Leech Lake Band pushes ahead with governmental reform
Cass Lake - The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe will host a three-day “Build our Nation” convention which kicks off at noon Tuesday, Sept. 17 with a Powwow and Informational Fair, followed by a “Nation-Building 101” educational session on Wednesday, and wraps up on Thursday with a gathering of community leaders at the Local Indian Council (“LIC”) Summit. The event’s purpose is to further engage Band members in the governmental reform efforts. Last week, over 120 Band members were pre-registered for the event within a three day period.
“It is encouraging that our people really want to roll up their sleeves and get involved in the Band’s governmental reform initiatives,” said the Band’s Chairwoman Carri Jones in reference to the high number of pre-registrants. “For these efforts to be a success, it must be driven by the Band membership because the final product—a revised structure for governance—has to be a reflection of our collective vision for the future in order for it to work.”
On Wednesday, the Native Nations Institute (“NNI”), a Tucson-based organization out of the University of Arizona, will facilitate an educational session on the Nation-Building approach to governance and how employing the principles of that approach can translate into sustainable economic development, more effective and responsive systems of government, and improved community life. Community leaders from the thirteen reservation communities will gather on Thursday for the Local Indian Council (“LIC”) Summit to deliberate about making changes to their own governing documents and to continue previous discussions on their role in the Band’s restructured government.
With more and more Indian tribes looking to revise their governmental frameworks to create opportunities for progress, entities such as the Native Nations Institute and the St. Paul-based Bush Foundation offer expertise, funding, and leadership development to Indian tribes. Existence of such resources, whereas little or none was available before, is a major factor in the increase of Indian tribes reporting success in constitutional reform initiatives.
“When Indian tribes set their own agendas and priorities based on their cultural values and identity as a nation, they are laying the groundwork for their own future and that’s self-determination,” said Leroy Staples Fairbanks, the Band’s District 3 representative on the Tribal Council. “Solutions for our problems, strategies for moving ahead, and responses to challenges must all be determined by us and for us. I truly believe that this is Leech Lake’s pivotal opportunity to rebuild our governance structure to create systems that work for our people.”
The Band has already taken initial steps in the direction of a more comprehensive reform effort by beginning work on three separate issues and have already seen tangible results. First, an overhaul of an ambiguous practice in which emergency assistance was provided to individual Band members resulted in the adoption of a more stream-lined policy that provides clearer guidance with checks and balances. The new policy went into effect on July 1st of this year. Also, revision of the Band’s governing bylaws is underway which once adopted will, among other things, improve the functionality of the government and increase overall accountability. A third and more aggressive initiative is the separation of operational and financial functions of the Band’s existing businesses from those of the tribal government’s administrative programs, a responsibility handed to the Economic Development Task Force. That task force is also currently exploring a multitude of corporate model and chartering options in preparation for the establishment of an independent business corporation.
The Build our Nation Convention starts at noon today with a Powwow and Informational Fair at the Northern Lights Casino Events Center in Walker, Minnesota. Wednesday’s educational session and Thursday’s LIC Summit both run from 8am – 5pm. For more information on this week’s events or the Band’s governmental reform activities, please visit our website at www.llojibwe.com.