ST. MICHAEL, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum, cabinet leaders and representatives from the Governor’s Office met today with Spirit Lake Nation Chairman Doug Yankton, Devils Lake Mayor Dick Johnson and U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer to discuss health care access, the rising elevation of Devils Lake and other issues important to the tribe and community.
During the meeting at Spirit Lake Casino, Burgum spoke about the need to address food deserts on reservations to expand access to healthy foods, and to pilot new approaches to community-based health care instead of trying to navigate the cumbersome federal health care system.
“We think we have an opportunity in North Dakota, working with the tribes and with the health care sector, the nonprofit side, to actually create a national model,” he said, advocating for greater collaboration to support tribal economies, health care and agriculture. “Whatever the conversation is, the State of North Dakota would like to be a part of it going forward, and we appreciate the invitation.”
Officials also discussed the elevation of Devils Lake, which has risen by 3.5 feet so far this year due to heavy precipitation and runoff over the winter and spring. On Thursday, the North Dakota Department of Water Resources began annual discharge operations of the two Devils Lake outlets to slow the lake’s rise and reduce flooding.
Today’s meeting also touched on tourism, which is a critical component of the economy in the Devils Lake area, as well as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service land management. Also attending from the state were Governor’s Office Chief Operating Officer Tammy Miller and General Counsel Ryan Norrell, North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission Executive Director Nathan Davis, Department of Human Services Executive Director Chris Jones, Department of Water Resources Director Andrea Travnicek, Game and Fish Director Jeb Williams, and Maria Effertz Hanson, director of the Division of Community Services in the Department of Commerce.