By Sheldon Boyd Mille Lacs Band Secretary-Treasurer
Aaniin, Mille Lacs Band Members! It’s been about 100 days since taking office July 10, 2018, and it’s best to provide an update about the progress being made within this newly staffed Legislative Branch.
I would like to thank Parliamentarian Darcie Big Bear, DI Representative Sandi Blake, and DII Representative Marvin Bruneau and staff for their cooperation and patience while passing on their knowledge and experience, and newly elected DIII Representative Wally St. John as we continue with this, the 18th Session of the Mille Lacs Band Assembly.
The learning curve has been steep, but staff members Wendy Merrill, Christine Jordan, Valerie Harrington, Semira Kimpson, Brianna Boyd, and Kiana Morrison are hugely responsible in continuing the tradition of carrying out the duties of the Legislative Branch per Mille Lacs Band Statute.
We are proceeding with the purpose of creating transparency in government, doing what we can to assist the District Representatives in the performance of their duties in Band Assembly Sessions, and will be proposing statutory changes to improve the functions of the Legislative Branch for years to come.
Mille Lacs Band Statute Title 26 Compensation of Elected Officials was made public online the second week in the term of this Legislature, after almost six years of not being a matter of public record.
To make the best use of the time allotted in this term of office, we will be dividing the term into quarters and will do our best to deliver a product to the people in these coming four years.
It is a race against time.
The three goals I see clarifying within these past 100 days are transparency, lawmaking, and the fiduciary responsibility of the Office of the Secretary-Treasurer to administer the financial affairs of the Mille Lacs Band.
People in power should not be allowed to be comfortable. People in power need to be watched and constantly evaluated by those not in power to guard against the tendencies of human nature.
The live streaming of Band Assembly sessions is a priority of this Legislature, and as the Speaker of the Assembly, I plan to exercise the power and duty to require the prompt recording of the Assembly’s acts and deeds under Band law. This is to be a representative government, and it is time to shine a light on the most powerful branch, whose principal duty is to act on behalf of the people.
Vendor bids are currently being evaluated for equipment to retrofit the Band Assembly chambers and mobile counterpart equipment intended to live stream all sessions of Band Assembly where internet connectivity permits. We want to get this right.
I see the primary duty of the Speaker of the Assembly is to promote and facilitate the legislative power vested in the District Representatives by you the people and to prepare documents for consideration by the Chief Executive when necessary.
Current Sessions of Band Assembly are recorded and will be made available. All sessions of Band Assembly are planned to be live streamed when possible and executive sessions are planned to be recorded and archived.
We are doing the business of the people.
It is the right and duty of the people to comment, agree, disagree, second guess, and discuss amongst themselves the actions of their representatives in government. This change in relationship will hopefully empower the people and promote a greater understanding of the difficulties of leadership and the road ahead of us.
I trust the people more than I trust the government.
There are federal, state, and county courthouses across the land where people who go there can almost feel the rule of law. The exercise of tribal government lawmaking and tribal courts and courthouses, in some small way, revives a time when Indigenous tribes were the supreme rulers of this land.
The current Legislature has no permanent infrastructure to provide continuity of expertise when new elected officials take office every two to four years, except for the position of Parliamentarian. When new officials take office, there can be a wholesale change in staff and a relearning of the procedures and concepts starts again. We need to fix that.
Also, a department established under Band law that is dedicated to drafting bills, resolutions, and maintaining the health of the existing laws does not exist. Almost every long-range strategic plan within Mille Lacs Band tribal government over the years had among the top priorities, updating existing Band law.
Therefore, among the top three priorities of this four-year legislative term will be the establishment of such a department, a Revisor of Statutes Office.
This department will be responsible for making the lawmaking process a service to all, including Commissioners, Chief Executive, District Representatives, and most importantly the people of the Mille Lacs Band. A true Legislature.
This department will be tasked with establishing procedure for updating conflicts in existing laws, publishing laws with updates regularly, printing laws, drafting bills and resolutions for consideration by the Band Assembly, and drafting and cataloging all legislative material.
The plan is to have this department become the permanent core of the Legislative Branch to provide institutional expertise to incoming elected officials who are put into office by the people.
Fiduciary responsibility and investments
Our leaders from years past were long-range thinkers. They thought generations ahead, and we are the beneficiaries of that thinking.
The position of Secretary-Treasurer is tasked with administering the financial affairs of the Band and is delegated certain powers and duties to complete this task. These powers will be used to ensure the financial prosperity of the Band, including thoroughly evaluating the management of the Band’s investments.
The Mille Lacs Band Statutes are presently inadequate to properly manage the now significant investments the Band has accrued in over 25 years of gaming. Bills must be drafted for consideration for passage into law that will clearly establish the government’s fiduciary role in investment oversight.
Therefore, an investment board within Band government is presently being researched and financial consultants sought to help establish such a body needed to replace vague processes that have been in place for more than 20 years.
This particular aspect of the duties of the Secretary-Treasurer was not anticipated due to lack of transparency. I didn’t see this coming.
Institutions like the University of Minnesota have a Board of Regents that manage investment portfolios, and there ex- ists the same fiduciary relationship.
With the approval and foresight of the current elected of- ficials, we hope to make this investment board entity a reality within the four-year term the people of the Mille Lacs Band have entrusted to me and the fine staff who have been assembled.
So after 100 days, these three principal projects have come to clarity as priorities, and we will work towards completing these by the end of the four-year term.
As Speaker of the Assembly, I will work towards improving my understanding and performance during sessions of Band Assembly to create a clear record for future generations.
Legislative staff are encouraged to pursue personal and professional career paths during these four years so the Mille Lacs Band will have a larger pool of experienced, qualified leaders to draw on for service in the coming years.
Again, I am truly humbled by the vote of confidence by you, the people of the Mille Lacs Band, who working alongside the legislative staff and elected leaders of the Band, will be able to make changes that will empower the people and change forever the relationship to our tribal government.