Native American Press / Ojibwe News

April 19, 2002
Lower Sioux Indian Community strips elders of per capita payments
Council uses “residency” as a weapon to retaliate

By Bill Lawrence

Maxine Eidsvig retired from the United States Postal Data Center in Minneapolis, Minn. in 1989.  With her children grown and having lost her husband in a motor vehicle accident in 1972, she decided to return to her roots with the Lower Sioux Indian Community, near Redwood Falls, Minnesota in 1991.  Being an enrolled member of that Community and it being the proprietor of the very successful Jackpot Junction Casino her motivations may have contained some thoughts of participating in some of the economic benefits flowing from the new green buffalo. After fulfilling her two years residency requirement, Eidsvig begin receiving her monthly per capita payment from the Community’s gaming revenue in 1993.  In the early years she received approximately $3,000 per month, and in later years around $6,000.  Community members receiving per caps increased from 141 adults and 125 minors in fiscal year 1990 to 311 adults and 236 minors in fiscal year 2001.

After giving retirement and part time jobs a fling for a while Eidsvig was bored and decided to try something she always wanted to do, go to college.  So in 1995 at the comfortable age of 68 she entered the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis seeking a B. A. degree in Women’s Studies.  Being away from education for so long and needing some remedial courses, Maxine graduated in May 2001. Since Lower Sioux Community educational benefits only pay for four years of study, Eidsvig paid the last two years herself.

After graduating in May 2001, she looked forward to moving back home to the Lower Sioux Community and using her recently acquired knowledge.

With housing in short supply in the Community and in the Redwood Falls area and because of a serious asthma, she had trouble finding suitable housing.

Aware that she had 60 days to reestablish her residency in the Community in order to be eligible to continue receiving her monthly per capita payments after completing her college degree, Eidsvig temporarily rented a room from a friend until she could arrange more permanent housing.

Lower Sioux Indian Community Membership Privilege and Gaming Revenue Allocation Ordinance, 1999, updated in 2001, allows the community council to make ordinances governing the acquisition and loss of membership subject to review by the Secretary of the Interior. The Ordinance at section 201 provides that members can lose their rights to per capita payments if they cease to maintain residency for a period of two consecutive years. The ordinance further provides in section 201 that: “such member shall deemed not to have removes his/her residency from the Community during the time such member was gone due to such attendance [in an accredited educational institution].”

Unbeknown to Eidsvig, on August 3, 2001, the Lower Sioux Community Council passed Resolution No. 81-01 and found that she had ceased to maintain her residency in the Community while she was in college from May 25, 1999 to May 25, 2001. Her challenges to the Community Council’s actions were denied and her per capita payments were cut off last October.

In early March 2002, Eidsvig hired a lawyer and filed a lawsuit in the Lower Sioux Indian Community Tribal Court seeking: (1) A preliminary injunction enjoining the   Community from not including her in any future per capita payments and enjoining all per capita payments until she also receives her per capita payment; (2) A preliminary injunction enjoining the Community from making any per capita payments until a full accounting of the per capita funds has been completed and all unauthorized funds have been either returned to the Community or funds from casino revenues have been sufficient to reimburse all accounts from which funds were wrongfully taken for per capita payments: (3) A declaration that the Defendant Community has not met the burden of proving that Plaintiff was not a Community resident for per capita payment purposes; (4) A declaration that the Community is illegally making per capita payments of amounts in excess of the amounts authorized in its Ordinance; (5) An order setting Plaintiff’s application for injunctive relief for a full trial on the issues, and after trial, to issue a permanent injunction against Defendant for items 1 and 2 above; (6) Plaintiff’s costs, disbursements, attorneys fees, and for such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and equitable in the premises.

In an interview with Press/ON, Eidsvig said she thought the Lower Sioux Indian Community Council’s decision to pull her residency and thereby drop her from the per capita rolls was in retaliation for questioning the overpayment of per capita funds and the amounts owed the I.R.S. for late payment of income tax withholding payments. According to Eidsvig, under the B.I.A. approved distribution plan, the Community can pay out up to 70% of annual gaming profits in per capita payments. The remaining 30% is supposed to go into a community account called the “Community Welfare and Economic Development Fund.” In fiscal year 2001, the Community paid out $22,634,850 in per capita payments and reported gaming revenue of $21,131,000, which amounts to an overpayment of more than $7,800,000 in fiscal year 2001.  According to Eidsvig, “I believe an overpayment of over $6,000,000 also occurred in fiscal year 2000, and probably also occurred before that.  I also questioned an I.R.S. bill of over $1,500,000 for late payment.”  Eidsvig also questioned why audits of the General Fund and Programs were not audited for the fiscal years 1997 – 2000.  The audits were recently completed but have not been made public.

The Lower Sioux Indian Community was assessed penalties from the I.R.S. totaling $1,513,633 for late payments of employee payroll withholdings, late payments of per capita distribution withholdings, and accumulated interest on tax penalties for the years 1996 – 2001, and has subsequently hired an independent CPA to handle its tax withholding responsibilities.

About a month after Eidsvig filed suit in tribal court, on April 5th, 2002, the Lower Sioux Community Council responded to Eidsvig’s lawsuit in tribal court with Resolution No. 29-02 enacting the “Lower Sioux Indian Community Administrative Procedures Ordinance.”  Resolution No. 29-02 specifies that the administrative procedures ordinance shall take effect immediately and that “it shall be applied to any action currently pending in the Lower Sioux Community Court.  According to an April 9th letter from tribal attorney James M. Schoessler, the Ordinance specifically removed the only “such action pending that I know about,” Maxine V. Eidsvig v. Lower Sioux Indian Community from the tribal court.  Eidsvig’s attorney, Robert Reuter explained to Eidsvig, “I presume the resolution and the new administrative procedures act is aimed directly at you.”

According to Eidsvig the Lower Sioux community council has bent their own rules to deny per capita benefits to at least two other elders, Paul Crooks and Leona Bluestone (article in April 12, 2002 Press/ON).



 
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