Branches Meet in Spirit of Collaboration


The elected leaders and top officials from the Band’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches gathered for a joint meeting at Grand Casino Mille Lacs on August 15. This was the first meeting of its kind in many years, and it concluded with consensus to continue three-branch meetings on a quarterly basis moving forward.

Commissioner of Natural Resources Bradley Harrington began the meeting with an invocation in Ojibwe. Secretary-Treasurer Sheldon Boyd convened the meeting with a message of transparency and good communication. All the elected officials then provided updates and shared their goals.

Highlights included:

• The Secretary-Treasurer previewed plans for live-streaming Band Assembly meetings, posting minutes and important documents online so that Band members have direct access, and creating a statute revisor’s position.

• District I Representative Sandra Blake discussed the importance of monthly community meetings, and she encouraged greater commissioner participation in those meetings.

• District II Representative Marvin Bruneau reminded the group of their purpose in Band government: “We’re here to serve the people. That’s our mission.”

• District III Representative Wally St. John talked about his intentions to “help heal the community.” He also discussed working with the commissioners to “break down barriers” to solving housing issues and other challenges.

• Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin talked about the start of strategic planning discussions. It will incorporate in-
put from all three branches before sharing with Band members and tribal government employees.

The commissioners and department leaders also shared updates. Some of the topics covered were:

• Revisions to human resources policies, including an Ojibwe cultural competency component

• The importance of cultural and spiritual programming into the school curriculum to improve student engagement

• Work toward agreements and partnerships in Aitkin, Hennepin and Ramsey counties to help the Band im- prove health care for members in a broader service area Expansion of agriculture efforts and use of medicinal plants

• Work on improving tribal IDs and treaty harvester licenses

• "Get Out the Native Vote” efforts, including the report of significantly more Band members turning out for the Primary Election in Kathio Township

• Efforts toward internal attorneys with subject area expertise such as gaming and natural resources

• The increase in tribal prosecutions

• Plans for a new justice center

• The ripple effect of the drug problem, ranging from treatment to child protection to truancy issues

• Potential changes to the per cap system, following conversations with Band members

As the meeting concluded, there were comments of this being an excellent start to cooperation among the three branches of government in the coming years.