The 'Other' Legislature — Band Assembly Members, Staff Visit Capitol


Members of the Legislative Branch, along with staff and guests, visited the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul on Friday, November 8, to learn about the state’s legislative process from Clerk of the House Patrick Murphy.

They were welcomed by Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, who greeted the guests with warm hugs and handshakes. Peggy talked about her two terms in the House of Representatives, including the challenges of being in the minority party and one of four Native women in the House.

“We spent the bulk of our time stopping bad stuff from happening, because the GOP (Republican Party) was in control,” said Peggy.

She said they paid special attention to bills that affected tribes. They would bring them to their Republican authors and ask where the bill originated. In most cases, it came as a re- quest from counties with no input from the tribes.

In her 10 months as Lieutenant Governor, Peggy said she and Governor Tim Walz have done what they could to change that, including passing an Executive Order requiring tribal consultation on issues impacting tribes and their members. “Government-to-government relationships are at the heart of what we do every day,” she said. “We get some push back — ’Why are Natives getting all this attention?’ — but we’re simply doing what’s been required of the state for the last 150 years.”

Peggy added that she would not be where she is today without the support of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

After a fun photo session on the House floor, Peggy went back to her office, and Patrick Murphy spoke about his role as Clerk and the legislative process in the House.

Patrick holds a non-partisan office in the House and is unanimously elected by the representatives each term. He provides training to new members, new committee chairs, and Speakers of the House each time the majority shifts between the two parties — which has occurred often during his tenure.

Patrick talked about the House rules, which encourage respectful debate, and the procedures, which require that time is taken to consider each bill in depth. “The process was not designed to be efficient,” Patrick said. “It was designed to be slow and deliberative.”

Out of 2,921 bills introduced in the House and 2,925 in the Senate this year, only 65 became law. “There is a tremendous weeding-out process,” Patrick said.

Secretary/Treasurer Sheldon Boyd said, “What occurred to me was the Mille Lacs Band Legislature is the co-equal of the Minnesota Legislature by design, function, and authority.“

He pointed out that the Minnesota Legislature is one of only two legislative bodies in the state of Minnesota. The other is the Legislative Branch of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe — the only one of the state’s 11 tribes with a division of powers government and a separate Legislative Branch.

Following Patrick’s presentation, the group was given a guided tour of the Capitol, including the Supreme Court, the Senate, and the Governor’s reception room.

”I found the visit especially interesting, hearing from the Chief Clerk of the House Patrick Murphy,” said Representative Sandi Blake. ”His position is parallel to our Parliamentarian Darcie Big Bear and her duties. Darcie is like the backbone to the Legislative Branch. We all work as a team, and everyone has their job to do. Darcie and her Clerk, Kiana Morrison, do a lot of work to make sure that Band Assembly happens. I appreciate them and all they do — which is a lot.”

The tour concluded in a new room displaying two controversial paintings that were removed from the reception room during the recent renovation of the Capitol.

One painting showed the signing of the Treaty of Traverse de Sioux — an event celebrated in the painting but now seen as a deceptive effort to gain control of Indian land by the state’s “founding fathers” Alexander Ramsey and Henry Sibley.

The second painting shows Father Hennepin’s “discovery” of St. Anthony Falls, a site that was sacred to Native Americans for thousands of years. In the painting, Hennepin is sur- rounded by Indian people sitting silently at his feet in various states of undress.

Tour participants read the descriptions of the paintings and the accompanying written commentary by a variety of Native and non-Native Minnesotans, including Lieutenant Governor Flanagan and Bemidji State Professor Anton Treuer.

Photos: Patrick Murphy and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan spoke with Band members about the Minnesota House of Representatives on November 8. Parliamentarian Darcie Big Bear got to try out the desk of Murphy, whose role of Clerk of the House is similar to Darcie's role in Band Assembly. Several Band members posed for selfies with the Lieutenant Governor.