SAULT TRIBE OF CHIPPEWA INDIANS
************************* Membership approves of Inland Consent Decree
SAULT STE. MARIE, MICH. - The Sault Tribe election committee released the unofficial election results pertaining to the referendum on tribal members’ inland treaty rights, indicating 3,476 voted to approve, 678 voted to disapprove, while 28 ballots were deemed spoiled or unrecognizable.
The election committee announced that 4,182 ballots were received out of 12,734 mailed to the membership, accounting for a 32.8 percent voter turnout.
According to these results, this referendum exceeds the 30 percent vote requirement and therefore, is considered a valid election as defined by the election code.
On August 14, the board of directors determined an issue of such importance should be sent to a vote of the people by referendum to decide whether or not the tribe should enter into a permanent agreement with the state and federal government regarding tribal members’ rights related to inland fishing, hunting and gathering.
Subsequently, the referendum ballot language was approved on September 17, which asked tribal members “Do you approve or disapprove of resolution: Authorization to Ratify the Inland Consent Decree?”
The election ballot was mailed to members on September 27.
The deadline to return ballots was 5 p.m. on October 17.
The Inland Consent Decree is an agreement between five northern Michigan tribes, the state of Michigan and the federal government that defines and details the specific treaty rights of tribal members.
An agreement in principal was signed by all parties last summer, which committed all those involved to work together to formulate an agreement or settlement.
Following the release of the election results, Chairperson Aaron Payment stated: ”Despite strident opposition from select board members to letting the people decide this issue, an overwhelming response of over 80 percent should put the issue to rest. I am satisfied with the outcome. The people have spoken.”
According to the tribe’s lead attorney, even though a referendum was held, official approval by resolution is still required.
A special meeting of the board of directors is scheduled for Sunday, October 21, at 1 p.m. at the Kewadin Shores Casino in St. Ignace to accept the election results and to enact the resolution specifically outlined in the referendum.
The resolution titled “Authorization to Ratify the Inland Consent Decree for U.S. v. MI” and states: “Whereas, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians is currently engaged in the inland phase of the United States v. State of Michigan, informally known as 'US v MI', and the parties are: as plaintiff, the United States of America, and as plaintiff-interveners, Bay Mills Indian Community, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, versus as defendants, State of Michigan, et al, and as Amicus Curiae, the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Bay De Noc Great Lakes Sportfishermen, Inc, and U.P. Whitetails, Inc, and finally as Amicus Curiae, the Coalition to Protect Michigan’s Resources, Stuart Cheney, Robert Andrus, Walloon Lake Trust and Conservancy (“parties”); and*the parties agreed to a binding settlement of the inland phase of U.S. v. MI by executing an agreement in principle; and*upon execution of the agreement in principle the parties agree to prepare a proposed consent decree and a stipulation for the entry of the proposed consent decree based upon the terms and conditions of the agreement in principle; and*through lengthy negotiations the parties have completed a proposed consent decree and are presenting it to their respective governing bodies for ratification. Now therefore be it resolved, that the board of directors hereby ratifies the Inland Consent Decree. Be it further resolved, that the board of directors hereby authorizes the chairperson, or his designees, to execute a stipulation for entry of the proposed consent decree, or other implementing documents as my be necessary.”
The board of directors is also scheduled to meet with the judge presiding over the Inland Consent Decree case on October 22 to finalize any other legal matters related to the case.