Burgum, MHA tribal leaders meet to discuss areas of opportunity

Monday, August 14, 2017 - 6:30pm

BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford met Friday with Mandan, Hidatsa & Arikara (MHA) Nation Chairman Mark Fox and other tribal leaders in New Town, N.D. to identify areas of opportunity for government-to-government collaboration on issues ranging from water rights, taxes and law enforcement to addiction, historic sites and tourism.

The governor and lieutenant governor, along with nine cabinet officials, Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger and Bank of North Dakota senior executive Kelvin Hullet began the daylong series of meetings and cultural events in New Town by attending a ceremony honoring Vietnam veterans. The ceremony, which included a small-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, honored five Fort Berthold residents, including three enrolled MHA members, who are inscribed on the wall.

“These Native American service members made the ultimate sacrifice,” Burgum said. “We are grateful to join the MHA Nation to honor their legacy.”

Following the ceremony, Fox, Burgum, Sanford, North Segment Councilwoman Monica Mayer, M.D., and Councilmen Mervin Packineau and Fred Fox spent more than two hours discussing a range of issues including water rights, tax and law enforcement issues and ensuring tribal interests are considered during policymaking.

Councilwoman Mayer also lead the MHA First Annual Good Medicine Addiction Summit two days prior, which included a keynote address by First Lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum. The governor and first lady have made addiction a top priority, and are hosting a daylong “Recovery Reinvented’ event Sept. 26 in Bismarck aimed at discussing innovative ways to find solutions for addiction, treatment and recovery in North Dakota.

“A variety of important topics were discussed, and we agreed that open dialogue and commitment to collaboration and transparency will help ensure a productive approach to coordination on issues of mutual interest,” Burgum said.

“The MHA Nation is very honored to have hosted the meeting with Governor Burgum and executive-level leadership of the state,” Fox said. “This forum provided a great opportunity to discuss and seek resolve on issues that impact our tribal nation and the State of North Dakota. Continued efforts like this will make a significant difference in fostering a positive government-to-government relationship in the future. I commend the governor and his staff.” 

Following the meetings, the state officials joined tribal members at nearby earth lodges for an exhibition of Native American dancing and cultural traditions that showcased men’s, women’s and children’s dances performed during traditional powwow celebrations.

The meeting with MHA follows a state tribal engagement meeting with the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians on July 21 in Belcourt, N.D. The daylong meeting included discussions on law enforcement, a panel on addiction including a keynote by the first lady, youth and community issues, and a ribbon cutting for the tribe’s Heritage Center.

Gov. Burgum and staff will be meeting with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council on Tuesday, Aug. 15, as part of ongoing tribal engagement. A visit with the Spirit Lake Nation is also in the planning stages.

The first meeting of the new interim legislative Tribal Taxation Issues Committee will be held Aug. 31 in Bismarck. The committee’s voting members include legislative leadership, and ex-officio members include the governor as chairman, lieutenant governor, Indian Affairs Commission Executive Director Scott Davis and Rauschenberger. The committee will meet with all of the tribes to discuss tax revenue agreements, human services, education, corrections, economic development and other issues.

“We have the opportunity to genuinely engage on a government-to-government basis, collectively strengthening our tribal communities across North Dakota. Our goal is to listen, learn and understand each tribe’s individual challenges and opportunities so that we may move forward toward greater mutual respect, harmony and prosperity,” said Burgum.

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