Lac du Flambeau roads blocked by tribal leaders after failed agreements

Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 10:46 PM CST
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LAC DU FLAMBEAU, Wis. (WSAW) - For 50 years, an easement between the Lac du Flambeau tribe and its non-native residents was held in place. That easement expired in 2013 and after a decade of failed negotiations, the tribe has taken action.

The failed agreement has left some residents stuck inside their homes, resorting to alternative options to get around. The Lac du Flambeau tribe says they own the access roads. On Tuesday, the Lac du Flambeau tribe set cement barriers on four different roads that run through their land, roads that also lead to homes owned by non-native residents

Tanya Smejka, daughter of one property owner, said, “I understand the tribe is owed the money, but this isn’t the way to fight it.”

Though the town of lac du flambeau met with the community on Thursday, residents took drastic measures in order for their voices to be heard. Property owner Dave Meiss said, “We had to cross the lake in wind chills like this, where I had my Jeep parked at a neighbor’s home on the other side of the lake.”

Residents hoped for promising news at the meeting, but most left disappointed. “My feelings after I left are probably the same as I went in. I’m not sure the meeting really accomplished anything. I think there is definitely a lack of communication between the town board and the tribe,” said property owner Dave Kievet.

Property owner Tim Kaiser added that the meeting gave them no hope and that it was simply a place to go and get disappointed. “I am worried that there are going to be unintended consequences, possibly confrontations, which could result in who knows what,” he said.

From the tribe’s perspective, Chief John Johnson Sr. said in a statement on Tuesday that the town of Lac du Flambeau and title companies haven’t always acted in good faith and that the tribe is “fed up with playing games.”

In a Facebook post made by Chief Johnson Sr., he said, “Title companies could have settled the situation by paying a fraction of what is being asked for now. Individual property owners are essentially being held hostage by title companies unwilling to negotiate in good faith.”