Tuesday, June 25, 2024 - 03:55 pm

BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum and First Lady Kathryn Burgum today addressed attendees at the sixth Strengthening Government to Government (G2G) Conference, outlining the significant progress made on state-tribal relations during the past eight years and urging tribal leaders, government agencies and other stakeholders to continue building on that progress with the five sovereign tribal nations with whom North Dakota shares geography.

“My first challenge for all of you is to say, ‘Hey, this is just the beginning. … We’re keeping this thing going, we’re moving forward,’ ” Burgum told attendees at the Bismarck Event Center. “One of the advantages we have as a state is that we’re nimble, we’ve got all these abundant resources, and we can tackle even the biggest challenges.”

Over 300 people registered for the two-day conference, including tribal leaders and elders, state agency leaders and staff, statewide elected officials, local leaders, federal officials and legislators. The North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission office, led by Executive Director Brad Hawk, is hosting the conference at the Bismarck Event Center. 

In her remarks, the first lady stressed the need to stop the flow of fentanyl into the United States, begin the addiction recovery process while people are incarcerated and create a national certification program for peer support specialists, noting the state’s Behavioral Health Division has trained over 1,000 people with lived experience to become peer support specialists, with 22% of those trained identifying as American Indian. She also shared her personal story of addiction and recovery and emphasized the importance of storytelling in ending the shame and stigma associated with the disease of addiction. 

“We are grateful for the many tribal members who have become faces and voices of recovery and have had the courage to share their powerful stories of addiction and recovery at the Recovery Reinvented event over the years,” she said, inviting attendees to the eighth annual Recovery Reinvented on Oct. 30 at the Bismarck Event Center. She also issued a challenge to “be advocates of change and help end the stigma of the disease of addiction by talking about how it has impacted your life or the lives of those you know. Talk will normalize the conversation around addiction.”

Topics for this year’s conference included tribal tourism, food sovereignty, autonomy and AI, workforce, tribal health, cybersecurity, behavioral health, law enforcement, missing and murdered indigenous persons, and youth leadership. Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller also led a panel discussion with tribal youth leaders.

Burgum expressed his thanks for the past eight years of collaboration and partnership with the chairs of the five tribal nations, including those currently serving: Chairman Mark Fox of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara (MHA) Nation, Chairwoman Janet Alkire of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Chairman Jamie Azure of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, Chairwoman Lonna Street of Spirit Lake Nation, and Chairman J. Garrett Renville of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate. 

Burgum, who took office Dec. 15, 2016, and is not seeking a third four-year term, noted that his administration met with leaders of the tribes headquartered in North Dakota and the presidents of all five tribal colleges in the state during his third week in office, setting the stage for future collaboration. He highlighted several examples of progress on state-tribal relations since then: 

  • Burgum announced during his 2019 State of the State Address that, for the first time, the flags of the five tribal nations would be permanently displayed in the state Capitol – currently in Memorial Hall next to the Governor’s Office.
  • Also in 2019, Burgum signed a historic oil tax revenue sharing compact and legislation with MHA Nation, changing how the state and tribe share tax revenue from new oil and gas activity on trust and fee lands. A follow-up bill in 2021 resolved the issue of sharing tax revenue from oil wells that straddle the boundary of Fort Berthold Reservation.
  • The Legislature passed and Burgum signed legislation that allows the State Water Commission to directly enter into agreements with tribal nations for a cost-share program that provides state funding for water development projects, including water supplies, flood protection and other general water management efforts, rather than having to go through an eligible non-tribal partner.
  • Burgum also signed legislation allowing each tribal nation to enter into a tax-sharing agreement with the state on alcoholic beverages sold at the retail and wholesale levels within their respective reservations, creating a fair and uniform framework for taxing alcohol on reservations while ensuring the bulk of the revenue goes to the tribes to support addiction treatment and other programs.
  • In 2022, the governor signed gaming compacts with the chairs of all five tribal nations, cutting red tape, cleaning up issues with regulation and definitions, and allowing online Class III casino-style gaming and online sports betting, including mobile gaming, within the physical boundaries of the reservations.
  • Agreements were signed with MHA and Spirit Lake to improve emergency response times by allowing the closest available peace officer – tribal or non-tribal – to respond to a call for service until the agency with primary jurisdiction arrives and assumes the lead. 
  • Burgum signed legislation in 2023 allowing North Dakota Information Technology to provide IT and cybersecurity services to tribal schools and colleges that want the services. 

“We have an opportunity to keep working together to improve the quality of life for everyone. We know that challenges remain,” including with federal tribal health care, law enforcement and education programs, Burgum said. “The state stands ready to partner with the tribes to push back and try to get rid of the red tape and regulation that prevents us from doing our very best for everyone. … We can continue to be a role model for the nation when it comes to state and tribal relations.”

The G2G Conference continues Wednesday at the Event Center.