Executive Branch Commissioners' Reports


Boozhoo Band Members,

On behalf of the Executive Branch of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, we are honored to serve as the Commissioners for our respective departments and the Honorable Chief Executive, Melanie Benjamin.

You are our top priority, as we have taken an oath of office to serve you, the Band members. Our doors are always open to any concerns, questions or suggestions you may have in an effort to make improvements to the programs that serve you. Please note the contact information for Commissioners below so you can reach us directly anytime.

Beginning in February, we will reconvene our Executive Branch community meetings to develop future plans for the Band. Your participation and input are imperative to help us understand how you would like your government to operate and what programs would you like to see in place.

We will be sharing more news and updates in the Inaajimowin and on the Band’s website.

The following annual report is intended to provide Mille Lacs Band members with highlights of our accomplishments and to announce our goals for the upcoming year.


Shelly Diaz
Commissioner of Administration

Rebecca St. Germaine
Commissioner of Health & Human Services

Percy Benjamin
Commissioner of Community Development

Bradley Harrington
Commissioner of Natural Resources

Rick St. Germaine
Commissioner of Education

Department of Administration

Significant accomplishments, 2017

• Human Resources Department: Restructured the department to provide services more efficiently while promoting Band member employment.

• Government Affairs Department: Continued to be instrumental in maintaining the Band’s local, state and federal relationships and assisting with the community activities and rallies in support of law enforcement and a new Joint Powers Agreement with Mille Lacs County. Government Affairs staff also oversee communications to Band members through the Inaajimowin, the Band’s new website (with increased security measures and more user-friendly navigation), Facebook and a newly updated programs and services guide.

• Department of Labor: Has undergone a restructuring with new leadership.

• Information Systems Office: Continued to provide significant information technology services to the Band government.

• Self-Governance Office: Continued to be a self-governance role model for other tribes. The Self-Governance Office recently submitted a multi-year funding agreement to the Department of the Interior, through which federal funding is obtained for the Band’s health and human services, administration, natural resources, social services, housing, roads, courts, and education programs.

• Held the Band’s first program fair in District II at the East Lake Community Center. All programs and departments as well as Corporate Ventures were present. Program fairs are designed to make programs into mobile offices for a day so that the Band is better positioned to provide services to Band members who may be unable to come to the government center.

Goals, 2018

• Begin the program planning phase for the new Hinckley Community Center and create job descriptions. This phase will involve the elected officials and a planning committee gathering input from the community for programming priorities.

• Develop a portal/kiosk to enable Band members who live in the districts and the Urban Area to submit online applications and materials for services.

• Update human resources policies, job descriptions, and salary compendiums to provide a better job-seeking process to applicants.

• Complete the forensic audit of the Department of Labor as instructed by Executive Order and Secretarial Order. Upon completion of the audit, the department will begin an informational campaign to educate Band members regarding programs, services, opportunities and requirements.

• Propose to establish a Band-owned and operated radio station that will provide information to the members.

• Propose (in coordination with other Band departments) to establish a Band-owned and operated light auto shop. This project will provide training to Band members who are interested in becoming certified mechanics, reduce operating costs, and keep dollars circulating within the community because it will service Band vehicles.

• Expand Tribal Employee Rights Office (TERO) opportunities. This includes working with the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades to expand the Cement Mason Union. From this partnership, two cohorts of 25 tribal members from across the state will be able to attend apprenticeship training in April 2018. It also includes hosting the 3rd annual Construct Tomorrow event in February, which will expose Native students from across the state to trade and technical jobs, and the 2nd annual training with the Heavy Equipment Operators Union in June.

• Play a key role in the national 30th anniversary celebration of the Tribal Self-Governance Program, of which the Mille Lacs Band was one of the original members.

Department of Community Development

Significant accomplishments, 2017

• Completed construction of the new District III Community Center.

• Hired a new housing general contractor position. This individual will create more positions in construction, with an emphasis on current housing rehab needs. Up to 10 positions may be created.

• Moved toward Housing Board policy changes; the board’s policy authority is to be ratified by the Band Assembly. One of the policy changes recently approved by the Housing Board was assumption of mortgages for the purpose of enhancing marketability of homes on Band-owned land. A Band member could assume the mortgage of another Band member if certain criteria are met; assumption is available only for homes located on Band-leased land.

Goals, 2018

• Increase home loan amounts, so that a Band member may loan up to $200,000 (vs. the current $160,000 maximum).

• Provide more home loans to Band members by utilizing Housing Initiative funding.

• Change policy to allow Band members to utilize home loans to purchase existing homes on Band land (regular rental housing stock) and use a loan to purchase and make repairs in the unit at an affordable cost.

• Create a rent-to-own program for Band members.

• Explore/expand housing opportunities for Band members in the Urban Area.

• Break ground on the new District I Community Center next to the new clinic facility.

• Provide safe parks and recreation opportunities to the youth in our communities.


District I
2 new rentals completed
3 Elder and 2 h/c units started
2 rental remodels completed, 1 started
5 private Elder renovations
13 demolitions
Sher subdivision completed (56 lots)

District IIA
1 demo/replace started for new Elder unit

District II East Lake
1 Elder home completed

District III Hinckley
4 rentals completed
2 Elder and 1 HUD rental demo/replace started
1 h/c rental rehab completed
4 private Elder rehabs completed
1 private h/c rehab
Zhinwaak Oodena III completed (45 lots)

District III Lake Lena
2 Elder and 2 HUD rentals completed
1 rental remodel started
1 private Elder rehab started

Urban Area
2 private Elder rehabs completed

Department of Education

Significant accomplishments, 2017

• Made progress toward creating an Ojibwemowin Immersion School by preparing five teacher trainees for both elementary and secondary classes at Wewinabi and Nay Ah Shing School. Trainees launched immersion classes in pre-school and kindergarten in the fall of 2017, teaching students only in the Ojibwe language.

