Legislators to get tribal training
Minnesota legislators, who seem prone to offer legislation affecting American Indian tribes, will be lectured this week. House and Senate members need to know the unique relationship Minnesota's tribal governments have, oftentimes out of reach of...
Minnesota legislators, who seem prone to offer legislation affecting American Indian tribes, will be lectured this week.
House and Senate members need to know the unique relationship Minnesota's tribal governments have, oftentimes out of reach of state laws, Leech Lake Tribal Chairman George Goggleye Jr. said Monday night.
"Tribal issues continue to be our top priority, not just at Leech Lake, but throughout the whole state," said Goggleye, one of the keynote speakers to Monday night's Beltrami County DFL Presidents Day fund-raiser at the Bemidji Eagles Club.
Minnesota's tribal chairmen, and the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, is sponsoring "training sessions" today, Wednesday and Thursday for lawmakers in St. Paul.
"We are educating some of the legislators ... (with) some kind of a 101 class," Goggleye said. "We will talk about tribal sovereignty, tribal law, different things that affect the tribes in Minnesota."
All Minnesotans need the training, he alluded.
"We talk about how little people know about us as people, and that's the one thing we want to get across to the Legislature," he said, "who we are, what we are, what we do as people and, of course, the issue of sovereignty by way of treaties."
Goggleye name-dropped a few legislators he hoped would attend -- Republicans whose profile is not high in Indian Country -- Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, and Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton.
"I'd like to have a debate with these people, but I think they'll shy away," he said.
An impetus for the training may be recent efforts by Republicans, behind Rep. Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, to expand legislation calling for a statewide smoking ban for bars, restaurants and workplaces to include tribal casinos.
But tribal leaders maintain that the state has no jurisdiction to make such laws applying to sovereign tribes -- only Congress can do so. Treaties between the federal government and tribes dictate that relationship.
"Whether it's on the federal level, the state level, local level," Goggleye said, "that there's a unique situation here and people have to understand that. It's not something that's given to us. We sacrificed a lot to get the governments to uphold their end of the bargain with treaties, and we still continue to sacrifice."
Goggleye says he's a non-smoker, and notes that only 20 percent of the American population is smokers today, "but that's their choice."
If a smoke ban passes that includes tribal casinos, sovereignty will become an issue, he said. "Certainly we will take a stance on it."
Goggleye said tribes have "done a lot of things to allow for non-smoking areas within our casino properties. I'm not sure if we need to do any more at all."
Goggleye said that while in St. Paul he also has a meeting scheduled with Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.