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Lac Courte Oreilles Drummers
Drummers at a winter social hosted by the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Wisconsin. Photo: Joe Brusky
Lac Courte Oreilles Band reports rise in gang activity among youth
Monday, October 9, 2023

The Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians is adopting a no tolerance policy amid a reported rise in gang activity among youth.

In a statement posted on Friday, the tribal governing board said the the activity has been noticed at the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe School in Wisconsin. A letter from the superintendent to parents cited a number of incidents in just the few weeks since the start of the academic year.

“The Tribal Governing Board is asking parents and community members teach all of our youth about the dangers of gang activity, and to remind everyone of the tragedies that overcame Lac Courte Oreilles in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s when gang violence claimed the lives of two young tribal members and eventually, the imprisonment of dozens of our people,” the statement reads.

A letter from the LCO School was sent on October 3. It reported the observance of gang related activity — including clothing and signs — among “some of our middle school students.”

“Moving forward, incidents of gang related behavior will be dealt with as a Class I offense which may result in in-school suspensions or out-of-school suspensions, in addition to parent contacts and law enforcement intervention,” middle school parents and guardians were told in the letter, which was signed by the school counseling team, the school resource officer and a representative of the tribal elders council.

The tribe “fully supports” Hutchison’s efforts at the school, the governing board statement reads. It also states that the youth curfew ordinance on the reservation will be re-examined to see if changes might be made in light of potential gang activity.

“As a first step, the Tribal Governing Board will be discussing the current curfew ordinance in effect which forbids youth 17 and younger to be outside after 11:00 pm until 6:00 am. The Board may choose to expand those hours on school nights,” the statement reads. “In addition, the Board is instructing law enforcement to begin enforcing this ordinance immediately.”

“Enforcement of this ordinance will allow law enforcement to detain any minor not in the company of an adult guardian or out for purposes of employment or school activities until the adult guardian picks them up; and authorizes citations in an amount up to $250.00,” the statement adds.

The Lac Courte Oreilles Band is based in northwestern Wisconsin. In 2002, a large-scale drug and crime investigation led to the arrest and conviction of more than 37 gang members from the community, according to a fiscal year 2021 Department of Justice grant award to the tribe, which said gang activity was “on the rise again.”