Sunday, November 8, 2015


The White House has announced that Karen Diver, chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, has accepted the position of special assistant to President Obama for Native American Affairs, and will assume her new duties November 16 in Washington DC. She becomes the first elected tribal leader to serve in a senior position at the White House.

As special assistant to the president, Diver will work with cabinet-level administration officials as well as domestic policy councils to develop and implement policy positions and initiatives for Indian Country.

Diver has led the Fond du Lac Band since 2007. During her tenure, she became one of the leading advocates in Indian country for policies to address climate change. In 2013, she was appointed to the President's Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, where she earned recognition as a knowledgeable and effective advocate for Native American communities, which are especially vulnerable to the economic and environmental consequences of climate change.

In a letter to Fond du Lac tribal members announcing her resignation, Diver said, "I am excited by the opportunity to have a wider impact in Indian country under President Obama's administration, which has shown unprecedented support for Indian country."

Long-time Mille Lacs tribal advisor Tadd Johnson praised Diver's selection in a November 2 Duluth News Tribune report. "She has never been afraid to speak truth to power. She's got a tremendous amount of courage and tremendous amount of knowledge and savvy on all Native American issues," Johnson said.

U.S. Representative Rick Nolan (Dem-MN8) called Diver "a bold, powerful and visionary leader for the Fond du Lac Band," and congratulated her "as she prepares to take those same qualities to the White House as an assistant to the president and champion for native people across our nation."

Diver plans to continue in the position throughout the remainder of the Obama administration, but has indicated she will not pursue appointment by the President's successor, who will take office in 2017. It is expected that Fond du Lac Vice Chairman Wally Dupuis will be named interim chairperson until the Band's regular election in June 2016.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


The new Red Lake Nation Capitol complex is an "extraordinary achievement that reflects the wisdom, determination and commitment" of the Red Lake people themselves, according to U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson, one of more than 200 dignitaries and guests attending the grand opening of the complex on Monday.

Tribal Chairman Darrell Seki, Sr., said Peterson was instrumental in helping the tribe secure the USDA Rural Development loan that funded much of the complex, which includes two spectacular eagle-shaped buildings, a new pow-wow arena, and an impressive veterans memorial. Last year, Peterson fought and won a battle to preserve funding for rural development loans in the 2014 Farm Bill. despite Republican efforts to eliminate that program. "Congressman Peterson is always there for us," Seki said.

Governor Mark Dayton also was on hand to dedicate the veterans memorial, which he described as a "fitting tribute" to the warrior spirit. "We see that same spirit in this effort, which puts such a strong emphasis on education, community values and unity," Dayton said. He commended Red Lake for demonstrating its commitment to education with the new tribal college facility.

Red Lake Nation Tribal College President Dan King paid tribute to the Tribal Council, hereditary chiefs and community members who gave their unqualified support to the project at every stage. He also recognized the architects and builders responsible for the unique design of the buildings. The design team was guided by input from the Red Lake community, he noted.

"Red Lake tribal members said they didn't want to just build a couple of big boxes on this beautiful spot," King said. "They wanted the design to reflect the culture and traditions of the Red Lake Nation. They wanted it to be unique, and that's exactly what we have now in these two beautiful buildings."

The highlight of the event was the sudden appearance of a large eagle, which soared over the dedication ceremony while an honor song was played. The appearance of an eagle is considered a blessing in Native culture.

Grand opening festivities continue through Thursday with tours of the new facilities and educational presentations at the new college.

A complete photo scrapbook of the event is available here.

Friday, August 14, 2015


Officials of the Red Lake Nation are putting the final touches on plans for the grand opening of the tribe's new capitol complex set for Monday, August 17. The 9 am ceremony at the new facility launches a week of celebration as the tribe dedicates the impressive complex, which includes the new government center, Red Lake Nation College, veterans memorial and new pow-wow grounds.

The unique architecture of the complex has earned it a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, according to Red Lake media spokesman Michael Meuers.  The twin buildings housing the government center and college are built in the shape of a 48-foot high eagle with outspread wings.

Other highlights of the Monday event include a 10:30 am blessing and drum song at the Veterans Memorial, followed by remarks from Governor Mark Dayton; a noon press conference in the tribal council chambers; a 1:00 pm "mini pow-wow" at the new pow-wow grounds; and afternoon tours of the entire complex.

The observance continues through Thursday with tours of the college and educational presentations on a wide range of subjects from history and culture to mental health and suicide prevention. More information is available on the Facebook page of the Red Lake Nation Tribal Headquarters.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


A U.S. District Court judge has ruled in favor of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in its ongoing dispute with the City of Duluth over revenue sharing from the tribe's downtown casino.

 In the most recent court decision, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson ruled that the band does not have to pay more than $10 million in back payments and interest to the City of Duluth. The judge wrote in her decision, "Directing millions of dollars away from the band is directly contrary to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act's goals of promoting tribal economic development, tribal self-sufficiency and strong tribal government."

The dispute goes back to 1986, when the tribe acquired a square block of land in downtown Duluth. The acquisition was part of a deal under which the tribe would use the property to open a casino and share profits with the city.

In 1988, Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which required that tribes be the sole beneficiary of their gaming operations, putting the agreement between Fond du Lac and the City of Duluth on the wrong side of federal law. The band stopped making payments to the city in 2009, and in 2011, the National Indian Gaming Commission, the regulatory authority over Indian gaming, ruled that the agreement was unlawful.

Fond du Lac Chairwoman Karen Diver said she hopes the decision puts an end to the long-standing dispute. According to an August 1 article in the Star-Tribune, Diver said, "The Band continues to hope that the whole matter can be put to rest."

