Several L’Anse and Baraga, Michigan, non-tribal business owners didn’t know what to make of a recent “reminder” notice they received from Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC).
The March 3, 2014, notice sent by KBIC’s Director of Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance (TERO) states, in part: “This is a reminder notice that Indian Preference must be implemented in all employment activities on the (L’Anse) Reservation and also serves as verification of notice for EEOC quarterly reporting.”
The L’Anse Reservation is the home territory of KBIC, located in the western region of the Upper Peninsula. The March 19, 2014, edition of the L’Anse Sentinel newspaper reported that most businesses notified are within or near KBIC reservation boundaries.
L’Anse Sentinel also reported that it received a follow-up email from KBIC on March 17, 2014, in the form of a press release. Though the press release states that it sent notices to only 11 businesses, additional business owners in L’Anse “provided copies of the notice” to the Sentinel.
The Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance and Why Business Owners are Concerned
Section 103-A of TERO states that all businesses operating under KBIC jurisdiction must practice Indian Preference when hiring.
There is concern among non-tribal business owners that they are violating the ordinance. Businesspersons say that until they received the March notice, they were unaware of TERO hiring policies, and did not recall receiving any notices from KBIC in the past.
What Does it All Mean?
The follow-up press release issued by KBIC states that the TERO sends notices every six months to remain in compliance with its Equal Opportunity Contract, and that it reports the information to the EEOC. Just what it is reporting isn’t clear.
There’s quite a buzz in our community. Some question why non-tribal businesses haven’t received notices in the past. What does receiving one now mean for the future? Others think the follow-up press release is in response to the flurry stirred by the notice in an effort to calm concerns, or to serve as a warning.
Non-tribal business owners are unwilling, at this time, to provide their personal or business names. Our community is tiny and peaceful. Native and non-native citizens generally work together in harmony, and find mutually agreeable solutions to problems that arise.
Baraga County’s current unemployment rate stands at 13.7 percent. There is hope. Funding through Go! Baraga County promises new jobs and career opportunities. May they be plentiful enough to meet the needs of all residents who share this beautiful land by the Keweenaw Bay.
– The L’Anse Sentinel, March 19, 2014, edition. Number 12
– Copy of KBIC Notice: TERO Renewal of Preference in Hiring, March 3, 2014
– Conversations with non-tribal business owners, and with tribal and non-tribal residents