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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.


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.


Powwow for Hope a Success
Friday, July 17 2015
 
Written by The Circle Staff,
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powwow for hope a success-ivy vaino.jpgOver 3,000 people attended the 4th Annual Powwow for Hope: Dancing for Life, Love & Hope on May 2 in Minneapolis.

The Native American community event raised over $70,000 to help prevent and fight cancer. The American Indian Cancer Foundation is honored by all the contributions that made the 2015 Powwow for Hope a huge success.
Powwow for Hope activities included: an outdoor lacrosse clinic for the youth, rock climbing, tours of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community mobile mammography unit, survivor and caregiver specials, a presentation by Make a Wish Foundation and a jingle dress healing song.
Powwow for Hope teams played a dynamic role in fundraising for this event. A total of 34 teams raised $35,182.50. The American Indian Cancer Foundation acknowledges and appreciates each and every one of the Powwow for Hope teams.

Special recognition to the top fundraising teams:

  • Top Overall and Top Family: Team Rivera, $4,908.00

  • Top Organization: DIW (Division of Indian Work) - Two Steppers, $3,390.00

  • Top School: American Indian Magnet School, $1,872.98

  • Top Individual: Ivy Vainio, $1,810.00

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.)


Collaborative Effort for Red Lake/Leech Lake Long-term Homeless
Friday, July 17 2015
 
Written by Michael Meuers, Red Lake News,
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collaborative_effort_for_red_lake-leech_lake_long_term_homeless.jpgJust behind the baseball fields near Bemidji Middle School, nestled among the pines, is a place called Conifer Estates, a supportive housing project put together with collaborative effort by several governments and agencies, including Red Lake Nation, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, and Bi-County CAP.

On June 11, the 70 residents, staff and guests gathered near Conifer's office building for a picnic supper while enjoying the sun and the 78 degree weather.

To the rear of the building was a meeting room filled with hot dog and hamburger buns, chips, pickles, and more. Outside the open back door, two charcoal grills are commandeered by Conifer's young, hard-working resident manager, a stern but gentle fellow known as Joe Van Horn of Redby and Chad Nelson Chief Property Manager for DW Jones.

After lunch Nelson and Van Horn gathered all the children together and led them to a dry "run-off" pond, a round depression not unlike a small amphitheater where bags of water balloons lay waiting. After forming three teams, the fun began. Later every child and adult were the recipients of at least one give-away.

"This is such a great turn-out," Nelson told the small crowd of neighbors and friends. "My thanks to the staff here at Conifer and of course the tenants who have made this effort such a great success."

"We have monthly service provider meetings, and our families will approach any of us for assistance," Valerie Robinson, Leech Lake Housing case manager, said. "We work hard at knowing what is happening at Conifer and pass along important information to each other. This helps the three entities identify problem areas as well as opportunities to help in positive areas, then to act quickly so we can address the issues. We work well together and share the responsibility of management and services to our clients."

Nova Larson, Red Lake Housing Authority, confirmed Robinson's observations, "Valerie, Barb, Karen and I not only work together well, we like and respect each other. This camaraderie helps us help our residents by designing programs in life-skills training, money management, etc. We also act as liaisons between residents and social agencies to help them get on their feet, if needed."

Conifer Estates, which grew out of the planning process, is a collaborative effort between Headwaters Housing Development Corporation, Beltrami County HRA, Red Lake Nation, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and Bi-County Community Action Programs, Inc. The 20-unit development consists of 16 supportive, three transitional housing units, and one caretaker's unit, all designed to successfully house long-term homeless families. Red Lake HRA and Leech Lake HRA each hold the master lease for five units and sublet these 10 units to eligible tribal members. The remaining nine units are available to other households experiencing long-term homelessness.

Conifer Estates serves eligible tribal citizens and long-term homeless people. In 2009, 393 people were known to be homeless in the Northwest Region of Minnesota, including 235 children and youth through age 21. As the economy worsened and homelessness increased, housing leaders in Beltrami initiated a planning process to bring a supportive housing project into the community.

Conifer Estates, which grew out of the planning process, is a collaborative effort between Headwaters Housing Development Corporation, Beltrami County HRA, Red Lake Nation, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and Bi-County Community Action Programs, Inc. The 20-unit development consists of 16 supportive, three transitional housing units, and one caretaker's unit, all designed to successfully house long-term homeless families. Red Lake HRA and Leech Lake HRA each hold the master lease for five units and sublet these 10 units to eligible tribal members. The remaining nine units are available to other households experiencing long-term homelessness.


Heroin Deaths Bring Community Together
Monday, June 08 2015
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull,
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heroin deaths bring community together.jpgOn May 29, over 100 members of the Minneapolis American Indian community filled the hall of the Church of Gichitwaa Kateri to hear from the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office about an alarming rise in heroin and opioid-related deaths.

According to the Sheriff's Office, deaths have been on a rise throughout the county. Beginning in 2008, there were only six deaths related to heroin and opioid overdose; that figure climbed steadily to 56 in 2013; so far this year, there have been 12, half of which, occurred in Little Earth of United Tribes, the Native American housing complex in South Minneapolis. In a prepared letter, read for the event, Little Earth president and CEO Robert Lilligren (White Earth Ojibwe) stated, “It's a grim way for me to mark my time here.”

Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek moderated the Heroin Town Hall Forum and praised the work being down between his office and Little Earth. However, he admitted that addressing the issue didn't rest in jail time. “Prevention and treatment are essential. We can't arrest our way out of this.”

Commander Bruce Folkens, Minneapolis Police Department, detailed all prongs of attack from the law enforcement side. “It's a multi-faceted approach. We've got undercover cops, precinct cops and uniformed officers.” Officers from the city are also assigned to the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. “We try to hit it at all levels, two officers follow up with every arrest. But we need folks, such as yourselves to be our eyes and ears.”

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman echoed those sentiments, “Have the courage to come forward and help. Call the police.” He sought to allay fears from community members that his office may not differentiate between prosecuting addicts and dealers. “We prosecute all adult cases, but there's a difference between a use who suffers from addiction and the dealer who suffers from greed. Drug court works with small time dealers and users.”

Gerald Cross, a community member in recovery, gave his personal story on what led to his addictions to heroin and crack. “What got me going is that I didn't have no love, my parents' addiction to alcohol and we were in foster homes. We had decent [foster] parents who were white but we knew we were different and they made us feel different. So we ran away and stayed with people who accepted us.”

Cross and his twin brother James then set out on a path fraught with the struggle of fitting in and tangles with the law. “I was jailed at age 11, that was my first incarceration. I got into gang life, it was something to belong to. Then I did nine-and-a-half years for a drive-by shooting.”

Through his incarcerations, Cross had time to reflect on the causes of his addictions. “We didn't have any spirituality, we were empty inside. The drugs made us feel better. I didn't care about nothing. First, it was fun, then I needed it.”

Eventually, Cross's parole officer recommended treatment, which led to his recovery and working with his brother to help other addicts in the community. “We all got clean and we got the family we all needed and wanted … we got love … things are coming to us.”

As part of his recovery, Cross helps facilitate a talking circle at Little Earth called Natives Against Heroin that meets on Saturdays from 2 to 4 p.m. In the Neighborhood Early Learning Center (2438 18th Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN).


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