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Native American Press/Ojibwe News

What’s happening with “payment” at Red Lake?

By Clara NiiSka - July 19, 2002
There have been any number of contradictory rumors circulating about “payment” at Red Lake. Recently, a reader emailed Press/ON: “A mother of two Red Lake members asked me to contact you regarding a payment they were/are to receive. She stated that it was supposed to be here around xmas, then in the spring and now nothing. Do you have any information on this?”

Press/ON called the offices of Congressman Colin Peterson (DFL-District 7). Rep. Peterson sponsored the legislation H.R. 4208, “To approve the use or distribution of judgment funds of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians of Minnesota by the Senate and the House of Representatives, and for other purposes,” which was referred to the House Committee on April 11, 2002, and had apparently stalled there.

According to Robin Goracke, Peterson’s legislative assistant, H.R. 4208 “is moot.”

Goracke explained that Red Lake submitted a plan for the use and distribution of the judgment funds – awarded by the United States Court of Federal Claims in Docket 189-C – to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the B.I.A. approved it at the end of March, 2002.

The use and distribution plan had been submitted to Congress on December 20, 2001, according to the Federal Register.

According to Goracke, the plan must be “submitted to Congress for sixty joint session days,” meaning days on which both the House and the Senate are in session. If there is no objection during those sixty days, Goracke continued, the payment “does not need Congressional approval, because [the money] has already been appropriated – it comes out of BIA funds.”

The Federal Register detailed the process: “the plan became effective on April 28, 2002, since a joint resolution disapproving it was not enacted.” Goracke explained that this is called a “technical approval” by Congress.

Press/ON contacted Red Lake secretary Judy Roy. She said that “the problems have been reconciled,” and that she thought that payment to individuals would be made by the end of the month. According to Roy, the only things which still need to be done are that the changes to the final payment roll are entered into the B.I.A.’s official records, the final payment amounts of principal and interest be determined, and the checks sent out.

An informed source told Press/ON that much of the delay from April to now has been caused by Whitefeather’s office – including Bobby’s sister Donna – and her tardiness in updating membership rolls and mailing addresses.

According to the Federal Register, the total funds to be distributed as per capita payments is “estimated to be $ 10,423,000.” This money is to be “distributed … (in sums as equal as possible) to all persons who were born on or prior to and living on July 31, 2001, and who are enrolled members of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians,” meaning that “payment” to each enrolled Red Lake Indian will probably be slightly more than $1,100.