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‘Chip’ Wadena owed White Earth band $731,000 at time of death

'Chip' Wadena

FARGO – At the time of his death Tuesday, Darrell “Chip” Wadena owed more than $731,000 to the White Earth tribe in northern Minnesota, stemming from his conviction in federal court of stealing money from the tribe for personal profit.

Wadena died Tuesday at Vibra Hospital in Fargo. He was 75. His funeral was Saturday in Naytahwaush, Minn., his hometown.

Per federal law, the restitution fine will now be terminated and written off following Wadena’s death.

Wadena was tribal chairman of the White Earth band for 20 years, but he was voted out of office in 1996, the same year he was convicted of 15 federal charges of embezzlement, money laundering and rigging construction bids for the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen, Minn.

After his conviction, Wadena was ordered to pay $585,287 in restitution to the White Earth tribe and he spent 33 months in prison.

Wadena never came close to paying the fine in full. As of Wednesday, he still owed $731,608.75, which includes the original debt plus late penalties of $146,321.75, according to the U.S. District Clerk of Court office in Minneapolis.

Erma Vizenor, the White Earth tribal chairwoman, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday. She led the activist group that ousted Wadena in 1996.

Wadena made a $100,000 restitution payment to the Tribal Council in 1999 and started making $200-a- month payments, according to a Forum archive story. By the time of his death, he had paid $198,719.09, according to the U.S. District Clerk of Court office.

In a 2004 interview, the same year he lost a contentious election to Vizenor for tribal leader, Wadena said his net worth, including the value of his home, was about $80,000.

He was working for the tribal bingo hall in Mahnomen at the time.

Wadena attempted to run for tribal chairman again in 2008, but because of his criminal record his candidacy was not certified by the Tribal Council.

Erik Burgess
Erik Burgess covers city and county government for The Forum. He started as the paper's night reporter in 2012, after graduating from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. He was born and raised in Grand Forks, N.D., and also spent time interning at the Grand Forks Herald.  Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to
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