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Counties form Indian issues task force

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

The Association of Minnesota Counties is forming an American Indian affairs task force as formal function of the organization that refreshments state counties.

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"The task force would be a forum where counties could discuss Indian affairs issues or concerns and formulate policy recommendations for the five standing AMC policy committees," states an AMC memo on the proposal.

The action stems from a July 15 meeting at Walker from representatives and staff of 14 counties to talk about common issues they face when working with tribal governments.

The gathering was viewed not only as a springboard to form an AMC Indian Affairs Task Force, but also to prepare for a proposed county-tribal summit organized by the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council.

The new task force would involve the 17 counties located in federally recognized Indian Country and with a substantial American Indian population living in Hennepin County.

Designated voting members would be Becker, Beltrami, Carlton, Cass, Clearwater, Cook, Goodhue, Hennepin, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, Mahnomen, Mille Lacs, Pine, Redwood, Scott, St. Louis and Yellow Medicine counties.

Beltrami County commissioners, at their meeting Tuesday, voted to send Commissioner Quentin Fairbanks, a Red Lake Band of Chippewa enrollee, as their delegate and Commissioner Joe Vene as alternate.

Vene said the Indian Task Force would hold its first meeting Sept. 17 in conjunction with the five regular AMC policy committees meeting Sept. 17-18 at Cragun's Resort near Brainerd.

The AMC memo said that the July 15 meeting in Walker "identified at least 20 unique topics that warrant further investigation, discussion or potential action."

Beltrami County for years has sought AMC policy positions on Indian affairs, but since those issues affect so few counties, AMC has recommended that the county lobby separately on those issues.

In recent years, Beltrami County has run afoul of state rules on child placement costs, finally receiving a threat from the state that it would withhold human services funding from the county if it did not resume paying for Red Lake child placement costs.

The county has argued it should be a federal government responsibility, as the county cannot collect property taxes on the reservation to help pay for human services provided to reservation members.

A new program in the works, however, initiated by Congress, may allow the Red Lake Nation to more directly deal with the federal government in the provision of child placement services.

bswenson@bemidjipioneer.com

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