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Mille Lacs diversifies with ties that bind
Monday, July 20 2015
 
Written by Lee Egerstrom,
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mille lacs band diversifies with ties that bind.jpgWhen his peers in the Native American Finance Officers Association honored Joe Nayquonabe, Jr. this spring as their Executive of the Year, attention was given to the progress the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is making in diversifying its investments and business enterprises.

Nayquonabe is Commissioner of Corporate Affairs for the Band and is chief executive officer of Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures (MLCV), the Band’s business investment arm that operates like a holding company with management responsibilities.

MLCV now has more than 35 different business entities. Together with the Band’s government and earlier investments in enterprises, the Mille Lacs Band is responsible for creating more than 3,500 jobs on and off the reservation.

The two anchors of the Band’s enterprises at the reservation, Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Grand Casino Hinckley, have 2,648 employees while non-gaming businesses located there have 225 employees. Other businesses are scattered around neighboring communities in East-Central Minnesota, in the Twin Cities metro area and now include a hotel in Oklahoma City.

The Mille Lacs Band entered the gaming business 24 years ago. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) then listed reservation unemployment at a staggering 80 percent. The Band now assesses its unemployment rate at 14 percent, a rate derived from knowing who is still in need of a job. That is a more simple, accurate but unofficial formula than methods used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to measure unemployment for states, counties and cities.

“We are continually evaluating opportunities and looking for the next potential deal,” Nayquonabe said. No new deals are imminent, he added, “but I can share that we have our eye on a few properties throughout the country that would possibly make nice additions to our portfolio.”

Diversification was a stated goal at Mille Lacs when Band chief executive Melanie Benjamin named Nayquonabe to the commissioner’s post three years ago. With acquisitions and business expansions along the way, Mille Lacs leaders have insisted that gaming revenue is flattening out. Future economic growth must come from non-gaming enterprises.


U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar Visits Red Lake
Friday, July 17 2015
 
Written by Michael Meuers, Red Lake News,
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us_senator_amy_klobuchar_visits_red_lake_tribe.jpgOn July 2 the Red Lake Tribal Council reconvened after a morning Special Council meeting as U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar visited with the Red Lake Tribal Council about issues of concern to the tribe. Several tribal council members participated in a conversation about Indian Country and the government to government relationship between Red Lake Nation and the United States. Tribal Council Officers Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr., Secretary Donald Cook, and Secretary Annette Johnson, were joined by council members Gary Nelson and Randy "Jiggs" Kingbird of Ponemah, Little Rock council member Robert "Charlie" Reynolds, and Red Lake reps Roman Stately and Robert Smith. Chief Billy King also attended.

The informal meeting began with the tribal council expressing concerns to the Senator and two accompanying staff. Several council members echoed an issue Red Lake Chairman Darrell G. Seki brought up in his inaugural address and continues to be on the council's agenda. "We need to be able to prosecute non-members who bring drugs to our reservation. They come up from the Twin Cities with their drugs and endanger our youth. We need to be able to deal with this," said Tribal Secretary Don Cook.

Klobuchar said she understood, pointing out that; "the Senate passed legislation that enables Indian tribes to prosecute non-members for domestic violence, maybe drugs comes next," she said.

"We've had a bit of trouble in this area of debate," Klobuchar noted. "There is a perception that non-members cannot get a fair trial in any Indian court. We need to deal with that issue. Passing this kind of legislation is even more difficult," she said, "because so many states do not have Indian Reservations and simply do not understand the issues. We will continue to educate them."

(The Tribal Council has passed a resolution a few months ago to allow banishment of non-members who bring drugs on the Red Lake Reservation.)


First Leech Lake Two Spirit Awareness Day held
Friday, July 17 2015
 
Written by Jacqueline White,
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first leech lake two spirit awareness day held.jpgJune 17 marked an historic moment in Minnesota Indian Country: the first Two Spirit LGBT Awareness Day on the Leech Lake Reservation and the first visit by OutFront Minnesota, the state’s leading organization supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, to a Minnesota reservation.

The celebration, which drew more than 50 guests took place on the front lawn of the Leech Lake Housing Authority in Cass Lake, Minn. Under sunny skies, guests listened to speakers and guitarist Michael Lyons, while eating a buffet lunch of BBQ pork, wild rice, baked beans, fresh fruit and vegetables and fry bread – all topped off by a colorful rainbow cake.

The festivities were the brainchild of tribal member Julie Kurschner-Pineda, an attempt – she explained – to counter some of the suffering she has seen Two Spirit tribal citizens endure. “A lot of our people are striving to be loved and that’s what this is all about,” she said.

