Boozhoo! I hope everyone enjoyed Miigwech Day together with their families! Now comes the hustle and bustle of preparing for the holiday season. Together with the Band Assembly, as your elected officials we were grateful to be able to provide a stimulus payment in December to adult Band members as a small way of assisting families with expenses this holiday season.
November began with a Partners In Action conference by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) on November 5–6, which was held at our InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront hotel. This was a great conference that provided a lot of technical assistance and training to tribal staff from the four-state area. I serve as a board member on the Minnesota Board on Aging, and also attended a board meeting in the Twin Cities on November 6. There are programs serving tribal elders through the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe which fall under the Board’s jurisdiction, so one of my roles on the Board is to ensure tribal services are protected.
The Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes (MAST) held its fall meeting at Fond du Lac on November 7–8, which was an outstanding meeting attended by tribal leaders from 24 of the 35 tribes in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan. State and federal officials attended the meeting, and we got a lot of business done for the Band there. Bureau of Indian Affairs Assistant Secretary Tara Sweeney flew from Washington D.C. for this meeting, which was her first trip to Minnesota. I was able to have a meeting with her to discuss our new language revitalization program. The federal bureaucracy can be extremely difficult to navigate when multiple federal agencies are involved, especially when a tribal program is doing something new and innovative like we are. We had an in-depth discussion about the importance of the BIA serving as our advocate with the other federal agencies. It was a very good meeting for the Band.
On November 11, which was a Band holiday for Warriors Day, I was invited to attend meetings at the University of Minnesota, Morris (UMM), to discuss ways the University can improve access and support for American Indian students. Many Band members are unaware that the University of Minnesota Morris provides free tuition not just for enrolled tribal members, but also for first and second generation descendants of enrolled tribal members. UMM’s current student body includes 27 percent American Indian students. The campus is relatively small, with only 1,771 students, and there are strong support services for Indian students, so this is a good choice for students interested in a four-year college who may not want to attend a large university. We agreed to work together to create and strengthen outreach to Mille Lacs Band high school students.
On November 12, my office hosted a Women’s Drum Society meeting. This was a wonderful event that included a lot of great discussion, laughter, and enrichment. The afternoon included a session that taught attendees how to sew a ribbon skirt.
Governor Walz held an all-day Tribal Leaders Summit at the Capitol on November 13. Secretary/Treasurer Boyd and I attended this meeting, and we spent the day discussing together how the State can decrease educational and other disparities between American Indians and other Minnesotans. Governor Walz has shown outstanding commitment to strengthening partnerships with tribal governments in Minnesota.
The Band Assembly and I held a compromise hearing on November 14 regarding an appropriation bill for the Corporate Commission. The Director of Minisinaakwaang Leadership Academy attended this meeting. Minisinaakwaang Leadership Academy is a state public charter school in District II, which is part of the Minnesota public school system and funded by the Minnesota Department of Education. The Director informed us that the school board had to close the school for six weeks due to internal financial management issues. Minisinaakwaang Leadership Academy is not a Mille Lacs Band School, and the Band has no control whatsoever over how the school is run or how the budget is spent, just like we have no say in any other state public school like McGregor, Isle, or Onamia. The Director requested an emergency donation to bail out the school so it can continue to operate. As of the date of printing this newspaper, the Band Assembly had not yet decided if it can continue to provide no-strings attached donations to this state public charter school without assurances that management will improve. Band members who want more information about this matter can read a letter I wrote to District II Band Members by going to the Chief Executive page at www.millelacsband.com and clicking on the link at the bottom of the page.
The Band Assembly and I met together again on November 19 in St. Louis Park to discuss an order by the Commissioner of Natural Resources regarding harvesting by youth descendants, which was annulled. We also discussed a Solicitor’s Opinion requested by the District I Representative regarding management of the District I Community Center and her question about whether that should fall under Administration or the District I Representative. The Solicitor General held that the Chief Executive is custodian of all Band property and that District Representatives may authorize use of the centers in accordance with written standards that are fair and reasonable.
On November 20, I attended a dedication in honor of the memory of Herbert Sam at the Mino Oski Ain Dah Yung Center, which included the unveiling of a beautiful portrait of him. The next day, I attended a meeting of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency in Minneapolis. At the end of the day, I traveled back to Mille Lacs just in time for the annual Fall Feast held by the Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures. This was a really wonderful event! It is always so much fun to see Band families enjoying themselves together as a community. I hope the upcoming holiday season brings moments of joy, laughter, and family togetherness for everyone in our community! Miigwech!