Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians


~Welcome to the Lac Vieux Desert Tribal Website~


WATERSMEET, Mich., July 3, 2019 -- In a major decision hailed as a victory for the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians and for Native American sovereign rights, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit today ruled in favor of the Tribe, reversing the district court's earlier order and remanding it with instructions to grant the Tribe's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

"Because a proper weighing of the factors demonstrates by a preponderance of the evidence that the Entities are indeed arms of the Tribe, Big Picture and Ascension are entitled to tribal sovereign immunity," the ruling states.

Tribal Council photo

"We could not be more pleased with the Fourth Circuit's decision upholding our Tribe's sovereignty and our Tribal businesses' recognition as arms of the Tribe," said LVD Chairman James Williams, Jr. "By reversing the District Court, the Fourth Circuit's ruling is a major victory for Native American sovereign rights across all of Indian country. The decision also provides welcome clarity to the standards used to evaluate tribal economic instrumentalities."

"The Fourth Circuit has affirmed what we have known and argued all along: our businesses are sovereign arms of the Tribe and immune from Plaintiffs' baseless claims," Williams continued. "We hope that we can now put this issue to bed once and for all, allowing us to fully focus on the needs of our people."

In addition to the Court's finding that both businesses are legitimate arms of the Tribe, the Court also determined that tribal immunity is not negatively impacted by a business' employment of non-tribal members, its decision to outsource management, or a court's like or dislike of the business in which a tribe has chosen to engage.

As has been the case since time immemorial, American Indian tribes are sovereign, which means that they have the inherent authority to make their own laws and govern themselves free from outside interference. Sovereignty predates the U.S. Constitution and is acknowledged by federal and state governments through treaties, laws, executive orders, and intergovernmental agreements, and has been confirmed by centuries of U.S. Supreme Court and lower court precedent.

The court held that sovereign immunity remains intact when a tribe elects not to conduct commerce directly, but to use tribally-created entities qualifying as "arms of the tribe."

Furthermore, the opinion states that "one of the primary purposes underlying tribal immunity is the promotion of tribal self-governance, which counsels against courts demanding exacting information about the minutiae of a tribe's budget."

"The Tribe firmly believes that the Court reached the right result, and we hope that this outcome will serve as a model for future decisions," Williams concluded.

The tribe originally lived on South Island in Lac Vieux Desert until they moved to the south shore of the lake around 1880.

Fishing, hunting and gathering natural foods has sustained the members of the Lac Vieux Desert Band for years.

After the treaty of 1854, a large portion of the Lac Vieux Desert Band returned to this village from the established reservation at L'anse. When the ceded Indian lands were placed on public sale, the Indian of Katikitegoning pooled part of the yield of their winter hunting, and took the furs to the Public Land Office in Marquette to purchase the land they were living on.


Main Tribal Offices:
Address: N4698 US 45 Watersmeet, MI 49969
Phone: 1-906-358-4577

Address: E23970 Pow wow Trail Watersmeet, MI 49969
Phone: 1-906-358-0330