Band Members, Employees Chosen for Leadership Training


Three organizations honored Mille Lacs Band members and employees last month by inviting them to participate in leader- ship training cohorts.

Change Network Minnesota

Former District Representative and Education Commissioner Suzanne Wise was selected for the first cohort of the Change Network Minnesota leadership program, a partner- ship between the Cultural Wellness Center and the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, supported by the Bush Foundation.

According to the website, “Change Network Minnesota is a new leadership program aiming to support individuals as they go about their work and create change in a way that is more equitable and inclusive of all Minnesotans.”
This latest honor is one of several Suzanne has received in recent months. During the past three months she has been a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar, spending two weeks in Cape Cod researching and learning about and from the Wampanoag people about their history and development. She also spent nine days in Vermont as a National Arts Strategies Creative Community Fellow utilizing art as a strategy in her work.

“As Change Agents we are asking ourselves what it takes to make positive and inclusive changes within our communities for sustaining our futures,” said Suzanne. “I would like Band members to not sit back and wait for their ship to come in, but swim out to it. I applied for these by looking into other ways to stretch my learning. I believe our tribal members do not need to be dependent on their work place to assist their learning. Seek it out themselves and apply for scholarships. If we truly believe that Manidoo guides us to where we need to go, then we will be there.”

The Change Network website states the following about Azhinangookwe, Suzanne Wise:
“Suzanne, from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, is a long time advocate for Indian families through her work in Indian Education, ICWA, Advocacy and Social Work. She recently finished her Masters in Social Work from the University of Minnesota and has a bachelor’s degree from St. Cloud State University. Suzanne is currently working with Mille Lacs Band Family Services in Family Preservation. Some of her previous work has been as the Commissioner of Education, Director of Family Services, Child Protection Supervisor, ICWA Social Worker, elected District I Representative and Indian Education Liaisons at both Onamia and Isle Public Schools. She has been on the Tribal Nations Education Committee and is current Chair of the Board for Minnesota Indian Education Association. She was also a National Endowments for the Humanities Scholar and a Creative Community Fellow through National Arts Strategies.

“Suzanne wants to empower community partnerships that form a positive arena for healing. She envisions the formation of a grass roots non-profit resource center in the heart of the Mille Lacs Indian reservation assisting tribal members to re- gain their livelihoods and traditional family structure utilizing a cultural and respectful approach. This approach would embody grace, harmony and Ojibwe culture, traditions and language utilizing various methods including art strategies for healing and revitalization.”

For more information on Change Network Minnesota, see

Blandin Reservation Leadership

A number of Mille Lacs Band members and employees were invited to participate in the Blandin Reservation Community Leadership Program, which has provided training to more than 600 leaders from 11 Minnesota reservations since 2001.

Included in the cohort were Li Boyd, Govinda Budrow, Jeremiah Houser, Dean Reynolds, Craig Beaulieu, Virgil Wind, Amy Opager, Kaitlin Thompson, Shelly Diaz, Maria Costello, Shena Matrious and Arlyn Sam (pictured above).

The Blandin Reservation Community Leadership Program (BRCLP) is a training opportunity that provides deeper learning about individual and community strengths, and techniques for building social capital and mobilizing resources and power within the framework of Native American cultures, both Ojibwe and Dakota. It aims to leverage leaders’ personal strengths and community assets they can rely on and grow forward from.

Colin Cash and Jeremiah Houser of the DNR’s Land Maintenance program were encouraged to apply by their supervisors. DNR Commissioner Bradley Harrington recommended Colin, and Land Management Supervisor Andy Boyd recommended Jeremiah. Both Bradley and Andy have attended the Blandin program.

Native Nations Rebuilders

The Native Governance Center and Bush Foundation announced that Band members Katie Draper and Bradley Harrington were among 25 individuals selected for the ninth cohort of the Native Nation Rebuilders Program.

The Bush Foundation launched the Native Nation Rebuilders Program in 2009 in response to the guidance of Tribal leaders. In early 2016, the Bush Foundation transitioned delivery of the Rebuilders Program to the newly-created Native Governance Center, a Native-led nonprofit that delivers nation building support to Tribes.

Rebuilders will convene for four structured sessions during which they will also develop action plans to share knowledge with peers and their respective Tribal governments. The sessions involve partner organizations and individuals with expertise in nation building, organizing, and issues specific to Indian Country.

Katie Draper is Director of Government Affairs for the Band. Bradley E. Harrington is Commissioner of Natural Resources.