• Improved Nay Ah Shing student reading achievement significantly in 2016-2017 in grades kindergarten, 1, 2, 4 and 5.

• Revamped Niigaan, an after-school and summer activities program that develops emotional stability and social adjustment, improves academic achievement, and reduces summer academic learning losses.

Pressing issues, 2017

• Reduce the rate of adverse childhood experiences among our students, which can lead to high-risk behaviors, depression, health impediments, and compromised school performance.

• Improve the rate of reading to children from birth to age five, a key period of brain development, so that children are set up for success in literacy and reading comprehension.

• Train and certify more Band member teachers to affirm Ojibwe students in developing their identity and to share their linguistic and cultural practices.

• Increase environmental Ojibwe language exposure in all District communities to establish a value and a motive for use of our sacred language outside of the classroom.

Goals, 2018

• Introduce a vocational/industrial education program located next to the high school building that will construct marketable products such as sheds and fish houses. This will contribute to the effort to reduce secondary school student absenteeism.

• Participate in Achieve 3000, a three-year model literacy development program.

• Expand the Enokiijig Ojibwemowin School into the first grade. The Ojibwemowin Immersion Program will advance another grade each year. Eventually, the Band will open an Ojibwemowin immersion elementary school.

• Lay the groundwork for a Montessori prototype early childhood education program at Wewinabi.

• Meet Nay Ah Shing-wide academic goals for 2017-2018:
o 52% of K-5 students will exceed NWEA MAP math growth projection goals
o 60% of K-5 students will exceed NWEA MAP reading growth projection goals
o 46% of 6-12 students will exceed NWEA MAP math growth projection goals
o 52% of 6-12 students will exceed NWEA MAP reading growth projection goals

Department of Health & Human Services

Significant accomplishments, 2017

• Restructured HHS to redefine health and its serviceable impact within the districts of the Band and its outreach in greater Minnesota.

• Operated 30 new initiatives to support multidisciplinary efforts in healing the effects of substance use disorder through Culture Recognition and Harm Reduction. Working together, many departments are undergoing policy and practice revisions to best address the impact that opioid, methamphetamine and heroin addiction have had on families. Community education clinics and discussion forums are held weekly and monthly.
Significant accomplishments, 2017 (continued)

• Operated Four Winds Treatment Lodge, located in Brainerd, the region’s only cultural, full-time, supervised living facility for inpatient treatment of substance use disorder. This is a 16-bed facility.

Goals, 2018

Mino waasa inaabiidaa. “We look towards the good future.” - Elder Boyd S., 2017

• Propose a unique, cultural partnership to provide quality health care to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe First Citizens, called the “Hope, Health, and Healing Pathway.” This initiative extends the Bimaadiziwin cultural health belief model as a framework for Anishinabe beliefs and culture to affect the mind, body, heart and spirit in understanding how best to achieve wellness in our community.

• Complete construction of the District I Clinic within 18 months. It will house all support services and expand the medical capabilities for more providers, administrative staff, and clinical service hours.

• Propose a bright outlook for further medical services in the Urban Area and District II.

• Open a 10-chair dialysis center in Isle in late spring with a specialized dialysis provider and doctor of pharmacy to oversee clinical support for patients.

• Commence medication-assisted therapy at Four Winds Treatment Lodge in early spring. Staff training in addiction specialties and life skills are proposed.

Department of Natural Resources

Significant accomplishments, 2017

• Retrieved sacred items in Denver and brought them home to the Mille Lacs Band.

• Secured a Circle of Flight grant to improve wildlife habitat at the Willmus Property, with a focus on species that benefit from aspen regeneration. These species include deer, grouse, and song birds.

• Implemented a cooperative pontoon nesting project for common terns with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. The goal is to provide a safe nesting area for common terns, which are in decline in Minnesota. Mille Lacs is one of only five breeding colonies in Minnesota.

• Monitored the spread of invasive species in the 1837 ceded territory and on tribal lands and properties. These invasive species can threaten areas of tribal berry harvesting or medicinal plant gathering. The Wildlife Program coordinates projects to control invasive plants.

• Hosted the 1st Annual Youth Fishing Tournament.

• Received certification for Conservation Officers in airboat and motorboat operations.

Pressing issues, 2017

• Catch up on the lease backlog. (The Real Estate Department is nearly caught up.)

• Create policies and procedures for the Recording Office.

• Create a Certificate of Title for all homes located on Band lands.

• Monitor Band cemeteries.

• Monitor the threat of chronic wasting disease (CWD) spreading into tribal hunting areas.

• Monitor the threats and impacts of climate change, invasive species, and emerald ash borer.

Goals, 2018

• File two fee-to-trust applications within the next 30 days, then one application per month.

• Create a Land Consolidation Plan and Comprehensive Plan.

• Submit HEARTH Leasing Regulations for federal approval.

• Launch the Recording Office into full service.

• Make geographic information system (GIS) mapping accessible to Band members online.

• Audit GIS maps for coordinates and adjust parcels accordingly.

• Continue to focus on addressing the threat of invasive species.

• Improve wildlife area habitat.

• Continue to protect imperiled species such as the common tern, purple martin, and wood turtle.

• Continue to monitor the spread and threat of CWD.


• Total Mille Lacs Band membership: 4,690 (as of October 1, 2017)

• Total applications submitted to enrollment office: 261 (October 2016-September 2017)

• DNR employees:
o 33 (District I)
o 4 (District II)
o 5 (District III)