Given all the conflict and controversy in the District I area, with some non-Indian neighbors continually challenging the Band's sovereignty, rights, and reservation, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that the Band has non-Indian friends and allies in Mille Lacs County.
With that in mind, the Government Affairs Department, led by Director Katie Draper, invited some of those neighbors to an event at Eddy's Resort on October 16 to show appreciation and get some ideas on how the Band can work together with the non-Indian communities for the benefit of all.
Katie welcomed about 50 community members who had re- sponded to an invitation to dinner and conversation. “We value you and your role in changing the conversation around Mille Lacs Lake,“ said Katie. “We all know that it isn’t just about the walleye. We need to have open dialogue and mutual respect. We need to keep growing the positive relationships."
Following an invocation by Commissioner of Natural Resources Bradley Harrington, folks enjoyed a chicken dinner at diverse tables of Band members, employees, and neighbors while discussing everything from history to health care and brainstorming ways to improve the community.
After dinner, Bradley gave a synopsis of 500 years of the Band's history, blending content from history books with the oral traditions he's learned in 30-plus years in the community.
The event concluded with a few minutes of questions and answers. Band member Dave Sam responded to a question about some of the positive developments in the area. He talked about the difficulty of growing up in Isle as the only Native in his class and pointed to the wastewater treatment facility, where he is the manager, as an example of improvements since his youth.
He also pointed to the efforts of his wife Mary Sam as a former Government Affairs employee and Onamia School Board member who helped bring some of the people in the room together through Voices of Unity and the Mille Lacs Human Rights Commission.
One participant asked if the Ojibwe language is related to other languages.
Bradley told the story of how the manidoog (spirits) looked down in pity on the Anishinaabe and decided to give them the language of the spirits to help them out.
Tom and Kathy Jackson of Wahkon said, “We were honored to be included in the Mille Lacs Band’s get-together. It was very informative. Meeting and dialogue are keys to understanding in every community. Miigwech!“
Additional community outreach events will be held in the Mille Lacs area in the future. If you'd like information or to participate, call Katie Draper at 320-515-0846 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.