White Earth Nation tries to sell members on a new constitution

Image courtesy White Earth Nation



The White Earth Nation takes its constitutional reform initiative on the road this week. The first in a series of informational meetings for tribal members will be held June 19 on the Iron Range in the community of Marble.

A tribal spokesman says a large group of tribal members live on the Iron Range. Many moved there for jobs during the boom days of iron mining.

White Earth constitutional reform manager Terry Janis intends to take the educational effort to every White Earth community on and off the reservation.

“Our goal is that every citizen of the White Earth Nation have an opportunity to learn about the proposed constitution. When you vote you will be making an informed decision,” Janis said.

Meetings will be held this summer at White Earth villages and in the Twin Cities where a large number of White Earth tribal members live.

Constitutional reform has been talked about for decades at White Earth, but began to move forward after constitutional conventions were held in 2007 and 2009.

Like most Minnesota Chippewa tribes, White Earth still uses the Reservation Business Council governance structure imposed by the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs in the 1930s.

Tribal leaders say key protections such as separation of powers and an independent judiciary are not part of the current constitution. To learn more, see this recent MPR News story.

In 2012 White Earth received a Bush Foundation grant to help facilitate constitutional reform.

Tribal members will vote up or down on the new constitution this fall.