Aaniin, Boozhoo! This month began with the mid-year meeting of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), which was held in Kansas City, Missouri. The theme of this year’s conference was “Lighting the Way: Tribes Leading Change.” This year’s focus was on identifying and sharing best practices for addressing the Opioid epidemic in Indian Country. At NCAI’s invitation, I participated as a panelist on a discussion about tribally-designed programs that incorporate culture and tradition in prevention and treatment.
One aspect of NCAI that many people don’t realize is that nearly every top federal official in the U.S. government who has authority over matters in Indian country attends these conferences, so NCAI meetings are an excellent opportunity to obtain one-on-one time with some of the most powerful policy-makers in Indian country. As an example, there are two top officials in the administration who we wanted to meet with about our public safety issues. Ordinarily it would take up to a few months to schedule these meetings in D.C. Instead, I was able to get their immediate attention at NCAI and have a productive meeting there.
One of my favorite events this month was attending Nay Ah Shing graduation! It was wonderful to see our high school graduates and all the proud and happy families that evening. These young Band members have so much potential and are going to do great things in the world. Congratulations to all our Band high school graduates from Onamia, Isle, McGregor, Hinckley, Pine City and Sandstone and the urban area, as well as from all across the rest of Minnesota and the Nation, and congratulations as well to the many Band members who achieved their college and graduate degrees. Education is a key to success in the world, and it’s something no one can ever take away from you!
On the topic of Band youth, please let your Native youth family members ages 14-24 know that they are invited by Governor Dayton to attend the first-ever Minnesota Tribal Youth Gathering on July 27 at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul campus. This gathering is open to all Native youth living in Minnesota and will bring youth together with tribal and state leaders, civic and business leaders, and educational organizations to focus on challenges facing Native American youth. The gathering will also recognize and amplify the positive work that Native youth in Minnesota are doing to improve their communities and discuss topics including culture and language revitalization, health, education, history, self-sufficiency, sovereignty, youth engagement, and public leadership development.
The only eligibility requirement is that Native youth must first sign up for the Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) challenge, which is a pledge to make a positive difference in their community, by July 27. The Gen-I challenge is available at this link: https:// aspeninstitute.wufoo.com/forms/zkr0zs- l1m6qyvp/. Miigwech to Amanda Eagle and Roxanne Emerson for volunteering their time on the Governor’s Steering Committee to help plan this event!
On a more somber note, like every other tribe in Minnesota, we are facing a crisis with out-of-home placement of Band children, but recent events created cause for greater concern about how placement is happening. To examine these issues, the Band has hired the Jacobson Law Group to conduct an investigation of Band processes involved with out-of-home placement of Band children. The two lead attorneys who will be handling the investigation are highly experienced with child welfare issues. At a certain point, families will be interviewed as well about their experiences. Miigwech to the Band members who bravely shared their story and prompted this investigation. We will keep Band members updated about this process as it unfolds.
On June 11, the Tribal Executive Committee (TEC) of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (MCT) held a Special Meeting at Mille Lacs to consider a censure motion regarding me that was brought up at the previous TEC meeting by Secretary-Treasurer Carolyn Beaulieu. I presented my response to the motion at the
Special Meeting, and then the vote was taken. Secretary-Treasurer Carolyn Beaulieu voted “yes” to censure. Chairwoman Cathy Chavers (Bois Forte), Chairman Terry Tibbetts (White Earth), Chairman Faron Jackson (Leech Lake), Chairman Nor- man Deschampe (Grand Portage), Secretary-Treasurer David Morrison (Bois Forte), Secretary-Treasurer Ferdinand Martineau (Fond du Lac), and myself all voted “no” against censure, so the motion was voted down by 7-1, 0 silent. Miigwech to all the Band Members who attended this meeting.
Other meetings I attended this month include the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council (MIAC), a board meeting of the Minnesota Board on Aging, a quick trip to Cloquet to visit the Wisdom Steps Conference, and the National Leadership Conference sponsored by Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures. The National Leadership Conference was outstanding, and I was excited to see how our community values were reflected in the leadership philosophies shared. Miigwech to Commissioner Joseph Nayquonabe and the Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures team who did excellent work to make this conference happen.
Please mark your calendars for 10 a.m. on July 10 at Grand Casino Mille Lacs for the Swearing-In Ceremony of our new elected officials: Secretary-Treasurer Sheldon Boyd, District II Representative Marvin Bruneau, and District III Representative Wallace St. John. We are blessed to have many, many Band Members in our community who have stepped up as leaders in many ways over these past two years, which has had a significant and positive impact on our community. I hope to see all of you on July 10 so that we can welcome in our new elected leaders and celebrate leadership at all levels! Chi Miigwech!