ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan was recently awarded the Native American Leadership Award by the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C.

As the highest-ranking Native woman elected to executive office in U.S. history, Flanagan was recognized for her work raising awareness of issues affecting Native communities, increasing civic engagement, improving lives in Indian Country and transforming tribal-state relations in Minnesota, officials said in a release.

The Native American Leadership Award recognizes a Native American individual who has helped transform Indian Country through their efforts and long-term commitment and whose leadership and work benefits and influences at the national level, the release said.

“I’m honored to receive this distinguished award on behalf of all our people,” Flanagan said in the release. “For generations, policy has been done to us and not with us. That is why I’ve dedicated my career to ensuring Indigenous people have a seat at the table. I’m proud of the work we’ve done to lift up Native voices, and I won’t stop fighting until our people are seen, heard and valued at every level of government.”

“Lt. Governor Flanagan is a tireless advocate for children, families, Indigenous people, and marginalized communities,” Gov. Tim Walz said in the release. “She has made history in her work to strengthen government-to-government relations between the state and tribal nations, and elevate and support the robust urban Indian community in Minnesota. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award than my partner in justice in the Governor’s office.”

During their first year in office, Gov. Walz and Lt. Gov. Flanagan worked with the legislature to pass a budget that invests in Native American communities, the release said. This includes the creation of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force, expanding the Department of Transportation’s Government-to-Government Tribal-State Relations Training within the department and other state agencies, equalizing funding for students enrolled in Bureau of Indian Education schools, and establishing the American Indian Early Intervention Program to help American Indian families living on reservations and urban areas access culturally appropriate early intervention services, the release said.

Gov. Walz also signed an executive order to expand tribal-state relations in the state of Minnesota and affirm tribal rights to self-govern and self-determination; which was created in consultation with both state agencies and tribal governments.