Dear Band Members,
Aaniin, Boozhoo. I want to begin with an update about the public safety crisis in District I. In last month’s newspaper, we informed Band Members about a letter from Governor Dayton in which he issued an ultimatum to Mille Lacs County; either sign the previous 2008 agreement by a deadline of Sept. 29, or he would consider all other measures available to him, including entering into a law enforcement agreement with the Band through the State Patrol.
At the end of the day on Sept. 29, no action was taken by the Governor. On Oct. 19, we received a brief letter from Governor Dayton in which he urged the Band and County to return to mediation. It is very disappointing that he has not provided us with next steps about entering into an agreement with the state patrol or any other options, as he committed to doing in his September letter. The Band is considering our options at this point for how to move forward in a way that protects our Band Members and community.
By the time you receive this newspaper, we may have additional updates to report via the Band’s Facebook page or the Chief Executive Office Facebook page.
Other meetings in November included many individual meetings with Band Members, meetings of the Tribal Executive Committee (TEC) of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, a meeting of the Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA), a board meeting of the Indian Law Resource Center, and the annual convention of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), just to name a few. NCAI is the oldest and largest national Indian organization in the country. Several of our Band commissioners were in attendance and we all worked non-stop, each day, from 7:15 a.m. through the early evening hours. I had the opportunity to attend a public Listening Session with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and testified about our law enforcement issue with Mille Lacs County; an Associate Attorney General was in attendance along with several other DOJ officials.
While I presented at or moderated different break-out sessions, the most important benefit of NCAI comes from just at- tending the sessions and actively participating each day in the many breakout sessions offered. Several of our newest commissioners attended this year. They learned how to harness the advocacy strength of NCAI to support us on our most critical issues as well as how to navigate the hundreds of federal agencies that
serve tribes. We participated in many strategy sessions on topics we have in common with other tribes (the opioid crisis, out of home placement of Native children, public safety, etc.) and gained information about new funding opportunities across the federal system and non-profit world. This was an outstanding conference and my hope is to bring a delegation of youth and elders next year as well.
Finally, we also elected new leadership into key positions at NCAI, while retaining strong leaders from the last Administration. Former NCAI President Brian Cladoosby could not run again due to term limits, so our new President is Jefferson Keel (Chickasaw). Other officers elected include Aaron Payment (Sault St. Marie) as First Vice President, Juana Majel (Pauma-Yuima Band of Mission Indians) as Recording Secretary; and our good friend W. Ron Allen (Jamestown) was re-elected Treasurer by acclamation. In our region, Roger Rader (Pokagon) was re-elected as our Midwest Area Vice President, and my friend Shannon Holsey (Stockbridge-Munsee) was elected as Alternate Area Vice President.
There are always too many events and issues to cover well in this column, so I want to say a few words about some of the most important developments this past month, done by the most effective advocates for our Band: the Band Members. For the past few months, we have seen Band Members stepping up into community leadership roles on so many critical topics, speaking out passionately about the issues they believe in and advocating for our rights as Anishinabe people and as a Band. From the MCT constitutional conventions to the pipeline hearings, from the Percap Patrol and Smudge Walks to those working to end domestic violence and attending county board meetings – the list goes on and on of Band Members taking the reins to bring about change as strong, empowered people. It is amazing to see this activism happening nearly everywhere we look! The ones who came before us would very proud of that warrior-ism that has re-emerged from our people. Chi Miigwech!
Ñ Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin
Attendees at the NCAI General Assembly meeting raised their fists in solidarity with ending domestic violence.
Melanie Benjamin spoke in a breakout session called “Strengthening Tribal-State Relations and Sovereignty through Education and Training.”