‘Held Hostage’: Landowners Sue Indian Tribe Over Road Blockades In Neighborhood

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Nearly 40 Wisconsin landowners filed a federal lawsuit against a local American Indian tribe for blocking the roads leading out of their neighborhood.

Landowners filed the suit Tuesday after weeks of attempting to get the Lac Du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians to remove the blockade, which has been there since Jan. 31, according to Wisconsin Pubic Radio (WPR). In February, residents told the Green Bay Press Gazette they are “being held hostage,” as the roads, which cut through tribal land, are the only access to their homes.

These actions have “caused an ongoing grave risk to public health, safety and welfare,” according to the lawsuit.

“(T)he Defendants took the law into their own hands and illegally barricaded public roadways, despite the fact that they must be ‘open and available to public use’ under federal law,” the lawsuit states. “The Defendants also installed cameras and threatened Plaintiffs that any attempt to use the unlawfully barricaded roadways would be subject to criminal prosecution for trespass.”

The tribe put the blockade in place after a ten-year-long negotiation with the title companies who handle right-of-way negotiations for the roads failed. The tribe is only willing to offer a 25-month lease, while the title companies want the tribe to grant permanent access, according to a statement by the tribe. (RELATED: Biden Admin ‘Black History Month’ Event Features Land Acknowledgement Of Slave-Owning Tribe)

“We have given up millions of acres of land over generations,” the tribe said. “We now live on a 12-by-12 square mile piece of land known as a Reservation. This is all we have left.”

The tribe is only allowing residents to use the road for medical needs, according to WPR. Some residents are getting to work by using their snowmobile to cross a frozen lake, where their cars are parked at a neighbor’s house.

“Once ice is off all of the way, I could potentially kayak,” resident Rachel Pearson told WPR. “But at that point, it’s getting ridiculous.”

“For them to hold a legal resident hostage is reprehensible,” another resident, David Kievet, told the Green Bay Press. “I don’t live in Russia. I live in the U.S.”

Bridget M. Hubbing, a lawyer at Reinhart representing the landowners, said in a statement provided to the Daily Caller News Foundation that the tribe “failed to substantively respond” to prior requests for removal, adding that the decision to file was not “made lightly.”

“During the four weeks that the barricades have been blocking access, we made two settlement offers, presented a mediation proposal and requested an informal meeting with the Tribe,” Hubbing said. “We remain hopeful that tribal council will recognize that the barricades serve no constructive purpose and that they will agree to remove the barricades and engage in negotiation to pursue an appropriate resolution.”

The Lac Du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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