Chairwoman Karen Diver

Monday, June 29, 2015


Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN) has issued a statement responding to what she described as “insulting” testimony offered at a recent Congressional hearing on HR 511, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2015. The proposed legislation would reaffirm tribal exemption from the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), putting tribal employers on the same footing as federal, state and local government employers. The NLRA applies to most private sector companies, but is not applicable to federal, state and local governments, employers who employ only agricultural workers, and airline and railroad employers subject to the Railway Labor Act. 

At a hearing on the bill, one witness attacked tribal governments as "dictatorships." Rep. McCollum reacted strongly to that characterization. Here is the full text of her statement:

"As a Democrat who strongly supports workers rights and Minnesota's eleven tribal Nations, I found it profoundly disturbing and disappointing that a witness at today's Education and Workforce hearing compared tribal governments to a "dictatorship," not once but twice in his written testimony. This is an insult to Indian Country that has no place in a serious policy debate.

"Federally recognized tribal Nations have a government-to­-government relationship with the federal government. Tribal governments deserve to be treated no different than any state and local unit of government and their enterprises. Congress must continue to work to ensure that tribal sovereignty and self-­governance are respected and strengthened to the benefit of our Native American brothers and sisters.

"Just like state and local governments, Congress expects tribal governments and their elected leaders to advocate strongly for their rights, advance the interests of their citizens, and respect the rights of all Americans."

Minnesota tribal leaders praised McCollum's comments and offered their thanks for her support of HR 511.

Monday, May 18, 2015


Just days before the end of the 2015 session, the Minnesota Legislature has passed a bill requiring the Minnesota Lottery to stop offering online scratch-off games. Governor Dayton has indicated he will not veto the bill, which passed with overwhelming support in both chambers. Dayton vetoed a similar bill in 2014.

This year's version of the bill allows lottery officials four months to terminate its contracts with vendors of the online games.

According to a May 14 Associated Press report, the measure had strong legislative support because lawmakers believed the lottery had "overstepped its bounds" by expanding into online sales without legislative authorization. Bill sponsor Rep. Tim Sanders (R-Blaine) said it's up to lawmakers to decide how far gambling goes.

Friday, April 17, 2015


 Mille Lacs Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin will welcome tribal representatives from around the country to one of her tribe's two downtown St. Paul hotels on Monday, May 27, for a groundbreaking "Tribal Energy Summit" offered by the nation's first 100-percent tribally owned conference and event company. The 3-day conference will be held at the Crowne Plaza Riverfront on Kellogg Boulevard.

The conference agenda will feature a number of tribal energy projects, including one from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC). Stan Ellison, SMSC Director of Land and Natural Resources, will present a case study of Koda Energy, the biomass project developed by the tribe and a private sector partner in Shakopee, Minnesota.

The Tribal Energy Summit is produced by Tekamuk Training and Events, a wholly owned enterprise of the Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians. Although the Mesa Grande Band is based in northeastern San Diego County in California, the company offers educational and training events at tribal venues throughout the U.S.

Conference director Heidi Buss said the Tribal Energy Summit is designed to introduce attendees to the energy market, educate them on issues related to energy development, and help them begin the process of creating an energy plan for their own tribes. It is the first in a three-part energy series that will take tribes from the earliest stages of energy planning to advanced content on deal structuring, financing, negotiation of power purchase agreements, and regulatory issues. The second and third events will be held in the fall of 2015 at tribal venues in New Mexico and California, respectively.

Buss said that limited seating is still available for the conference. Agenda details and registration are available online at

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


The Minnesota Legislature is considering no less than fifteen separate proposals that would enact changes in Minnesota lottery and charitable gambling, and authorize new gambling forms and venues in the state.

Several House bills now in committee would prohibit the Minnesota Lottery from expanding sales of certain lottery tickets online and at gas pumps or ATMs. Governor Dayton vetoed a similar measure at the end of the 2014 session. Another proposal, House File 1371, would dedicate state lottery net proceeds to local roads and bridges. House File 123 would require the lottery to include warnings about the odds of winning in its advertising and promotional materials.

Other measures under discussion would modify taxation and regulation of the state's charitable gambling pulltab programs, legalize betting on professional and collegiate sports, authorize the lottery to operate slot machines at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, change and clarify horse racing regulations, and add tournaments and contests of whist, a card game similar to bridge, to the list of permitted social skill games.

The majority of the gambling proposals are being heard by the State Government Finance Committee and the Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee. The bill proposing to dedicate lottery proceeds to local roads and bridges is before the Transportation Policy and Finance Committee.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reported on Friday, January 23 that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has denied the request of the Menominee Tribe to open an off-reservation casino in Kenosha. The project had been endorsed by Kenosha County but faced strong opposition from the Potawatomi and Ho-Chunk Tribes, who believed a Kenosha casino would harm their existing casino operations.

The Menominee Tribe has been seeking approval for a Kenosha casino for more than a decade. In 2005, former Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed a compact with the Potawatomi Tribe requiring that the tribe be reimbursed for any loss of business stemming from approval of the Kenosha casino proposal. Governor Walker cited this requirement as one of the major reasons for his decision to deny the Menominee Tribe's request.

State officials expressed the fear that state taxpayers might be on the hook for that reimbursement, even though the Menonimee Tribe had pledged a $200 million bond to cover any losses incurred by the competing tribes.

Federal law requires that proposals for off-reservation casinos be approved by the Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs as well as by the Governor in the affected state. Governors have virtual veto power over the opening of any proposed off-reservation tribal casino.

MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy said that MIGA tribes adopted a resolution opposing any expansion of gaming, including off-reservation casinos, in 1992 and have maintained that position ever since.