ONAMIA — Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin delivered a message Tuesday about the importance of remembering the lessons of traditional teachings and living out those values at the 2014 State of the Band Address. More than 1,200 members of The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe were joined by other community members and civic leaders to listen to Benjamin’s address to her people and set the Band’s agenda for 2014.
“Our great-grandparents and their grandparents handed down teachings that give us the tools to lead a good life,” said Chief Executive Benjamin. “These seven teachings that are at the core of who we are as a Band, and when we follow these teachings, we see what is right and good about us as a people and as a community.” In the address, Chief Executive Benjamin used the seven teachings to draw a parallel to modern issues facing the Mille Lacs Band and other Native American tribes, touching on issues including education, economic development, public safety and cultural preservation. Chief Executive Benjamin shared these principles as keys to Bimaadiziwin, or a “good way of life.” The principles include:
• Nibwaakaawin — wisdom.
• Zaagi’idiwin — love.
• Manaadendamowin — respect.
• Aakode’ewin — bravery.
• Gwayakwaadiziwin — honesty.
• Dabaadendiziwin — humility.
• Debwewin — truth.
She called on the Band’s elected officials, her commissioners and all members of the Mille Lacs Band to embody all seven teachings and improve life for the entire community. Benjamin also spoke about specific initiatives for the Band in 2014, including:
• Creating a “Mille Lacs Band Cultural Preservation Board” to preserve the Ojibwe language, culture and traditions.
• Unveiling a plan to improve public safety which includes the creation of a new commissioner of public safety to oversee a restructured tribal police department, a focus to community policing, increased cooperation with the federal government through the Tribal Law and Order Act, and wrap-around services for Band members returning to the community.
• Announcing that the Band will upgrade the Crowne Plaza hotel to an InterContinental hotel, a luxury-brand. When fully converted, it will be the only InterContinental in Minnesota.
• Directing the commissioner of community development to take steps to end homelessness among Band members.
• Challenging Band members to live healthier lives and encouraging participation in the Mille Lacs Band Weight Loss Challenge by sponsoring a $5,000 grand prize.
• Improving education through increasing access to immersion classes to preserve Ojibwe language and empowering Native teachers.