Aaniin, Boozhoo! July 10 was a very important day for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, as three new Band Assembly members and new school board members took their oath of office and began new terms serving the Band.
For those of you who were unable to be present, please take time to read Speaker Boyd’s inaugural remarks in this issue of the Inaajimowin. This was one of the most inspiring speeches I have ever heard. With a theme of Maamawinikeniwin, or “putting our hands together,” Secretary-Treasurer Boyd spoke about the responsibility of making law, and about responsibility, humility, unity, and moving forward for the good of the People.
I have already had the privilege of participating in two Band Assembly meetings, and have appreciated the positive energy, open dialogue, and exchange of ideas. Our two offices even already enjoyed a potluck lunch together last week in our office, which was wonderful. We are off to a great start of collaboration that will benefit Band members.
A very important reminder — please remember to get out and vote in the Primary Election on August 14! This election will have a direct impact on the Band, because it will decide who the candidates are for the positions of Governor, Attorney General, the 8th U.S. Congressional seat, Mille Lacs County Attorney, and many other races in the November elections. A letter was sent to all households endorsing specific candidates, and it is also printed on page 12. No matter who you support, please get out there and exercise your right to vote!
My schedule in July included meetings of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, when Secretary-Treasurer Boyd was sworn in as a member of the Tribal Executive Committee. A key issue at this meeting was consideration of an Executive Order issued by Governor Dayton creating a Wild Rice Task Force comprised of 12 members that only included two tribal representatives, with all other positions being reserved for industrial special interest groups like municipal wastewater dischargers, electric utilities, labor organizations, and two seats for the mining industry. Other seats went to scientists and state agencies.
This was unacceptable because it did not respect the sovereignty of each tribe, and the majority of representatives were from industry and other special interests, which was upsetting to many. We voted unanimously against participation on this task force, and conveyed that decision to Governor Dayton. The tribes instead intend to create our own task force and provide findings to the State.
I was invited to attend a Tribal Leader Discussion hosted by the Democratic Senate Outreach Committee on July 18. It was organized by Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Along with the Mille Lacs Band, three other tribal leaders and three intertribal organizations were represented. The issues I raised were law enforcement and public safety. In conversations with staff of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, I encouraged them to do a site visit or hold a field hearing at Mille Lacs, and I am in the process of following up on that request.
While in Washington D.C., Senator Warren invited me to meet in her office for a one-on-one update on issues impacting the Mille Lacs Band. We also discussed law enforcement, the opioid crisis, Farm Bill provisions for Indian tribes, and tribal sovereignty. Finally, the day ended with a meeting with Senator Schumer along with seven other tribal leaders. At this meeting, I also brought up law enforcement legislation. These trips to D.C. are always busy, but this one was a whirlwind of activity — I was in D.C. for less than 24 hours, and all of these meetings took place over the course of five hours!
July also included many meetings with Band members, a Drum Keeper meeting, an open house for the new Government Affairs building in Wahkon, a board meeting of the Minnesota Board on Aging, and many others.
In his remarks, Secretary-Treasurer Boyd made a statement about how leadership is not just about the elected officials, and I couldn’t agree more. Chi miigwech to the many, many Band members who have stepped into community leadership positions, whether formal or informal, and are making positive change in our community. There are too many to name without risk of leaving some groups out, which is a very good thing because it means many good things are happening in our Band community! As Chief Executive, I deeply appreciate the efforts of these amazing Band members who have stepped up into leadership positions.