Sault Tribal of Chippewa Indians February 21 Board Meeting Wrap Up.

February 21, 2022.  

Sault Ste. Marie, MI - The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Board of Directors meeting Tuesday, February 21.

On the agenda was the following: Cultural After School Ojibwe Language, ITC Suicide Prevention, Tribal Court Judicial Services FY 2023 Budget, Intern Program FY 2023 Budget, Accounting FY 2023 Budget, MIEA Delegate, BIA Lifesavers Conference, Transportation Program Award, and Rescinding Resolution 2023-237. Each of the resolutions carried with votes motioned from the board.

Two additional resolutions were added that were not on the agenda, the first being a resolution to accept or deny a settlement made by the Juul Pod company. The tribe is being collectively represented in a court of law along with 32 other tribal nations. The organization representing the nations reached an agreement to take a settlement of 43 million dollars. The tribe would receive 3 million of the share, equaling out to around 2.5 million once processed. The motion carried and the tribe will be accepting the settlement.

Concerns were raised by a member that it may seem hypocritical for the tribe to accept the settlement than continue to sell other electronic vapes and pods at their gas stations. She expressed that there will be backlash from the community and it could be a poor reflection on the tribe.

The second resolution added that was not on the original agenda was if the tribe wanted to continue their partnership with Sonosky Chambers as they continue to deal with litigation. When a member asked what specific litigation he would be dealing with in a court of law, she was quickly shut down by the board and objected. Sonosky law firm represents Indian tribes across the country in litigation, lobbying, economic development, health care, and various other self-government laws. The board carried the motion and agreed to continue to work with the company. In addition to this, Wednesday, February 6, the board announced they have appointed attorney Aaron Schlehuber as the tribe's general counsel. Schlehuber is a Sault Tribe member who specializes in tribal law, gaming, business, and finance. He previously served as the tribe’s staff attorney for nearly 20 years from 2000 to 2019.

“This is home,” said Schlehuber. “My experiences have prepared me to best serve the Sault Tribe in this new and expanded role – I look forward to the challenge and to serving the Tribe to the best of my ability.”

Following the resolutions new business was brought to the table. A heated discussion quickly took place once vice-chairman Tyler LaPlaunt announced the Health Grid Tenure Review. In layman’s terms, essentially it suggested reviewing health care professionals wages, starting with the most senior staff members. It was suggested in order to give the health care professionals a higher salary in order to catch them up to today’s demand and standards, and help with retention. Two board members expressed they thought the new business should be addressed in a resolution.

A resolution would allow board members to review the facts and numbers, with a timeline and a chain of commands. Quickly board members and tribal members began to speak up about this issue.

Many agree that the health care division needs more money but it would not help with retention if the toxic workplace environments were not addressed first. Several people stating they know the health care professionals feel unappreciated, taken advantage of, and not given the proper wages they deserve.

            A member had expressed she worked in the healthcare system in Sault Ste. Marie, with deep concern, told the board how she and her colleagues stay because they love their patients. Others chimed in saying they don’t care what they need to pay the staff as long as members are getting quality care. One member stated “As long as our people are not getting substandard care, there’s an issue. They deserve better. We need to do better.”

Health care is a treaty right and many members are not being serviced at the moment. LaPlaunt said he understands the concerns and the environment must be dealt with but they should continue to catch up current employees to standard healthcare wages that match the area. Employees are not staying because they are being offered more money elsewhere, with the raises they hope can create retention while they deal with the other ongoing issues.

He mentioned he knows there are issues that need to be addressed but we shouldn’t stop moving forward just because there is a mountain of problems; things need to be addressed one on one and progress forward is a step in the right direction as they tackle the rest.

He continued by saying they cannot afford to lose anymore of their healthcare professionals. Stating that members deserve to be seen as preventative care and on-going issues. Hoping that with more staff, members can come in for care before something becomes chronic.

“There is a regional and national shortage for healthcare employees,"said LaPlaunt. “Tribal entities are the least employed among them.”

The motion carried that the board will begin to review senior healthcare employees. A few board members abstained due to the lack of detailed information provided. It is important to note the money that will be used for the eventual raises is only allowed to be delegated to the health departments. The issues continued to raise concerns.

The meeting ended with board concerns and many members wanted to speak up and ask questions. Questions were denied by the board and the meeting was adjourned.