Need to Know: North Dakota Tribes

Our “Need to Know” blog series explores important Tribal governance-related concepts in detail. In this installment, we take a look at the Tribes located in North Dakota.

North Dakota is home to five federally-recognized Tribes. (If you’re curious to learn more about sovereignty and what it means to be a Native nation, see our previous post on Minnesota Tribes.) Native Americans make up 5% of North Dakota’s population; almost 40% of the Native population in North Dakota is under the age of 20.

An Overview of North Dakota’s Five Native Nations

The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians is the largest Tribe in North Dakota, with over 30,000 enrolled members. Over 16,000 of these enrolled members live on or adjacent to the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, which is located about 25 miles from the United States-Canadian border. Members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians are Anishinaabe and are primarily members of the Pembina Band of Chippewa.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is the next largest, with approximately 16,000 enrolled members. The Standing Rock Indian Reservation spans the border between North and South Dakota and is the fifth largest reservation (land area) in the United States. Standing Rock is also the birthplace of Sitting Bull, a notable leader who fought against the United States government’s efforts to erase Native culture and steal Native land. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is comprised of both Lakota and Dakota people.

Spirit Lake Nation and Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate are the two Dakota Tribes in North Dakota. Spirit Lake has about 7,200 enrolled members, while Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate has about 13,000. The Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate call the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation home, which is largely located in South Dakota; a small portion occupies part of the southeastern corner of North Dakota. The Spirit Lake Indian Reservation is located in east-central North Dakota.

Finally, the Mandan, Hidatsa Arikara Nation (also referred to as MHA Nation or Three Affiliated Tribes) has over 12,000 enrolled members who are primarily Mandan, Hidatsa, and Sahnish. (The Arikara call themselves Sahnish, which means the original people from whom all other tribes sprang.) While the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Sahnish people all reside on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation together and have shared culture and histories, they’ve also retained their individual cultures, histories, and Tribal relationships.

The North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission

Cohort 1 Native Nation Rebuilder Scott Davis directs the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission. The Commission is a state agency that serves as a resource center for Tribes and seeks to improve state-Tribal relations in North Dakota. It took an historic step toward improving relationships by hosting the Strengthening Government to Government Relationships and Partnerships Conference in January 2018. The conference, the first of its kind in North Dakota, drew more than 300 Tribal, state, and federal officials with the goal of rebuilding relationships between Tribes and the state in the wake of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

To learn more about North Dakota Tribes, visit our Native Nations Resource Page.




Need to Know: Minnesota Tribes

Our “Need to Know” blog series explores important Tribal governance-related concepts in detail. In this post, we take a look at the Native nations located in Minnesota. (This is the first in a series of posts on Tribes in our region.)

Did you know that Minnesota is home to eleven federally-recognized, sovereign Native nations? Tribal governments, state governments, and the federal government all have their own definitions of what it means to be a Native nation. Some Tribes have recognition at both the state and federal level. Others are recognized only by the state and/or other Tribes.

What does sovereignty mean? Tribes have varying definitions for what it means to be sovereign. At Native Governance Center, we define sovereignty as:

the inherent right of Tribal nations to govern themselves by establishing systems that organize their society, offer programs and services to their citizens, and work with other governmental entities on a nation-to-nation basis


Anishinaabe Nations

There are seven Anishinaabe and four Dakota nations located in Minnesota. The Anishinaabe nations include the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa,Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, White Earth Band of Ojibwe, and Red Lake Nation. Originally, all seven were established by treaty; the federal government considers them to be separate nations. With the exception of Red Lake Nation, the Anishinaabe nations in Minnesota are joined together in a federation of Tribes known as the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (MCT). A federally-created entity, the MCT provides a centralized governmental structure for the six bands. Each band also has its own Reservation Business Council that serves as a decision-making body.


Dakota Nations

The four Dakota nations located in Minnesota are as follows: the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Prairie Island Indian Community, Lower Sioux Indian Community, and Upper Sioux Indian Community. The four Dakota nations are located south of the Twin Cities, while the seven Anishinaabe nations are located to the north.

To learn more about Minnesota Tribes, visit the Resources page on our website for a list of all the Tribes in our region.

Staff Updates

Program Director Rebecca Crooks-Stratton Transitions to Serve Her Tribe

OPhoto of Rebecca Crooks-Strattonur Program Director Rebecca Crooks-Stratton left Native Governance Center at the end of last week for an opportunity to serve her Tribe. We’re sad to see her go, but we’re inspired to see her fulfilling Native Governance Center’s mission of supporting Tribes and empowering leaders by serving her own Tribe, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC). During Rebecca’s two years at Native Governance Center, she launched our Youth Rebuilders and Rebuilders 2.0 initiatives, strengthened the Native Nation Rebuilders Program, designed several successful large events, and developed innovative approaches to delivering Tribal governance support services. Native Governance Center values our strong relationship with the SMSC, and we are excited to continue to work with Rebecca in her new capacity.

Jayme Davis Promoted to Program Director

Photo of Jayme DavisWe are pleased to announce that Jayme Davis (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe) has been promoted to Program Director. As Program Director, Jayme will direct the implementation and execution of our leadership development and Tribal governance support strategies. Jayme brings two years of experience as Native Governance Center Program Manager, in addition to previous work with the Turtle Mountain Community College and United States Senator Kent Conrad (D, ND), to the position. Jayme has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from the University of Mary and is currently pursuing an MPA with a concentration in public policy from the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Congratulations, Jayme!

Join Our Team!

Update: The application period for this position is closed.

Native Governance Center is hiring a Program Manager who will work with the Program Director to implement and execute the organization’s leadership programs (Native Nation Rebuilders and Youth Rebuilders) and Tribal governance support strategies. The role will have a unique opportunity to carry forward and strengthen existing programs and shape and implement new programs for the organization.

