March 7 Sault Tribe Board Meeting Wrap Up.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribal Board of Directors held a regular meeting Tuesday, March 7, 2023.

The meeting began with a prayer, smudging, and presentation of Grandfather's teaching by Everlasting Sky Woman, Odawa Clan Woman. Trying a new format, the Board asked for membership participation at the beginning of the meeting prior to the resolutions and new business addresses. This gave members five minutes for questions, comments, and statements. Compared to the previous meeting the new model seemed to allow for a smoother, less chaotic meeting once resolutions began to be discussed.

They decided to change to change the meeting structure because of previous outbursts and blatant defiance from certain members. Board of Directors Chairman, Austin Lowes made it clear they appreciate member input during the appropriate times and when the rules are followed. The first hour of the meeting was used for membership input, and various topics were brought to the table.

The first member to speak was a woman from the Munising, Christmas area. She is employed at the White Pine Lodge and works under the Unit 5 delegation area. She stated now  the White Pine Lodge is open alongside the Casino it has created a robust community in the area. Stating the tribe has a huge presence in the area and they should consider doing more for economic growth and tourism as it continues to expand.

A gentleman from Munising brought to the Board's attention the lack of space at the Youth Center on the reservation. He suggested expanding the center within the open areas not being currently used or developed. To allow for more children to enjoy the space and encourage more children to use it. He said an average 25 children at a time currently can be found within the space and it is not a large enough facility for everyone. He stated it is quite small and it is hard to use. He also suggested moving the basketball courts to a more secluded area because as of now the court is surrounded by tribal housing and the children in the area are afraid to use it because of that fact.

Following him a member asked the Board “How much did we pay back on the principle of Greektown?” Around 12.3 million was borrowed in 2008 for Greektown. The member wanted to know how much the tribe was currently paying on the principle. Her question was answered during the meeting as the information was not readily available. Currently, to their understanding no money has been paid to the principal amount, however the tribe pays the interest rate yearly.

She had a follow up question asking if the tribe intends to reimburse people who ran for the election that was derailed. Mentioning that representatives used their own funds to run ad campaigns in news outlets and through other sources.

One of the last major questions was asked by a member wondering what came of the concept for the Indian Energy Committee. She asked for an update on Indian Energy, asking where the tribe stood with them and if they had received any funds back yet? Chairman Austin Lowes told the member they have not received money back, in fact he seemed quite confused on the matter. Other Board members tried to jump in for answers, all of which also were not entirely sure what the member was referring to originally.  Treasurer Issac McKenchie chimed in letting the member know there is a utility committee, and she may contact them to become more involved. The member rebutted again asking about an Indian Energy Committee specifically and Mr. McKenchie told her it would be more effective and wiser to have one committee that oversees all utilities versus having pocket committees.

After Chairman Lowes told the members who had questions someone from his office would reach out with them for the requested information. At 5:57 p.m. the meeting began, several resolutions were on the agenda, and they motioned to accept most of them as quickly as they could, with less time for interruptions coming from members throughout the process.


  • Child Care Development Fund motion carried. Authorizing Chairman Lowes to obtain a grant award for the child development fund for 2023 through 2025. The program helps with childcare subsidies and helps members secure childcare.
  • FY 2023 TVSSA Program motion carried. Authorizing Chairman Lowes to send an application to the Department of Justice for a grant that would help with the Advocacy Board Resource Center. The grant amount will be determined depending on how many other tribal entities enter.
  • 2023 OVW Tribal Government motion carried. Authorizing an application to be submitted for the ORV grant program through the Department of Justice.

Budget Requests:

  • ACFS Transitional Housing asked for an increase of funding for a little over $2,000 to help support services. They also requested a budget modification as they would like to get funding for surveillance and to hire a shelter manager. The board approved the request.
  • The Elders St. Ignace Meal Program asked for an increase of their budget to hire a full time cook with benefits that would replace the part time positions. The board approved the request, many stating it was a great program and cause.
  • Employment -WIOA works experience, WIOA on the job training, and WIOA administration all asked for budget increases some of which had grant money left over they wanted to access. Each of the resolutions were approved as the motions carried.
  • Health Division Medical Nursing in Sault Ste. Marie requested a 2023 fiscal year budget modification to allow for increased expenses for recruitment and wages. Vice Chairman Tyler La Plaunt stated he was still waiting on a list of the current vacant positions. The motion was carried and was accepted.
  • Health Division St. Ignace Optical asked for a budget modification for a decrease in third party venues. They asked to standardize job titles at all the tribal optical centers within each unit. The motion carried.
  • Health Division Administration, Health Division Hepatitis C Elimination Program, and Health Division St. Ignace Dental all asked for budget modifications as well, all motions carried.  
  • Transportation -EUPTA Transit agreement was brought to the table, asking if the board would authorize an agreement between EUPTA and the tribe. Requesting approval to contract with EUPTA to add an additional route from Kincheloe to SSM and other stops. The motion carried but with concern that tribal members are paying full price for the transportation despite the tribe helping fund the program. They are hoping to get a reimbursement program set up for tribal members who use the transportation system.
  • Transportation Manistique Transit Agreement requested additional transit from Escanaba to Manistique for elders and students who use this route often. The motion carried.
  • Extension of Letter of Credit with PNC Bank was approved.
  • Establishing Authority to Direct Election Committee, Directing Election Committee to Conduct New Special Election, and Emergency Power to Direct Election Committee all resolutions died from lack of support.
  • The Juul Settlement Investment in Land Claims Fund was approved, and the motion carried. The tribe will take the 2.3 million dollars and put it in the Land Claims Fund to help future elder generations. Vice Chairmen La Plaunt noted it is not a payment to the fund, rather an investment in their future. Stating everyone will eventually become an elder and this is not the first time they had set settlement funds into the fund.
  • A few additional resolutions were tacking onto the meeting that were not on the agenda. The board approved the contract bid from Roy Ness Construction from Escanaba to build the tribal fitness center in Manistique.
  • Additionally awarding a bid contract to Johnson Controls LLP to install a new fire alarm system in the Sault Tribal Health Center.