POLK COUNTY -- On Wednesday, July 27th, 2022, St. Croix Tribal Council representatives presented a $25,000.00 donation to the Polk County Sheriff's Department at the Justice Center in Balsam Lake, WI, on behalf of the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin "the Tribe". The donation was made possible due to the Tribe’s gaming compact, first established with the State of Wisconsin “the State” in 1991. Tribal/State gaming compacts are negotiated between the Tribe and the State to set forth rules, regulations, and conditions under which the Tribe may conduct their gaming. The gaming compact confirms the Tribe’s right to operate their gaming enterprises with oversight from the State, provided the Tribe pays an annual percentage to the State for supplying such oversight. The State of Wisconsin has entered into gaming compact agreements with eleven (11) federally recognized Tribes in Wisconsin, as permitted by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, 25 U.S.C. sec. 2701 (Act).
As written in the gaming compact, the Tribe’s annual payments to the State can be directly offset, reducing the Tribe’s financial liability to the State, via contributions to “local units of government” whom the Tribe has a “service agreement” with. The contributions cannot exceed $150,000.00 per year. Contributions up to $150,000.00 will then be applied against the Tribe’s total, annual remittance to the State. This is the Tribe’s fourth donation in 2022, with previous donations to the Cumberland Fire Department ($25,000.00), the Danbury Fire Department ($25,000.00), and the Hertel Fire Department ($59,303.00).
Why did the Tribe, who operates its own Tribal Police Department, choose the Polk County Sheriff's Department for a $25,000.00 donation?
The St. Croix Tribe is very unique in the geographic locations of its reservation communities. The reservation is not contiguous, instead it consists of smaller, disconnected pieces of land scattered many miles apart. The St. Croix Reservation, as mapped by the federal government, is a checkerboard of nine (9) separate communities and many sub-communities. The reservation occupies 4,689 acres with a population of 2,909 people. The major communities of the St. Croix Reservation are Danbury, Maple Plain, Round Lake, and Sand Lake. These communities occupy land in the rural Northwestern Wisconsin counties of Burnett, Barron, and Polk and are separated at their greatest distance by 50 miles.
The St. Croix Tribal Police Department is headquartered in the Tribal Community of Sand Lake (Hertel, WI) in the Tribal Justice Center. The police department employs nine full-time officers, one part-time officer, and two K9 officers. As stated in their mission statement, “the St. Croix Tribal Police Department is committed to excellence in providing culturally-sensitive law enforcement service and is entrusted to protect and serve the people of the St. Croix Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. In order to protect and enhance life, prevent crime and reduce the fear of crime, we will provide service with understanding, response with compassion, performance with integrity and law enforcement with vision”. While the primary responsibilities of the St. Croix Tribal Police are to the Tribal communities and reservation lands, the Tribe has contracted mutual aid agreements with surrounding county and municipal law enforcement agencies to support greater regional law enforcement and public safety partnerships. Mutual Aid Agreements exist between the St. Croix Tribal Police Department and multiple neighboring agencies, including the Polk County Sheriff’s Department.
It is Tribal Council's hope this donation of $25,000.00 helps to bridge an unintentional gap existing between the St. Croix Tribal Police Department and the Polk County Sheriff's Department because of the disconnected land. Polk County is often the first ones on the scene when bad things happen within the Round Lake Community, simply because of the geographic distance for responding Tribal officers. The Tribe needs to be able to confidently rely on local agencies for assistance on the epidemic that is illegal drug activity, hence their support for the efforts of Sheriff Waak and his team in Polk County. The Polk County Sheriff’s Department is the force actively patrolling other Polk County communities receiving drugs from across the border and elsewhere. The St. Croix Tribe's ability to assist the Polk County Sheriff's Department with drug enforcement directly impacts the number of drugs coming onto the reservation. Without collaboration with outside police departments, the Round Lake reservation is at a much greater risk for increased drug activity.
"The Polk County Sheriff's Department has made positive progress to support our cause, and to help in any manner, to make the Round Lake Community a safer place. The support is ever changing, but due to progressive leadership within the Tribe, a difference is being made," said St. Croix Tribal Chief of Police Frank Taylor.
It is the current, elected Tribal Council's hope this donation to the Polk County Sheriff's Department will help to reestablish and grow the collaboration with other surrounding county law enforcement offices as well.
"I am tired of seeing our peers bury their grandchildren," said Round Lake Community Representative Georgia Cobenais, "With this donation, I want to send a very clear message -- We don't want you coming onto our St. Croix Lands if you're bringing drugs."
You can learn more about the St. Croix Tribe, and the St. Croix Tribal Police Department, by visiting their website here.