State, Federal Politics Loom Large in Indian Country


Anyone who is paying attention to state and national politics knows that the shift in power – from Democrat to Republican – is likely to have a long- term negative impact on Indian Country.

From allowing oil pipelines to run through tribal lands to attempts to end the Affordable Health Care Act – also known as Obamacare – the progress made in the past eight years to improve the lives of Native Americans is being reversed under the Trump administration and in the state.

“We’re in a place where there was a shift in power in Minnesota,” said Jamie Edwards, the Band’s Special Advisor for Intergovernmental Affairs. “The shift has created a dynamic of a Republican Legislature and a Democratic-controlled Governor’s office.”

“What it means is that it led to a contentious legislative session filled with philosophical differences,” he continued. “In a year when you have to enact a budget because it’s constitutionally- mandated it means that things are complicated.”

Nationally, there were several things put into play that have the potential to hurt tribes – including the Mille Lacs Band. This includes healthcare, education and the responsibility for trust lands. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency is the federal agency that is charged with being stewards of protecting the land and is the primary caretaker of natural resources. The Trump administration’s move to weaken or even dismantle the agency can leave tribes in a vulnerable spot.

Many of the dollars that are carved out for tribes come through the federal budget, and under this current climate, “it’s an unfavorable environment for tribal interests,” Jamie said. “With the flick of a pen, the President can change the course for Native Americans.”

Funding cuts at the federal and state levels will impact Band members in a host of ways that are yet to be determined.