised payments were placed in an escrow account by the tribe that owns the casino. The account is said to contain at least $6.2 million.

Today the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians started the process of releasing the cash.

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Pokagon Band Gaming Revenue Sharing News

From the Herald Palladium:

About $6.2 million in electronic gambling profits and interest from the Four Winds Casino is to be released within a few weeks to a board that will distribute it to local governments and school districts.

The Pokagon-Harbor Country Local Revenue Sharing Board voted unanimously Monday to have the money transferred to accounts the board is opening at Horizon Bank.

The board is aiming to begin distribution within 60 days, said member Jeanne Dudeck, the Chikaming Township supervisor.

The release of the money will end a delay of more than a year by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, which owns the casino in New Buffalo Township. The tribe is holding the money in an interest-earning escrow account.

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ICT Editorial on Carcieri

From ICT:

Decision’s in. ‘Now’ begins work to fix Carcieri

The Supreme Court’s Feb. 24 decision in Carcieri v. Salazar is a significant defeat for the Narragansett Tribe, and perhaps for hundreds of other Indian tribes not federally recognized in 1934. Carcieri seemingly overturns the Department of Interior’s 70-year-plus practice of taking land into trust for Indian tribes federally recognized after 1934. But while the decision will be disruptive and expensive for Indian tribes affected, it might not be utterly devastating.

Carcieri held that the secretary has no authority to take land into trust for the Narragansetts because they are not an eligible Indian tribe as defined by the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. Only tribes that meet the definition of “Indian tribe” under the IRA are eligible for the fee to trust benefit; in other words, according to the court, tribes that were “under federal jurisdiction” on June 1, 1934. The secretary of the interior did not recognize the Narragansett Tribe as an Indian tribe at that time, and so the court held that the secretary may not take land into trust for the tribe under the IRA. The court’s cramped reading of “now” is the worst kind of judicial formalism, like that recently critiqued by Professor Alex Skibine in the American Indian Law Review.

It is important to parse out exactly which tribes – and which land parcels – are affected by this decision. First, Indian lands already in trust with the secretary of the interior are safe, because the United States already owns the land and is immune from a suit seeking to reverse a fee to trust acquisition. That means tribes operating business enterprises on trust land will be protected by the federal government’s immunity. Second, Indian tribes such as the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians with special statutes authorizing the secretary to take land into trust for them, usually as a result of a congressional recognition act or land claims settlement act, also are exempted.

The Supreme Court’s Feb. 24 decision in Carcieri v. Salazar is a significant defeat for the Narragansett Tribe, and perhaps for hundreds of other Indian tribes not federally recognized in 1934.

Interestingly, the final paragraph in Justice Clarence Thomas’ majority opinion – a major litigation-starter – appears to assume that the Carcieri case is limited to its facts, and therefore only applies to the Narragansett Tribe. The concurring opinions from Justices Stephen Breyer and David Souter, as well as Justice John Paul Stevens’ dissent, suggest that numerous other tribes that can demonstrate that they were “under federal jurisdiction” in 1934, even if “the Department did not know it at the time,” in Breyer’s words. The concurring and dissenting justices named several tribes that fit into this category, including the Stillaguamish Tribe, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, and the Mole Lake Tribe. In short, according to Justice Breyer, a tribe that could show it was party to a treaty with the United States, the beneficiary of a pre-1934 congressional appropriation, or enrollment with the Indian Office as of 1934. The Narragansett Tribe, according to the court, was under the jurisdiction of Rhode Island in 1934, not the Department of the Interior, and so they are not eligible.

These exceptions to the general Carcieri rule mean that Indian tribes in the twilight of the concurring opinions may be engaged in expensive litigation to prove that they were “under federal jurisdiction” in 1934. Such litigation may require the heavy expenditure of funds for expert witnesses, forcing some tribes to undergo the strange and humiliating process of earning a kind of federal recognition all over again. In the coming weeks, the Obama administration should take the lead in defining what “under federal jurisdiction” means to blunt the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision.

The Obama administration should take the lead in defining what “under federal jurisdiction” means to blunt the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Regardless, now is the time for Indian country to test the waters in Washington D.C., to see if the Obama administration is serious about change and to press the Democratic-controlled Congress for a Carcieri “fix.” It might not take much legislation, just a quick rewording of the definition of Indian tribe in the IRA to remove the word “now.” The administration and Congress may be sympathetic, given that the Roberts Court seems to go out of its way to punish Indian tribes. A Carcieri “fix” pitched as merely reversing a bad Supreme Court decision would not work a major change on the federal-tribal-state relationship because it would merely be restoring the pre-Carcieri state of affairs that had existed for over seven decades.

For the Narragansett Tribe, this decision is yet another slap in the face to a tribe that has done nothing wrong but what it can to survive. For six justices, the Narragansetts did not pass the test of “federal jurisdiction,” a test that no one could have known in 1934 they would have been required to pass. Nothing could be more arbitrary and capricious.

Matthew L.M. Fletcher is associate professor at the Michigan State University College of Law and director of the Northern Plains Indian Law Center. He is an enrolled citizen of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

Pokagon Band Revenue Sharing Board News

From Michigan City News Dispatch:

NEW BUFFALO, Mich. – The last position on the Local Revenue Sharing Board has been filled, moving it closer to being able to distribute some $5 million in Four Winds casino money to local units of government and schools.

Chikaming Township Supervisor Jeanne Dudeck has been appointed as the fifth member of the board. Representatives from eight local governments and school districts in southern Berrien County chose Dudek on a 5-to-3 vote in a meeting Wednesday at the New Buffalo Township Hall. They voted unanimously to make the fifth LRSB seat a rotating two-year position.

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