Meet Your District III Constitutional Convention Delegates


In this issue and upcoming issues of Ojibwe Inaajimowin, Constitutional Convention delegates will share information about themselves and why they choose to participate in the Conventions. This month, District III delegates Bernadine ’Birdie’ Roberts and Maria Costello are featured.

Bernadine ’Birdie’ Roberts — Secretary

Why did you decide to be a delegate? I saw this as a great opportunity to learn our government’s history — how and why we became part of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.

What was the Constitution’s original purpose, and does it serve our purpose today? The committee is working diligently to put together information about the Constitution. Our goal is to provide this information to every Band member so we as a community can determine what parts of the Constitution should be revised and what parts can stay the same.

This was done the same way back in the 1980s. The Mille Lacs Band created a committee to revise the Constitution and included all Band members by holding public hearings for three years. The final version was a consensus of the Band community, done in a traditional way by asking for input from the community.

And what did the community revise within the MCT Constitution? The outcome of that effort in the 1980s was our form of government. We went from an RBC (Reservation Business Committee) form of government to a division of powers government with Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches.

In a speech to the MCT’s Tribal Executive Committee (TEC)in 1980, Chief Executive Art Gahbow said, "Mille Lacs Band leadership felt there were inherent limitations and risks of the Business Committee structure, with all power vested with one body. Band leadership wanted Band government to be more responsive to the needs of the people, to allow the people to participate, to report to the people, and, ultimately, be accountable to the people."

Maria Costello — Assistant Secretary

Why did you decide to become a delegate? I would like to help create something that will benefit my children and generations to come. I want to make sure my children will have a future and that their children will too. I am eager to learn and understand the MCT Constitution and how the Mille Lacs Band fits within it. I want more Band Members to be involved with this process. The people are the power.

It is very important for me to fully understand the MCT Constitution, how the Mille Lacs Band fits into the MCT, and what is working and not working for our community under the Constitution.

Personally, I also feel that our current Constitution is outdated, and it needs to be updated to match the modern time we live in with a focus on our traditional beliefs.

What do Band members need to know about the Constitutional Convention? People are the power; with everyone’s voice, we can make change where it needs to happen. We need Band member involvement; this will make the Constitutional Convention successful. We have a very organized delegation, but without the people we will not get anywhere, so I encourage everyone to get involved, ask questions, voice your concerns, and help us make the changes necessary.

The biggest issue I have experienced is that the Band members don’t really know what the MCT constitution does for the Mille Lacs Band, so we as a delegation will need to educate our communities first.