WALKER -- The Leech Lake Tribal Council and Cass County Board agreed Tuesday to set quarterly joint meetings to continue trying to resolve differences for the benefit of the reservation and county.
Cass County Board Chair Jim Dowson said Tuesday's meeting, the first between the two governing bodies since the current Leech Lake Tribal Council was elected, was a productive one.
Dowson also noted earlier in the meeting it had been more than 10 years since the council and board conducted regular joint meetings.
Leech Lake Chair George Goggleye Jr. told the board, "We are hoping we can establish a working relationship with Cass County."
"There will be dialogue as long as I'm around," Tribal Council Member Luke Wilson pledged.
Administrator Robert Yochum told the tribal council Cass County seeks tribal input on a position Cass County plans to suggest to Association of Minnesota Counties for the upcoming state legislative session.
Goggleye said, while some reservations are making significant profits on their gaming operations, Leech Lake is not among those. "We are pumping all our profits back into our government," he said.
He said Leech Lake has no intention of re-negotiating existing gaming contracts with the state for this reason. Leech Lake is willing to look at a joint effort with White Earth and Red Lake Reservations to locate a casino in the metropolitan area if the state will consider that, he said. Profits from such a venture should be earmarked for social issues, health care and similar needs on these reservations, he emphasized.
Yochum said the county feels the metropolitan-dominated Legislature does not know what's going on in rural areas, especially when it comes to the needs of Indian children. He noted several studies showing Indian children are not thriving as well as non-Indian children.
Goggleye suggested targeting truancy first could save future out-of-home child placement and crime, court and jail costs. Yochum noted Cass has one social worker assigned to nothing but truancy. He currently has 200 cases, Yochum said.
Rose Robinson, Leech Lake Social Services director said the reservation and county need to set a goal of healthy, safe families for all children. She suggested helping parents correct their problems first might help this.
Leech Lake Legal Counsel Mike Garbow agreed with Yochum that legislators focus on what they see in the metropolitan area. Some reservations have a big pot of money from gaming. Leech Lake does not, he said.
If Leech Lake had more money from a metropolitan area casino, the tribe would use it to provide more social services, he emphasized. All of northern Minnesota is depressed, Goggleye said, adding Leech Lake does not want to see the money generated here go back to be spent in the metro area.
We don't want to discuss any gaming agreements with the state in detail at this point, Goggleye said, because we don't know where this is going at this point. The outcome will be about what is good for all of Minnesota, not just Indians, he added.
Leech Lake and Cass County officials agreed it might be time to update the mutual aid law enforcement agreement the reservation signed with Cass, Itasca, Beltrami and Hubbard Counties.
The law enforcement agreement works better than most thought it would, Garbow said, but there are a few glitches. We need to clarify that the first available officer will be the first to respond, he said.
While all representatives agreed the contract has worked well, Goggleye and Council Member Lyman Losh cited instances where they believe the sheriff's dispatcher may have waited for a Leech Lake Police officer to be available or to have one travel a long distance to answer a call from an Indian person rather than to send a sheriff's deputy and city police officer who may have been closer.
Dowson said he would bring this issue to Sheriff Randy Fisher.
Those attending the meeting also discussed trust land. Trust land is land the U.S. government holds in trust for the benefit of an Indian reservation. No taxes are paid on trust land. Goggleye said only 4 percent of land within Leech Lake Reservation boundaries is currently held in trust.
To place additional land into trust for a reservation, the tribe must submit an application to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to seek that designation and explain how the tribe plans to use the land for the benefit of the reservation.
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