The celebration was not without controversy. Kurschner-Pineda, who manages the Leech Lake Homeless Resource Program, reported that she received a number of complaints but prominent tribal leaders attended the event, including council member LeRoy Staples Fairbanks, III, who said he was encouraged to attend by a tribal elder and Megan Treuer, who spoke in her official capacity as an associate tribal judge.

Treuer explained that while the Leech Lake legal code does not explicitly address LGBT issues, “We are required to use traditional teachings and can seek input from spiritual advisors.” So when tribal member Arnold Dahl sought to marry his long-time partner Matthew Wooley in November 2013, Treuer explained that Leech Lake’s chief tribal judge was able to officiate at the marriage by relying on traditional teachings that hold that, “everyone is equal and everyone should be treated with respect.” She noted that the Leech Lake tribal court was one of the first tribal courts to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony.

“It wasn’t a shameful thing long ago. It was a gift. Before we were colonized, we understood Two Spirit people are chosen by the Creator,” Eric Shepherd, a member of the management team of Leech Lake Housing Authority who has a brother who is Two Spirit, said.


Minnesota tribes press concerns over pipeline plan, wild rice
Monday, June 08 2015
 
Written by Dan Kraker, MPR News,
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mn_tribes_press_concerns_over_pipeline_plan_wild_rice-web.jpgSeveral Minnesota Indian bands are upset about what they say is a lack of consultation over a proposed controversial oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.

This week, the Mille Lacs and White Earth Ojibwe bands are holding their own public hearings on plans for the Sandpiper line, a $2.6 billion pipeline that would pump North Dakota crude 300 miles across Minnesota to its terminal in Superior, Wis., and eventually to refineries around the Great Lakes.

The tribal hearings are happening as the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission readies a major ruling on the project's need.

While the route preferred by Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Energy does not cross any Indian reservations, it does cross a large area of lakes and forests in northern Minnesota where treaties give tribes the right to hunt, fish and gather.

Tribal members say they are especially concerned about potential impacts on their right to gather wild rice. A three-hour meeting Enbridge hosted last week on the Fond du Lac Reservation was sometimes tense and emotional.

"If the wild rice dies, we die," said Michael Dahl, who drove four hours from the White Earth reservation to attend the meeting. "Shame on you," he shouted to Enbridge representatives.

Tanya Aubid, a Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe member who lives near the Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge near McGregor, Minn., broke down in tears as she talked about how a pipeline spill near Rice Lake would be devastating.

Ojibwe migration stories tell of how the people were told to keep moving until they came to a place where food grew on the water.

"Wild Rice is very much an integral part of our lives," she said. "It's there for us for our ceremonies, for basic daily living, and something we've had here for thousands and thousands of years."

Linda Coady, Enbridge's director of sustainability, told tribal members she'd relay their concerns to the company's senior leadership. While she didn't make any promises, Coady said she hopes Enbridge and tribes can forge a less adversarial relationship.

"There are very strong feelings; there are obviously a lot of concerns about the potential impact of a spill in relation to wild rice," she said.

"On some of the issues, we have shared values, common goals," she added. "No one wants to threaten the wild rice in Minnesota."

Enbridge has hired a tribal relations consultant. But several bands say neither Enbridge nor the state have done enough to consult with tribes.


41 indicted in drug trafficking ring on 2 Indian reservations
Monday, June 08 2015
 
Written by Laura Yuen and Jon Collins, MPR News ,
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41_indicted_in_drug_trafficking_ring_on_2_indian_reservations-web.jpg A federal grand jury has indicted 41 people in connection with a drug trafficking ring focused on two Indian reservations in Minnesota.

Authorities say the ring distributed drugs including heroin, methamphetamine, oxycodone and others in and around the Red Lake and White Earth Indian reservations starting in April 2014. Drugs were obtained in Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis.

Heroin and prescription drugs have blazed a horrific path on the reservation, said Randy Goodwin, White Earth director of public safety. He said even newborn babies have been exposed to heroin because of their mothers' addictions.
"Many lives, families, and communities have been damaged or destroyed from this poison," Goodwin said. "Lives have been lost from overdose. Families have been destroyed. Our elders have been victims of threats, abuse, and theft."

Prosecutors describe Omar Sharif Beasley, 37, as the ringleader of the operation, alleging that he "recruited sources, supervisors, managers, distributors, facilitators, couriers, drivers." A former federal fugitive, Beasley has a history of drug convictions. For the past month, he has been held at the Anoka County jail on an unrelated charge of violating his probation.

Others charged include residents of North Dakota, Chicago, Milwaukee and the White Earth and Red Lake reservations.

Each suspect has been charged with conspiracy to distribute the drugs. Other charges for some of the suspects include drug possession with intent to distribute, illegal possession of a firearm and distribution of heroin, methamphetamine and prescription painkillers.

The indictment was filed last week but unsealed on May 27.

 


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