Native American Press / Ojibwe News

    Award-winning journalism:

Minnesota Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists - Peter S. Popovich Freedom of Information award "given by the board of Minnesota SPJ to the person or organization that exemplifies the fight for First Amendment rights" awarded to Native American Press/Ojibwe News publisher Bill Lawrence in 2003, for "pursuit through bureaucratic and legal channels to make the audited financial statements of Indian casinos public information under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act."

Why are the casino audits important?

Beyond the general premise that the 'sunshine' of public access to information helps dispel the potentials for corruption and other abuses, a reasonably comprehensive background as to why access to tribal gaming audits was - and is -  important to Indian people would take awhile to write.

Critically important: the balance among U.S. recognition of unextinguished Indigenous people's rights, constitutionally-protected civil rights, and a range of other factors including sometimes extreme imbalance-of-power between 'we, the Indigenous people' and the federally-recognized 'tribal governments.'   At least on some reservations these are federally imposed entities, funded and sustained by U.S. federal power, funding, and legal protection from redress by the people whose 'tribe' they are supposed to represent.

In general, the only federally-enforceable civil right that Indian people can assert on Indian reservations as protection against tribal government abuses, is habeas corpus [key legal precedent: Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez].  The 'balance of power' has often been further tilted away from Indian people by 'tribal constitutions' constructed by the B.I.A. under the auspices of the Indian Reorganization Act, and by - in some instances extreme - concentration of economic power in such 'tribal governments' in contexts of deep rural poverty.  There are also, at least on some reservations, longstanding problems with capricious and oppressive 'tribal' governments.

In light of clear evidence of government corruption on some reservations, the further concentration of power engendered by tribal council control of casino operations has been a matter of concern to more than a few Indian people in Minnesota (and elsewhere).

At any rate, the Native American Press, after persistently and vainly requesting copies of casino audits from the Red Lake tribal council, decided to use the Minnesota Data Practices Act to gain access to the copies of those audits held by the State of Minnesota under the provisions of the state-tribal casino compacts [blackjack & video games].  That newspaper won access to those audits - in a limited sort of way - in a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision, two years after the initial request was made. 


Here's the story as it unfolded...

Press/ON wins ruling that state-held gaming data is public information

( Ojibwe News, The, 6/15/2001 )

      (Press/ON) In a June 6 opinion regarding a request by this newspaper for Red Lake gaming records, the Minnesota Department of Administration ruled that tribal audits submitted to the state under tribal ...


Editorial Sunshine comes to the Indian gambling industry in Minnesota

Lawrence, Bill ( Ojibwe News, The, 6/15/2001 )

      It was gratifying to receive a favorable opinion from the Commissioner of Administration last week to my Data Practices Act request for copies of financial statements of the gambling operations ...


Dept. of Public Safety caves in to tribal gambling interests: Commissioner Charlie Weaver Applies for Temporary Classification of Gambling Audits as "Private" on June 27, 2001

( Ojibwe News, The, 6/29/2001 )

     Dept. of Public Safety caves in to tribal gambling interests: COMMISSIONER CHARLIE WEAVER APPLIES FOR TEMPORARY CLASSIFICATION OF GAMBLING AUDITS AS "PRIVATE" ON JUNE 27,2001 Charlie Weaver, Commissioner ...


Editorial Minnesota Indian gambling - unregulated, unaccountable, monopoly with nearly unlimited cash hiding behind sovereign immunity

Lawrence, Bill ( Ojibwe News, The, 7/13/2001 )

     Minnesota Indian gambling--unregulated, unaccountable, monopoly with nearly unlimited cash hiding behind sovereign immunity Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety Charlie Weaver expressed a remarkable ...


Official correspondence reveals unusually cozy relationship between DPS, Indian gambling interests

NiiSka, Clara; Lawrence, Bill ( Ojibwe News, The, 7/13/2001 )

      Correspondence between the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Indian gambling interests which Press/ON has obtained under the Data Practices Act reveals an apparently cozy relationship ...


1993 Report on Indian Gaming Compacts reveals genesis of present problems

Pagano, Jean ( Ojibwe News, The, 8/10/2001 )

      September of 1993 saw a report to former Governor Arne Carlson on Indian gaming compacts from the Tribal-State Compact Negotiating Committee. Members of the Committee included Harry Baltzer; Senator ...



"Sunshine laws" at Minnesota's Indian casinos: Public comments on DPS application to reclassify State-held casino audits as "private data"

NiiSka, Clara ( Ojibwe News, The, 8/10/2001 )

      The Minnesota Department of Administration invited public comment on its pending ruling on the Department of Public Safety's (DPS) June 27 request to classify tribal gambling enterprise audits as ...


 

Editorial Closing the books on the people's right to know: State Commissioner re-classifies casino audits as non-public

Lawrence, Bill ( Ojibwe News, The, 8/24/2001 )

     Closing the books on the people's right to know: State Commissioner re- classifies casino audits as non-public The recent decision by David Fisher to reclassify the tribal gambling audits submitted ...


A 'blank check' for Indian secrecy?

NiiSka, Clara ( Ojibwe News, The, 8/31/2001 )

      Department of Administration Commissioner David F. Fisher released his August 20, 2001 decision to classify Indian tribal gambling audits as nonpublic information eight days after it became official, ...



