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Court of General Jurisdiction (Tribal Court)


The judicial power of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians is vested in a tribal court system composed of a court of general jurisdiction, called the Tribal Court, and an appellate court, called the Tribal Appellate Court.  All the Judges of the Tribal Court and Tribal Appellate Court combined make up the Judiciary.  The chief judge and associate judge preside over all civil and criminal cases in Tribal Court arising under the tribal constitution, statutes, regulations, or judicial decisions of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.  Tribal Court’s jurisdiction is based upon the Tribe’s inherent sovereignty, traditional custom, and federal law.  Below are brief biographies of the current Chief and Associate Judges.


Chief Judge, JoAnne Cook


JoAnne Cook, a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa/Chippewa Indians, is from Peshawbestown, Michigan. Her previous professional experience includes one term on Tribal Council (2012-2016) and with Tribal Courts as a Tribal Court Judge for two tribal communities (1994-2011). JoAnne currently serves on the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa/Chippewa Indians Appellate Court as Chief Appellate Judge. She received her Business Administration degree from Ferris State University and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin School of Law.


JoAnne was involved in the organization and development of two alternative courts: Peacemaking and Healing to Wellness Court (Drug Court). The alternative courts utilize tradition and culture which allows for healing and restoring balance for those involved.  She has begun consulting with native and nonnative communities who are either developing Peacemaking or a Healing to Wellness Court.


She believes tradition and culture is vital to the Anishinaabe way of life and has continued her learning about the 3 Fires people. JoAnne has presented to various communities on the way of life and culture of the Odawa. In addition, she previously taught Business Law for Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) and a course at NMC Extended Education, titled Native Law and Culture. JoAnne is currently teaching a short course, History of the Anishinaabek for NMC Extended Education.



Associate Judge, John J. Lemire


Judge Lemire is an enrolled member of the Grand Portage Band, Minnesota Chippewa. His father was a dislocated “boarding school” Indian ending up in Michigan.


He is a retired Family Court Referee, having served the 3rd Circuit Court in Wayne County for more than 25 years. He has been a Court appointed Mediator/ Arbitrator since his retirement. Judge Lemire has been involved in Indian law and welfare for decades. He has served as a Board member and Vice Chair of Michigan Indian Legal Services for over thirty years until his appointment to the Tribal Court. He is currently Chairperson of the Board of American Indian
Health and Family Services of Southeastern Michigan. AIHFS is a medical and behavioral health clinic in Detroit funded by the Indian Health Service and other grants that assists urban Indians. He has participated in programs to assist Native American Law students and served other Michigan tribes in various legal capacities. He is past Chair of the American Indian Law Section of the State Bar.


In his legal career, Judge Lemire has served as a Referee for the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, as a chair panelist of the Attorney Discipline Board, and as an Assemblyperson for the State Bar of Michigan.


On a personal level, Judge Lemire is an Army Veteran of Vietnam and has been happily married for many years to his wife Marlene with two grown children. Even with all of the above accomplishments, he considers his appointment to the Tribal Court the highlight of his career.



Tribal Appellate Court

The Tribal Appellate Court consists of a chief justice and two associate justices that hear appeals from Tribal Court.  All Tribal Appellate Court decisions are final and cannot be appealed.  Below are brief biographies of the Appellate Justices.


Justice Wenona Singel

Wenona T. Singel is an Associate Professor of Law at Michigan State University College of Law and the Director of the Indigenous Law & Policy Center. She teaches Federal Law and Indian Tribes, Property, and other courses related to Natural Resources, Environmental Justice, and Indigenous Human Rights.

Prof. Singel’s research and writing address issues related to Tribal Sovereignty and Indigenous Rights. She served as an Associate Reporter (co-author) of the American Law Institute’s Restatement of the Law, The Law of American Indians from 2012 to 2022. She is also a new co-author of Cases and Materials on Federal Indian Law, the leading casebook in the field of Federal Indian Law, and she is writing a book called Indian Removal, Past and Present, that describes the intergenerational impact of federal Indian law and policy on Native families which weaves in stories of multiple generations of her own family’s experience of forcible Indian removal in Michigan; land dispossession at Burt Lake, Michigan; attendance at Michigan Indian boarding schools; and removal of children from their families and placement into foster care and adoptive homes. Prof. Singel’s most recent law review article, co-authored with Matthew Fletcher and titled, Lawyering the Indian Child Welfare Act, was published in the Michigan Law Review in the summer of 2022. Prof. Singel’s scholarship on the Indian Child Welfare Act and the history of federal child removal policies impacting Native children was cited extensively by the U.S. Supreme Court in its recent decision in Haaland v. Brackeen.

Prof. Singel served as deputy legal counsel for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer from 2019-21, advising on Tribal-State affairs. She also served as Chief Appellate Justice for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians for thirteen years and Chief Appellate Judge for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Recently, she returned to serve once again as Chief Appellate Justice for the Little Traverse Bay Bands. She is the former president of the Michigan Indian Judicial Association, and she serves on the National Council of the World Wildlife Fund. In 2012, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Advisory Board of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp., a position she held until 2017.

Prof. Singel is an enrolled member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, and she is a descendant of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, the Burt Lake Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, and the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians. She was the first in her family to attend college, and she is committed to widening access to higher education and law school for other first-generation students. Wenona received an A.B. magna cum laude from Harvard College and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.


Justice Elise McGowan-Cuellar

Elise McGowan-Cuellar is an enrolled member of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians and resident of Michigan. She is the proud daughter of Patsy and Bill McGowan and grandchild to Shirley-baa and Alfred-baa Boda.

