CHAIRMAN’S MONTHLY REPORT- MARCH 2023
Boozhoo, my relatives, friends, community members and all! The Leech Lake RTC has had a busy lobbying schedule in stating Leech Lake’s case for other endeavors voiced by the members. We are seeking funding for a Wellness Center and protecting our most precious gift; the ICWA law that keeps the families together. In the struggle together, here is the news on the Tribal home front being reported to the great Leech Lake People.
- Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School—United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had issued an ACTION Requested letter to Leech Lake Chairman Faron Jackson, Sr. On December 22, 2022 the EPA had collected samples from the school’s public water system. The EPA had requested that Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe issue a Consumer Drinking Water Notice received at 1:19 am on Saturday, February 25, 2023.
- On Saturday, February 25, 2023 Chairman Jackson, Sr. had issued a letter to the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School Superintendent on ACTION Required. A Notice must be provided to the school, students, and staff will not be able to drink the water. Water drinking stations will be made available at the school. Water will be provided to the kitchen for cooking purposes. We are not trying to alarm the public, the school students or school staff but provide a fair notice. Chairman Jackson, Sr. had further stated, “I am very concerned about the safety and health of the students and staff of the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School.”
- At 9:00 on Monday, February 27, 2023 the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School Superintendent and board member, three employees of the EPA, EPA Water Sample Contractor, Leech Lake DRM staff, Leech Lake Emergency Response Team, Leech Lake Tribal Council members, and administration had an urgent meeting to discuss the EPA letter and ACTION Requested. The school board had issued a statement on Sunday, February 26 in support of the EPA Consumer Drinking Water Notice. The EPA and Leech Lake meeting had concluded that within the next week, the EPA Contractor will do a second water test sample and those test results will be completed in 30 to 60-day time frame, minimum. After the sample water testing is completed, the next steps in addressing the contaminants in the drinking water will finalize a PLAN of ACTION.
- Huber Engineered Woods Mill Project—On February, 2023 Huber Engineered Woods had announced they will no longer be in Cohasset. Announced by the company on Thursday, the decision comes three days after a Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling that stated the company had to reconsider the environmental impact of its review. The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe had challenged the city of Cohasset’s decision to allow an environmental assessment worksheet. Chairman Faron Jackson, Sr. had stated on Lakeland News, “Communication with all of the stakeholders on a project of this scale is key to its success. The tribe was not consulted within a timely or meaningful manner. In the end, it was Huber’s choice to cling to a single location with wetlands that protect the water quality for treaty-protected wild rice and location with active bald eagle nests.
- State of Minnesota Legislature—Leech Lake Tribal Council is supporting a bill related to higher education that will provide money for grants to Minnesota’s Tribal Colleges. The grant amounts will be $3,000,000 in fiscal year 2024 and 2025 for Tribal Colleges. The bill was referred to Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee, and last action had occurred on February 6, 2023 with author added.
- Sports Betting Proposal—The Minnesota Legislature has a bill that shall provide the Minnesota Tribes an exclusive right to have lawful sports betting that is supported by the professional team owners in Minnesota. However, the bill has stalled because Canterbury Park Horse Track is demanding a piece of the action. The Leech Lake Tribal Council has been in consultation with MIGA, lobbyists, and legislatures on the original proposal, the new proposal, changes to the proposal, and counter offers by the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association Tribes. This story is in the infancy stages, as more information becomes available, it will be reported to the Leech Lake Band members.
- Leech Lake Area Health and Wellness Center—Leech Lake Tribal Council is requesting a $25,000,000 appropriation by the Legislature of the State of Minnesota. The grant will construct a new Leech Lake Wellness Center. On February 21, 2023 this bill was referred to the Capital Investment Committee; latest action on the bill.
- Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act Modifications—At 8:30 am on Tuesday February 14, 2023 the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe had all hands-on deck testifying before a joint meeting of the Minnesota House of Representatives & Senate Committee members on MIFA modifications. Rebecca McConkey-Greene, Leech Lake Tribal Court Associate Judge had presented the modifications to the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFA). The MIFA modifications will mirror the ICWA law that protects the Tribes right to keep Indian children with Indian families.
These MIFA modifications have become necessary because the constitutionality of the 1978 ICWA law is before the uncertainty of the U.S. Supreme Court. At the Minnesota Senate and House of Representative committee members joint hearing, Chairman Faron Jackson, Sr. had testified, “I was born in 1955 and I come from a family of eight children, and we were living in our tribal homelands. My two younger brothers were removed at the age of four and five from our home in the 60’s before the ICWA or MIFPA laws were established. And it caused a lot trauma in our family, and we can still feel it today. From past experience, a loss of a brother or sister for any reason in a family is like a death in the family.”
Safety note, please keep the porch steps and walkways shoveled for safe passage, it will prevent slips and falls. Spring is fast approaching; the maple sap will be dripping into cakes and syrup!