Joseph Jensen joined the Legislative Branch as a staff attorney on November 16. Joseph comes to Mille Lacs from North Dakota, where he attended college and law school and interned with the North Dakota Legislative Council.
It was that role with the state legislature that piqued his interest in working for the Band. ”When I saw the job opening with Mille Lacs Band’s Legislative Branch, I could hardly believe it,” said Joseph. ”I thoroughly enjoyed working with the legislators during my time with the North Dakota Legislative Council, and I had been looking for the chance to do something similar. Frankly, this was a perfect fit, and I’m really enjoying it so far.”
Joseph’s prior experience with Indian law is ”academic, rather than practical” at this point, he said. However, he took courses in Federal Indian Policy and Indian law in college and law school, which is not the case with most attorneys.
As staff attorney, Joseph will assist in representing the Band Assembly ”in the lawful exercise of its constitutional and statutory duties and obligations,” according to the job description. That includes conducting research, drafting bills and legal opinions, reviewing contracts, and performing other duties as assigned by Band Assembly members or Legislative Counsel Adam Candler.
Joseph grew up in Jamestown, North Dakota, but both of his parents are originally from Minnesota, and his entire extended family still lives here. His parents are his main inspiration in life. ”My dad is a business owner, and he has built it into something truly spectacular over the past 30 years through hard work and perseverance. Both are values he instilled in me, over the years,” said Joseph. ”My mom was a full-time parent, which was no easy task with myself and my two siblings. Her patience and encouragement put me on the path that I’m on. Frankly, my debt to both of them is one that I’ll never be able to repay.”
Joseph’s work ethic and desire to help others led him to law school, during which he worked as a law clerk. Before beginning his final year in law school, he took the opportunity to intern at the U.S. embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania, for the summer. ”While I was there, I worked mainly on the Internal Politics portfolio and was the Embassy’s point person on the Lithuanian parliamentary, presidential, and EU elections,” said Joseph.
Joseph’s typical day involves a lot of reading, writing, and researching, as well as participation in meetings. ”I sit in on meetings of the Band Assembly, both the official session on Wednesdays and the informal working sessions on Tuesday and Thursday, and otherwise coordinate with the elected officials in the execution of their duties,” Joseph said.
Working for an Indian tribe has already shown Joseph that he still has a lot to learn. ”So far, I’ve learned more about what I don’t know than anything else,” said Joseph. ”Every day, there’s a new gap in my knowledge that I get to fill. Working with the tribe is different from any other position I’ve had, and it has been a valuable learning experience, to say the least.”