Aaniin, Boozhoo! This biboon (winter) in Minnesota has certainly been one of extreme cold and snow. We set a new record in Minnesota for the greatest snow fall since 1962, and a record for the coldest winter since 1996. While the majority of the rest of the world is setting records for heat and drought, there are a few small pockets in the world that have experienced extreme cold and snow, and we happen to live in one of those pockets. Global warming through climate change is happening at an alarming pace across the world, despite our localized experience this winter. I heard someone say, “It is called global warming for a reason, not where-you-happen-to-live warming.”
As a tribal government and as Native people, we need to do our part to reduce our carbon footprint. I was very proud of a group of student warriors from Nay Ah Shing, who recently made a presentation to the Corporate Commission about using paper products rather than styrofoam, and the casinos have now made that change. The Band has a number of initiatives that are in the planning stage to reduce our carbon footprint, which you will hear about later this spring.
At the State of the Band Address this year, I announced that my office would be providing small grants to groups of our New Warrior community activists working to better our community. New Warrior Grant applications are now available, for an amount not to exceed $5,000. These are competitive grants and funds are limited. Please check the Chief Executive Facebook page for more information or call/email to request an application be mailed to you. Applications are also available on-site in our office.
I am happy to announce that we have two new commissioners on board. Band member Nicole Anderson was sworn in as our new Commissioner of Health and Human Services. Nicole previously ran the Four Winds Lodge treatment center owned by the Band. A search is underway for a permanent Commissioner of Education, but in the meantime, Band member Joyce Shingobe agreed to a 45-day term as Commissioner of Education. Chi miigwech to Joyce for helping us in this capacity while this search commences. Interviews for both the Commissioner of Administration and Commissioner of Education positions are taking place during the last week in February.
Other events this month included a meeting of the Tribal Executive Committee (TEC) of the MCT, which was scheduled for January 29 but canceled due to extreme cold. Governor Tim Walz’s office said they wanted to keep the meeting with tribal leaders scheduled for that day, so we drove up to Bois Forte the night before. Early that morning, we learned the Governor’s helicopter pilot said it was too dangerous to fly. Instead, we held
a conference call with both Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Fla- nagan and discussed the government shutdown, and ways the state could assist tribes. Our longer lunch meeting was rescheduled for February 26.
On February 5, I was invited along with President Cathy Chavers of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, former Chairwoman Karen Diver of Fond du Lac, and Tadd Johnson to serve on panel at St. John’s University to discuss the impact of boarding schools on Native people. We drove through a blizzard to get to that event, which was attended by a large group of students and faculty. St. John’s is the former site of a Catholic boarding school, and is working on reconciling that darker part of their history with their responsibility to Indian communities today. We discussed a number of ways that the university could provide more assistance to Indian students and tribal communities.
The National Congress of American Indians held its mid-year event February 11-14 in Washington D.C., which I attended. I was able to speak with several federal officials about assistance the Band needs on jurisdictional issues, and attend an event with Representative Collin Peterson, who represents Red Lake, White Earth, and the Dakota tribes in Minnesota. Congressman Peterson discussed the government shutdown and how other legislation will impact tribes.
I returned home early from D.C. so that I could attend the funeral of Chairman Norman Deschampe, of Grand Portage, who served on tribal council for more than 40 years and served as President of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe for 22 years. Chairman Deschampe was a wonderful leader and friend, and will be deeply missed by his community and those of us who knew him well. At the rescheduled TEC meeting that was held on February 19, we had a time of remembrance for Norman at the beginning of our meeting. A wonderful slide show of photos from his life was shared.
At the TEC meeting, resolutions were adopted supporting legislation from the U.S. Congress that would transfer title of MCT lands to each of the Bands which currently exercise jurisdiction over those lands. Like all of the other Bands, we have some parcels of land which are part of Mille Lacs, but the title is held by the MCT rather than the Mille Lacs Band. We also discussed the Tribal Task Force on Wild Rice, and compared the MCT’s findings with the findings from the state. The Tribal Task Force of course had much more comprehensive recommendations based on science, versus the state’s task force that included representatives from industry. We are meeting with the Governor on February 26 during lunch to discuss next steps.
On February 18, an historic first occurred at the Minnesota State Capitol: Tribal Sovereignty Day. After a wonderful welcome by Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan (White Earth), several tribal leaders spoke about the need to acknowledge the past in order to move forward, a past that is very painful and steeped in injustice and even attempted genocide. State leaders then listened to a two-hour presentation by Tadd Johnson (Bois Forte) of UMD and Rebecca Crooks-Stratton, Secretary-Treasurer of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. They did a great job with the difficult challenge of boiling 300 years of history down to a two-hour presentation.
After lunch, we had a tribal panel in the afternoon to answer questions, and at the end of the day each of the tribal leaders were asked to speak a bit about our hopes for the future. My remarks were about my hopes for Bimaadiziwin for all Band members — the Good Life — which means public safety, wellness, language and culture, education, housing, and economic development. I also spoke about law enforcement and my hopes that neither Mille Lacs nor any other tribe in Minnesota ever goes through what we just went through with Mille Lacs County, when we had to function for two years without a law enforcement agreement in place, and I talked about my hope that rather than fighting, we would do more together in partnership as tribes with the state in areas such as economic development, tourism, and environmental projects.
On February 21, I held a day-long Cabinet meeting with our commissioners to discuss strategic planning for the Band. Com- missioners will be scheduling meetings in each of the Districts to discuss budget matters and get other feedback from community members in the near future.
U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) stopped by to visit on Saturday, February 23. MCT President Cathy Chavers attended along with myself, Commissioner Nicole Anderson, Deputy Arlyn Sam, and other staff. We had good conversations about legislation supported by Senator Smith to assist victims of crime, and we discussed many other topics important to the Band and tribes in Minnesota.
As I write this column, February is ending with a meeting of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council in St. Paul. On February 26, we will have our rescheduled meeting with Governor Walz, and the MCT’s annual Legislative Dinner will take place at our InterContinental Hotel later that evening.
Miigwech to all the Band members who met with me this past month. I hope everyone stays safe and warm as we get through what is hopefully the last month of extreme weather for this winter. Miigwech!