Vizenor: White Earth progressing well

In her fourth White Earth Nation State of the Nation Address, tribal council chairwoman Erma J. Vizenor spoke about the accomplishments of the tribe and outlined plans for continued work Friday at Shooting Star Casino and Event Center in Mahnomen.

In her fourth White Earth Nation State of the Nation Address, tribal council chairwoman Erma J. Vizenor spoke about the accomplishments of the tribe and outlined plans for continued work Friday at Shooting Star Casino and Event Center in Mahnomen.

"I am proud to report to you that the White Earth tribal government is financially stable and progressively strong," she told the assembled group. "Nothing has come easy. Hard work, sacrifice, dedication and a vision for the future have made our achievements possible."

As chairwoman, Vizenor said she serves as the leader of the tribe, but the credit for progress made should go to the many people who work to benefit the tribe every day.

"All of the directors, managers, administrators, staff and employees in tribal government, gaming, housing, schools, our tribal court, and businesses are the true unsung heroes who do the work, day by day, for the good of the tribe," she said.

Through work on developing alternative energy projects, partnering with Minnesota State University, Moorhead, and working on improving the tribe's area through construction projects, the White Earth Nation has earned the distinction of being named a progressive tribe.


Vizenor said the tribe is looking at creating alternative energy opportunities through an ethanol plant to create jobs and become a self-sufficient tribe with energy provided through gasification. The University of Minnesota is currently doing a feasibility study related to ethanol production, which was approved by the state legislature in 2007.

There is also a $2 million wind turbine project that will allow the tribe to sell energy to its local power company, which Vizenor said puts White Earth at the forefront for alternative energy.

In education news, the tribe has partnered with eight area school districts and Minnesota State University-Moorhead, for a comprehensive study to address low achievement and high dropout rates for Indian children. Vizenor said the study "will be a model of educational reform for Indian country."

Construction projects for the White Earth nation include a new $15 million tribal headquarters, a White Earth community center, new powwow grounds, housing developments and the restoration of the Burlington Northern Deport in Detroit Lakes.

All these projects have also provided jobs to tribal members. The powwow grounds will be ready for the tribe's June celebration.

The tribe received $800,000 of federal transportation funds to re-do the Burlington Northern Depot in Detroit Lakes, which Vizenor called the "Gateway to the White Earth Reservation."

The building will "serve as a transportation hub, cultural center, coffee shop, and kiosks for tribal members to sell arts and crafts." The tribe will also sublease space to Jefferson Bus Lines and Amtrak.

In 2007, the White Earth Nation entered an agreement with Clearwater County for law enforcement services in the northeastern part of the reservation. Through an initiative with the Minnesota Department of Human Services, the Tribal Court has become the first tribal child support agency in the state.


Other accomplishments include a transportation system throughout the reservation, the creation of Dream Catcher Homes in Ogema, which created 20 housing units for homeless families, and continued commitment to tribal elders through help with nutrition services, lawn care, and handicap access and other work.

With the help of Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota Veterans Affairs, White Earth also started legislation in 2007 to create eight tribal veteran service officers to serve Indian veterans in Minnesota, an initiative that Vizenor said is the first program like it in the entire country.

Vizenor said the White Earth Nation has made great progress, but there are still things it needs to do.

"We shall continue to develop our infrastructure, protect our natural resources, increase our land base, improve education and health care, and provide more services for our elders, our youth, and those who live off the reservation," she said. "Every tribal family needs a good house, a decent income and a healthy and safe environment."

Future work includes the construction of a new K-12 Circle of Life School in 2009; creating tribal partnerships, such as the Northern Minnesota Reservation Economic Development Commission with the Leech Lake and Red Lake tribe, and also with other groups and agencies; working for a tribal veterans memorial plaque at Minnesota Veterans Affairs headquarters in St. Paul; continued support of the Tribal Community and Technical College through program development and a new campus; and increasing political involvement in county, state and federal politics to bring Indian issues to leaders and representatives at all levels of government.

Vizenor said the tribe will also work to increase its land base through continued efforts to have 60,000 acres of land returned from the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. It also will continue to work for its fair share of the Nelson Timber Settlement and to recover $10 million allegedly stolen from the tribe by Gaming World International, which includes $6 million of White Earth Land Settlement funds.

"The work ahead is not easy. The solutions are challenging and complex," Vizenor said. "But we have always been a resilient people, strong, proud of our history, heritage and culture. We shall not only endure and survive, but we shall thrive and prosper, building a future for our grandchildren and generations to follow."

Amber Nohrenberg is a reporter for the Detroit Lakes Tribune. The Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Pioneer are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

What To Read Next
Get Local