Melanie Benjamin will continue to serve as Chief Executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and Virgil Wind will assume the position of District I Representative after the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe’s general election on August 18.
This the sixth consecutive win for Melanie, who received 58.94 percent of the votes compared to 41.06 percent for challenger Carolyn Beaulieu. A total of 1,096 ballots were cast in the race for Chief Executive.
Melanie said she is excited about what the Band is poised to achieve over the next few years with community involvement and close collaboration with other elected officials. "In our three-branch system of government, it takes unity and cooperation to get big things done," said Melanie. "We have that now. I'm excited about our future and what we’re going to achieve together for Band members."
In the race for District I Representative, Virgil Wind received 57.12 percent while incumbent Sandra Blake received 42.88 percent of the 646 ballots cast for District I Representative.
Wind has served as an Onamia Public School District school board chairman, local Indian parent committee member, businessman, and independent contractor.
"As the Onamia Public School chairman, I have learned valuable lessons on leadership," said Virgil. "One of the most important aspects of this work has been empowering people and bridging communities, something I hold in high regard," said Wind. "I value every lesson I have learned along the way as they made me who I am today, a resilient and compassionate leader. I pledge to always have the best interest of the Band at the heart of every decision and will always have an open door. I am ready to listen to the Band members and get to work for the community."
The Band Assembly, which is the Legislative Branch of the tribal government, consists of one Representative from each of the Reservation’s three districts and the Secretary/Treasurer, who presides over the Band Assembly as Speaker of the Assembly. The Chief Executive leads the Executive Branch. All elected officials serve four-year terms.
"All of the ideas in this election had to do with how we can best serve the people, and the best ideas always come from the people," Melanie added. "During this election we talked about some big goals for the Band, and I know that working together, we will achieve every one of those goals. If we follow our Anishinaabe values and keep our Elders, our children, and our future front-and-center every day, I am convinced that the best days of the Mille Lacs Band are ahead of us. To me, there is no higher calling than service to our Band and I am grateful we have so many Band Members who are committed to public service and building a brighter future together. Miigwech."
More MCT results
The five other Minnesota Chippewa Tribe bands also held general elections on August 18 after the original June election was postponed due to COVID-19.
Incumbent chairpersons were reelected at all except Grand Portage. Robert (Bobby) Deschampe was elected Chairman of Grand Portage by receiving more than 50 percent of the vote in the June primary election.
The White Earth Band reelected Michael Fairbanks in the June 9 primary with over 57 percent of the vote, and Leech Lake reelected Faron Jackson in the June 9 primary with over 54 percent of the vote. In the August 18 general election, Bois Forte reelected Cathy Chavers with 63 percent of the vote over Miranda Lilya, and Fond du Lac reelected Kevin Dupuis with 69 percent over Bryan (Bear) Bosto.
Results of the District Representative elections were: Bois Forte: Travis Morrison (incumbent) 190 votes over Tara Geshick with 170. Fond du Lac: Wally Dupuis (incumbent) 345-232 over Jeroam Defoe. Grand Portage: Marie Spry 136-112 over Rick Anderson. White Earth: Cheryl "Annie" Jackson 424-370 over Eugene (Umsy) Tibbets. Leech Lake incumbent Leroy Staples-Fairbanks won in the June 9 primary with over 77 percent of the vote.
White Earth voters also approved a referendum by a vote of 994 to 150 asking if the tribe should begin growing, regulating, and distributing medical marijuana on the reservation.