McGowan-Cuellar currently serves as Executive In-House Counsel for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and previously served as an attorney for the Little River Unified Legal Department. Prior to her employment at Little River, she worked for the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians and Michigan Indian Legal Services. McGowan-Cuellar graduated from Michigan State College of Law with the indigenous law certificate from the Indigenous Law & Policy Center.

McGowan-Cuellar is currently serving as the President of the Uniting Three Fires Against Violence and previously served as Vice President.

McGowan-Cuellar is an alumna of the University of Michigan.


Frank Ettawageshik

Justice Ettawageshik is a citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa and lives in Harbor Springs, Michigan with his wife Rochelle. He has four adult children and six grandchildren. He is a traditional storyteller and potter, believing that Native people need to be rooted in their traditions in order to be prepared for the future.

Justice Ettawageshik served in tribal elected office for sixteen years, fourteen as the Tribal Chairman. During his tenure as Tribal Chairman he was instrumental in the adoption of the Tribal and First Nations Great Lakes Water Accord in 2004 and the United League of Indigenous Nations Treaty in 2007. Now serving as the Executive Director of the United Tribes of Michigan, he is also the Chairman of the United League of Indigenous Nations Governing Board and the Co-chair of the National Congress of American Indians Federal Recognition Task Force.

Justice Ettawageshik also currently serves on several non-profit boards including the Association on American Indian Affairs, Anishinaabemowin Teg, and the Michigan Indian Education Council. In April 2016, he was appointed to the Great Lakes Water Quality Board. Justice Ettawageshik was a 2010 Fellow at the Native Nations Institute Indigenous Leaders Fellowship Program at the University of Arizona. His 40 years of public service has included serving on the Executive Board of the National Congress of American Indians, the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes, the Historical Society of Michigan, the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, the Michigan Climate Action Council, the Little Traverse Conservancy, the Michigan Travel Commission, the Public Interest Advisory Group for the International Joint Commission’s Upper Great Lakes Study, the Michigan Great Lakes Offshore Wind Council, and the Michigan Ground Water Conservation Advisory Council.



Court Staff

LTBB’s Constitution requires that the Judiciary shall employ an Administrator of the Courts and other assistants as may be necessary to aid in the administration of the courts.  Below are brief introductions to the Court Administrator and court staff.


Court Administrator

Matthew Lesky


Female Cultural Resource Advisor, Miigwaans Smith


Adult Probation Officer/WMDCP Coordinator, Lee Rousseau


Male Cultural Resource Advisor


Sr. Court Clerk, Cynthia Brouckaert

Cynthia Brouckaert is a member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians who grew up in Cross Village and graduated from Harbor Springs High School.  She and her husband returned to the area after approximately 25 years in the Detroit area.  Cynthia received Advanced Tribal Court Clerk Certification through the Tribal Judicial Institute, has an Associate’s Degree from NCMC, and three Associate’s from the Macomb Community College in Warren, MI.  She has two grown children, a son in-law, and two grandchildren. She is happy to be in Northern Michigan and enjoys serving the tribal community as the Senior Court Clerk.


Clerk I, Kathy McGraw


Administrative Assistant, Joetta Gasco

Joetta M. Gasco was born in Petoskey Michigan, and having traveled extensively and lived throughout the US with her Parent’s Truck Driving lifestyle in her childhood years, her husband’s Truck Driving adventures, as well as her own want-to-travel attitude, she has recently left Murfreesboro, Tennessee, (South-Nashville area) after 7+ years, to relocate back to Northern Michigan with her Husband of 35 years, LTBB Member, Bart Gasco, Sr.  Jody graduated from Boyne City High School, and In the early 90’s, earned 2 Associate’s Degrees from NCMC.


Although Jody  was a very frequent traveler/visitor to the area,  and it seemed her ties to family couldn’t get much closer,  Jody still desired to live closer to her family.   2 of her 3 grown children, 3 grandchildren, her parents, her extended family, his family, as well as many, many friends, all live in the area.


Jody recently left her job with The State of Tennessee- Department of Corrections just short of 7 years, as Senior Procurement Officer at the Lois M. DeBerry Special Needs Facility, the Hospital Prison for the State of Tennessee.   Even with her love of outdoor activities, extensive work on her neatly manicured flower gardens and lawns, as well as many other activities she took part in while in Tennessee,  the pull of Northern Michigan and family still made Jody long to be ‘home’.  Even as the winter of 2013-14 has proven to be a weather challenge, she is extremely happy to be back in God’s North Country.  She is looking forward to working for the Tribe she has been “part of” for over 35 years.


Justice for Families Project Coordinator, Olivia Adelaine

Business Hours
Open 8 am to 5 pm
Monday through Friday, except Tribal Holidays

JoAnne Cook, Chief Judge
Honorable John J. Lemire, Associate Judge

Tribal Court Personnel Phone #
Matthew Lesky, Court Administrator 242-1461
Cynthia Brouckaert, Senior Court Clerk 242-1462
Kathy McGraw, Court Clerk I 242-1473
Joetta Gasco, Administrative Assistant 242-1468
Lee Rousseau, Adult Probation Officer/Waabshki 242-1465
Miigwan Drug Court Coordinator
Vacant, Cultural Resource Advisor 242-1460
Miigwaans Smith, Cultural Resource Advisor 242-1474
Olivia Adelaine 242-1464

APPELLATE COURT (leave message with court)
Honorable Elise McGowan-Cuellar, Chief Appellate Justice
Honorable William Denemy, Appellate Justice
Honorable Frank Ettawageshik, Appellate Justice


Address: 911 Spring St., Petoskey, MI  49770
Main Telephone Number
(231) 242-1462
Fax Number
(231) 242-1470