By Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of murder by a jury of his peers. It is up to the family and the community of George Floyd to determine whether justice has been done, because no verdict can replace his life or erase their grief. In many ways, this trial was not about Derek Chauvin, but about institutional racism itself.
The death of George Floyd sparked a national conversation about the places of power where racism has been allowed to lurk, and it sparked local conversations among our Band community as well. This trial is an important moment in our history - not for what it means for the fate of Derek Chauvin, but for what it means for the future of our democracy, the future of our children and grandchildren.
At its core, this case wasn’t about drugs or counterfeit bills or resisting arrest. And it's not about restraint techniques or policing policy. It's about whether people of color – brown, black, Asian or American Indian – have the same right to life and liberty and the same value as white people in America.
At its heart, this case is the tragic tale of a black man pleading for his life, a white cop choking him through his final gasps, and a societal deck that is stacked in a way that makes this seem normal to many and acceptable to many others.
It is my hope that just as the death of George Floyd served as a spark to a state and national dialogue about racism, that the verdict of this case can serve as a salve to begin the process of healing, justice, and continued conversations that bring all our communities together to a place of mutual value, safety, and respect.
I want to thank the many Mille Lacs Band Members who became part of this conversation, who followed this case closely and cared deeply about the outcome, who used your voices in peaceful protest and stood against injustice. The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe continues to stand in solidarity with the African American community, the family of George Floyd, and to stand against racism against all communities in all its forms. Miigwech.