BEMIDJI -- Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan was recently named the recipient of Bemidji State University's 38th Distinguished Minnesotan honor. Flanagan is the highest ranking indigenous woman elected to executive office in U.S. history and is the first American Indian to hold statewide office in Minnesota.

First presented by Bemidji State in 1981, the Distinguished Minnesotan award acknowledges the contributions of current or former residents of the state who have performed exemplary service to the people of Minnesota or the United States, a release said.

Lt. Governor Flanagan is a 2002 graduate of the University of Minnesota, where she earned degrees in American Indian studies and child psychology.

In 2015, Flanagan was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives for the communities of St. Louis Park, Golden Valley, Plymouth and Medicine Lake. During this time, Flanagan served as the DFL lead on the Child Care Access and Affordability subcommittee and co-founded the People of Color and Indigenous caucus with fellow DFL legislators.

In October, Flanagan visited BSU for a conversation with American Indian students about everyday challenges including child care, support for single parents and bringing Indigenous students and history to the forefront of Minnesota State education curriculum.

As a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, Flanagan praised the accomplishments of American Indian students and reflected on her own time and struggles as an undergraduate student, the release said.

Serving as lieutenant governor to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz since 2018, Flanagan’s platform priorities continue to be children, families, communities of color, American Indians and low-income and working people.

The Distinguished Minnesotan traditionally addresses graduating seniors at Bemidji State’s commencement ceremony, which will be held at a later date due to the coronavirus pandemic.