Work, Sacrifice, and Gratitude — 2020 State of the Legislative Branch


Good morning all, and welcome, Mille Lacs Band members, Mille Lacs Band Employees, Mille Lacs Band Elders, Distinguished Guests. Welcome to the Mille Lacs Band 36th Annual State of the Band Address.

By Mille Lacs Band Statute, on the second Tuesday of each calendar year, the Chief Executive is mandated to give the Annual State of the Band Address to the Band Assembly of the Legislative Branch of the Mille Lacs Band Government.

Shortly it is my duty as Speaker of the Assembly to open the 1st Session of the 19th Assembly of the Mille Lacs Band Legislature.

But first, allow me please to introduce the members of the Legislative Branch and Band Assembly:

The Honorable District I Representative Sandra Blake
The Honorable District II Representative Marvin Bruneau The Honorable District III Representative Wally St. John Commissioner of Finance Mel Towle
Parliamentarian Darcie Big Bear
Staff Attorneys Christine Jordan, Hannah Valento, Joaquin Gallegos
Legislative Staff Director Wendy Merrill, Val Harrington, Brianna Boyd, Semira Kimpson, Kiana Morrison, Deanna Sam, Cheryl Miller, Michelle Pomerleau, Billie Boyd, Pam Eagle, Mikayla Schaaf.

We cannot forget the staff of the Office of Management and Budget, Chris Waite, Katy Radunz, Joni Wall, and all the OMB Staff.

Next, please allow me to provide a brief update on what’s been going on since taking office July 10, 2018.

Legislative report

There are two legislatures in the State of Minnesota: the Mille Lacs Band Legislature and Minnesota State Legislature.

The Mille Lacs Band Legislative Branch, arguably the most powerful, is the source of all finance and beginning of all substantive change in our government.

The inherent power to make law lives within the sovereignty of Anishinaabe, and that inherent power is then delegated, via the constitution and government, to the District Representatives of the Band Assembly and Chief Executive by elections.

Your Representatives are there to make laws on your behalf. That is the Legislature’s most important function within our nation.

Laws are, in a sense, a record of a nation and legacy.

For example, the United States has among other landmark laws the Civil Rights Act, the Social Security Act, the Voting Rights Act, and more directly in effect here are the Indian Civil Rights Act, the Self Determination Act, and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, among others.

Mille Lacs Band leaders some 40 years ago had the daring to establish this three-branch government on this small Nay Ah Shing Community on the Mille Lacs Reservation. It may well have been the only three-branch tribal government at that time.

But the foundation was laid. The forethought and courage to accept this new system had to come from the people or it certainly would have failed.

That brings us to today. The Anishinaabe of time immemorial have adapted to the times linguistically and governmentally.

We are looking to make substantive improvements here in the Mille Lacs Legislative Branch, which includes establishing a Revisor of Statutes Office and implementing an electronic audio video system that assists the parliamentarian to meet the statutory mandate of recording the acts and deeds of the Legislature.

Members of the Mille Lacs Legislative Branch have recently made trips to the Minnesota Legislature offices to network and gather information about established practices.

There was a visit to the Chief Clerk for the House of Representatives Pat Murphy, The Minnesota House and Senate where we were warmly received and gathered more insight to that larger environment.

Interestingly, part of the presentation by the Chief Clerk, and I hope I remember this correctly, mentioned foundations for U.S. and State Legislative decorum is based on the Iroquois Confederacy, where respect for each other and order within meetings was borrowed early in the years of the United States.

New and revised laws

Now the planned Revisor’s Office has a huge task.

In particular was a visit to the Office of the Revisor of Statutes where staff there was welcoming and openly shared best practices and reference material for drafting bills for the law-making process.
Again, I thank Sandy Glass and staff for their attention.

Mille Lacs Band Statutes, not printed since 2006, are planned to be reprinted and published periodically.
As an example, in your packets at each table seat is a draft bill: Title 27 — The Open Meeting and Data Practices Act.

This draft bill tracks the initiatives that are part of the set of goals of my term as Secretary/Treasurer — the need for transparency in government and live streaming of Band Assembly sessions.

This bill has a sponsor in District III Representative Wally St. John, is meant to provide more transparency and oversight by the people, and is expansive in the material covered. Please read this.
This proposed law is meant to provide a framework to begin to clarify how the government protects and manages all types of information, and if enacted will be landmark legislation and keeps Mille Lacs as one of the more progressive tribal governments.

Now a law like this only means something if you read it and hold your government to the law, and the government must breathe life into the words by action.

One Band statute under review is Title 8 — Child Protection. The review process will include collecting information at community meetings and an Elder panel. It is sponsored by District I Representative Sandra Blake. Other statutes under review are Title 8 — Child support; Title 23, Section 9 — Prohibited Drugs Statute; Title 21 — Chapter 4: Unlawful Detain- er; Title 22 — Commissioner of Finance Description; Title 25 — Steven Tibbetts; Title 16 — Corporate; Title 18 — TERO; and Title 9 — Education.

Economic security

When gaming came to our tribe, some 30 years ago now, I remember the goal was to learn the gaming business and eventually begin management of our casinos — not let someone else manage what we can do ourselves.

The first seven years was a partnership with Grand Casinos and we shared profits.

In exchange, the Mille Lacs Band gained the experience of gaming management and, with eventual termination of that relationship, began exclusive management and received 100 percent of the profits.

Now during this time of 20-plus years, the Mille Lacs Band has invested those gaming profits and used those investments to make possible many other benefits, like housing, health care, and business diversification.

We all should applaud the efforts of our leaders over these 30 years of what can be called the Gaming Era.

However, it is the management of our investments that hasn’t tracked along with the management goals of our casinos, and we are not alone in this.

Tribes across the land have natural resources of coal, gas, and oil, and gaming that has brought prosperity, and the experiences of that prosperity are wide ranging in history.

There historically has been a mix of theft and swindle, successes and great accomplishment, from the example of the book Killers of the Flower Moon to the Native American Finance Officers Association.

The movement toward taking a more active role in the management of Tribal finances is a shared movement among tribes nationally.

This subject matter falls squarely on the Office of the Secretary/Treasurer, to evaluate and make recommendations.

These investments are the economic security of the Mille Lacs Band.

Therefore, an independent evaluation of the Band’s investments and other financial entities is planned, and approval from the leaders of the Mille Lacs Band will be sought.

If approved, there will be further evaluation of the current laws and infrastructure of Band government to adequately monitor and take a more active role in managing investments.

This evaluation and any substantive recommendations will be firsts, and will be keeping Mille Lacs at the forefront along with other progressive tribes.

Laying the foundation

Now before I open the 1st Session of the 19th Band Assembly, allow me to pass on a personal memory.
I remember in the early 1960s, my dad on his land, his individual trust allotment, the document signed by President Calvin Coolidge, on Wigwam Bay, having us kids help mix cement in a trough, handing us a trowel, just so we knew how it felt, showing us how to lay bricks for the foundation of the house we were going to live in.

Weekends of plumb lines, piles of dirt, string levels, wearing his same work clothes that still had cement on them from a week of work on the streets of Minneapolis as a truck driver delivering building materials.

Just him and his children laying the foundation for what was going to be a safe place to live for many years to come.

Only to bring his drum out and sing at the end of the day in an open-framed section of the house after my mom fed everyone.

This is the kind of work, sacrifice, and gratitude that guides many Anishinaabe families here today — the kind of work, sacrifice, and gratitude that will be needed to prepare things for our children and their children.

Miigwech. I call to order the 1st Session of the 19th Assembly in the Nay Ah Shing Community on January 14, 2020.