By Amikogaabwiikwe (Adrienne Benjamin) Mille Lacs Band Member
If you recently attended a Mille Lacs Band candidate forum, you saw two new faces — Wayne Ducheneaux and Jayme Davis — who helped the Band moderate the events. Wayne and Jayme both work for the Native Governance Center (NGC), a Native American-led nonprofit organization that assists Tribal nations in strengthening their systems of governance and capacity to exercise sovereignty.
Wayne is the Executive Director of the organization and is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. Jayme is the Program Manager of NGC and is a proud member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and descendent of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota.
The organization was created in response to a need identified by tribal leaders representing the 23 Native nations in our region. These leaders expressed the need for an organization that would meet the expanding demand for tribal governance-related resources and sustain this work into the long-term future. Native Governance Center works at the intersection of leadership development and tribal governance support.
Acting in accordance with its mission, NGC offers a range of programs and services to build leadership skills and assist tribes in reaching their own governance goals. They are the stewards of the famed Native Nation Rebuilder Program, which is a two-year, cohort-based initiative designed to help participants develop the knowledge, skills, and connections they need to effectively lead nation-building efforts in their own tribal regions. This year, they are launching a spin-off of the Rebuilders program called “Youth Re- builders” (see page 9). It’s a summer experience that equips Native youth with nation-building training to develop the next generation of Native leaders.
In addition to these two amazing programs, they also offer tribal governance support to tribes in three key areas:
– Customized tribal assistance: NGC helps tribes create and implement governance solutions through technical assistance and consulting services.
– Tribal resource grants: These grants help connect Native nations to resources which strengthen governance.
– Education: NGC works with tribes to host large and small- scale educational convenings, in addition to several educational events to the general public each year.
When asked why the organization was excited to work with Mille Lacs on the candidate forums, Wayne said, “We embraced the opportunity to moderate the Mille Lacs Band forums because we believe (and research shows) that an open, transparent electoral process is a cornerstone of stable governments. The process developed by Mille Lacs allows candidates to come together to inform the community on why they should be chosen to lead the Band. Through the moderated question format, community members are informing candidates on the issues they see as most relevant. A well-informed constituency that participates in elections is foundational to any democratic system. It is also, more importantly, reflective of how we as Native people traditionally governed ourselves. Informed participation is something that our leaders relied upon well before colonization.”
NGC was also called upon recently during the MCT Constitutional Conventions to help conduct educational sessions. “Our goal was to serve the TEC and the entire membership by providing meetings that were well-facilitated, well-constructed, and with content that would be relevant to the demanding effort that constitution reform is. Our plan, now that the seven meetings are complete, is to provide a report to the TEC that allows for them to plan their next steps in moving forward with a Constitutional Convention process,” Wayne explained.
NGC has high hopes for its future in working with tribes and its role as a champion and friend of tribal sovereignty not just in Minnesota, but across the country.