Editorial Hatch decision in best interests of state and Indian people

Lawrence, Bill ( Ojibwe News, The, 9/21/2001 )

      I was obviously elated by the recent decision by the Attorney General's ruling that Indian gambling enterprise audits are public information under State law. I think it is the right decision for


Attorney General Rules: Indian Gambling Audits are Public Information

NiiSka, Clara ( Ojibwe News, The, 9/21/2001 )

      In a ruling dated Friday, September 14th, Alan Gilbert, Solicitor General and Chief Deputy of Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch ruled that State-held audits of Indian tribal gambling enterprises ...


Editorial Lawsuits focus attention on Indian gambling

Lawrence, Bill ( Ojibwe News, The, 9/28/2001 )

      Although the filing of the multiple lawsuits by the tribes to block access to casino audits wasn't a surprise, the recent flurry of legal actions raises a number of questions regarding what kind ...


Casino Audit Update: Five Minnesota Indian 'tribes' respond to Attorney General's ruling with lawsuits

NiiSka, Clara ( Ojibwe News, The, 9/28/2001 )

      Attorney General Mike Hatch's office released a ruling on Friday, September 14th determining Indian casino audits held by the state under the terms of the state-tribal compacts are "public under ...

http://www.press-on.net/articles/9-28audit_update.htm


Prairie Island's, Mille Lac's casino audit lawsuit hearing scheduled in Ramsey County

NiiSka, Clara ( Ojibwe News, The, 10/5/2001 )

      Lawsuits filed by the Prairie Island Indian community and the Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa, seeking to prevent the Minnesota Department of Public Safety from releasing casino audits held by the state ...


Publisher files as intevenor in casino audit lawsuits

NiiSka, Clara ( Ojibwe News, The, 10/26/2001 )

      Press/ON publisher Bill Lawrence, acting as his own attorney, filed Friday as intervenor in the two casino audit lawsuits being heard in Ramsey County District Court: Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians, ...


Minnesota tribes resist making casino audits public

( Ojibwe News, The, 12/7/2001 )

      Indian tribes that own some of Minnesota's biggest casinos fought attempts Friday to require the state to release gambling audits to the public, amid a rare dispute between top state officials over ...


Star Tribune to file amicus brief in Indian casino audit cases

( Ojibwe News, The, 12/14/2001 )

      On Wednesday, December 12, the Minneapolis Star Tribune requested the state court's permission to file a brief "as amicus curiae in conjunction with the tribal casino audit litigation" arising from ...


Mille Lacs, Prairie Island argue casino audits should be secret

NiiSka, Clara ( Ojibwe News, The, 2/1/2002 )

     Press/ON publisher Bill Lawrence went to court on Monday, January 28, representing himself and this newspaper in the legal cases Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians v. State, et al., and Prairie Island ...


Editorial Judge Bjorkman rewrites the law

Lawrence, Bill ( Ojibwe News, The, 4/19/2002 )

     Ramsey County District Court Judge Louise Bjorkman's decision in the lawsuits, Prairie Island Indian Community vs. Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Court File No. C5-01-8766, and Mille Lacs Band ...


Ramsey County judge says 2 Indian bands' gambling audits are nonpublic
Pat Doyle (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
    A Ramsey County judge ruled Tuesday that the gambling audits of two Indian groups that own some of Minnesota's biggest casinos should not be made public. ...


Press/ON takes quest for casino audits to Court of Appeals

NiiSka, Clara (Ojibwe News, The, 6/21/2002 )

     On Thursday, June 20th, Native American Press/Ojibwe News publisher Bill Lawrence appealed Ramsey County District Court Judge Louise Bjorkman's April 23, 2002 ruling that the Indian casino audit data ...


Publisher appeals casino audit cases (MINNESOTA) -- A federal district judge has rejected two tribes’ arguments that federal law prevents a Minnesota state agency from releasing financial audits of Indian casinos.


Federal judge denies Shakopee, Grand Portage motion for summary judgment in casino audit lawsuit

NiiSka, Clara; Lawrence, Bill ( Ojibwe News, The, 6/28/2002 )

     U.S. Federal District Court Judge Ann D. Montgomery denied tribal arguments and granted the state's motion for summary judgment in the case Shakopee and Grand Portage v. Mike Hatch, David F. Fisher, and ...


State, Press/ON file briefs in casino audit appeal

NiiSka, Clara ( Ojibwe News, The, 9/20/2002 )

     John Garry, attorney for the Minnesota attorney general's office, filed briefs with the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Friday, September 13th, in the consolidated cases Prairie Island Indian Community ...



Editorial Court debunks myth that audits are "trade secrets"

Lawrence, Bill ( Ojibwe News, The, 4/4/2003 )

     It was gratifying to learn on Tuesday this week that the Minnesota Court of Appeals threw out a Ramsey County District Court decision which had found that Minnesota tribal casino audited financial statements ...


Pioneer Press | 04/02/2003 | Tribes lose round in court over ...
    Local, Posted on Wed, Apr. 02, 2003, Tribes lose round in court over casino audit BY LESLIE BROOKS SUZUKAMO Pioneer Press American
...


Court of Appeals rules casino audits held by state are public information

NiiSka, Clara ( Ojibwe News, The, 4/4/2003

     On Tuesday, April 1, a three-judge panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that most of the information in Indian casino audits, which Minnesota state-tribal gambling compacts require the tribes ...

 




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