We are a Native American-led nonprofit organization located in St. Paul, Minnesota. Our mission is to assist Tribal nations in strengthening their governance systems and capacity to exercise sovereignty. Native Governance Center assists Tribes in their effort to improve governance through two main program areas: leadership development and Tribal governance support. We serve both elected Tribal leaders and grassroots Native leaders (including Native youth).

Position Summary

Primary responsibilities include program strategy support, Tribal consultation, event design and support, and grantmaking. Willingness to travel up to 35% of the time is required.

Download the position description for more information:

How to Apply

If you are interested in this opportunity, please review the Program Manager Job Description, then submit a cover letter and resume to

The application deadline is June 29, 2018.

Protecting the Land for Coming Generations

Protecting the Land for Coming Generations: A Conversation with Fond du Lac Band Environmental Program Manager and Native Nation Rebuilder Wayne Dupuis

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is leading the way in the fight for environmental health and justice. Wayne Dupuis, a Cohort 3 Native Nation Rebuilder, is Fond du Lac’s Environmental Program Manager and is working to promote sustainability, reduce Fond du Lac’s energy consumption, and protect the land for future generations.

Wayne is an enrolled member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and he’s lived on the Fond du Lac Reservation with his wife (who’s enrolled at Turtle Mountain) for many years. Wayne comes from a large extended family. Outside of his work as Environmental Program Manager, he’s an avid gardener and is passionate about raising awareness about the impact that his Tribe’s current blood quantum requirements will have on future enrollment numbers. “At the end of the Native Nation Rebuilders program, I took on this project to ensure that we’re fully aware of our population trends and what we need to do to counter them,” Wayne explains.

Wayne’s work spans a wide range of issue areas related to environmental protection—from monitoring air and water quality to supervising Fond du Lac’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO), Wayne wears several hats. He manages a staff of 14 and feels fortunate to have “many good scientists” on his team. The Fond du Lac Band is setting an example for sustainability across the region, state, and nation through its numerous cutting-edge environmental projects.

Photo of Fond du Lac Natural Resources Building

Fond du Lac Natural Resources Building

Declaring Fond du Lac Reservation a Class I Airshed

Fond du Lac is improving air quality by working toward declaring its reservation as a Class I Airshed. What does it mean for an area to be a Class I Airshed? Essentially, the designated area conforms to the highest level of air quality and visibility protection levels as specified by the Clean Air Act of 1963. National parks (over 6,000 acres) and national wilderness areas (over 5,000 acres) are currently Class I Airsheds, in addition to six Indian reservations.

Fond du Lac is working to become the seventh Indian reservation with a Class I Airshed designation, which will beneficially impact air quality not just on Tribal lands but across northeastern Minnesota. Wayne explains, “Industry is our neighbor here, but they’re emitting almost to the top of the scale. In fact, they’re going over in some respects. So us being a Class I Airshed is a threat to their ability to pollute. In the past, Class I Air pertained to a 60-mile circumference. But now it pertains to whatever is going to impact your air—it doesn’t matter what the distance is. So, we’re declaring that we’re at the table when it comes to air quality in our region. We would be the first here to do so.”

Addressing Environmental Justice Issues Impacting Tribal Members Living in Duluth

The Fond du Lac Reservation is located just 20 miles from the city of the city of Duluth, and the Tribe also holds land within city boundaries. Unfortunately, many Tribal members living in Duluth are subjected to environmental racism due to the trajectory of harmful pollutants from area plants and refineries. According to Wayne, “Duluth is a long city, but it rises abruptly on the hill. Most of the low-income people, including our Tribal members, live on the hillside. You know how it is when air is coming from the east—it comes and hits the hillside. We have the refinery over in Wisconsin, the cement plant that emits lots of pollutants, and all of the boats and railroads that are burning diesel. And the coal yards over there. So all of that stuff gets blown here.”

Wayne says that the average lifespan of residents living on Duluth’s central hillside is ten years lower than that of Duluth’s total population. Fond du Lac’s Environmental Program advocates for Tribal members living both on- and off-reservation, and Wayne and his team have raised concerns about the environmental injustice taking place in Duluth with both the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The process is still early on, and Fond du Lac hopes that both entities will take action.

Raising Pollution Concerns Related to Proposed Area Mines

Citizens of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa depend on the health of the land—both reservation land and ceded treaty lands—for their livelihood and survival. The Fond du Lac Environmental Program recognizes this important relationship and also sees the value of clean waterways and wetlands for all Minnesotans. PolyMet Mining plans to construct a large open pit mine (known as the “NorthMet Project”) on Anishinaabe treaty lands to obtain metals embedded in sulfide-containing rocks. The mine is currently in the permitting stage, but Wayne and his team at the Fond du Lac Environmental Program were among the first to raise concerns about the potential for the mine to leach metals and other pollutants into area waterways. As a result of Tribal concerns, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled that PolyMet’s initial Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was inadequate. While the project has since cleared the EIS hurdle, Wayne and his team plan to continue raising awareness about the mine’s potential to cause irreparable environmental damage: “We live in an area that has 10% of the world’s fresh water, and we’re concerned about what they say is going to happen. We’re not convinced. It’s a foreign corporation. We didn’t make treaties with foreign corporations.”

Wayne is especially worried about the potential impact that the mine could have on the health of wild rice beds in northern Minnesota. He notes that wild rice has declined by 90% across the North American continent, and the decline poses a direct threat to the health of future generations of Anishinaabe. Wayne explains, “Wild rice is the reason that we’re here. It’s in our prophecies. I’ve seen a diminishment over my lifetime. I’ve riced since I was 13 years old, and I’ve been part of ricing since I could walk.” Fond du Lac’s Environmental Program is taking steps to protect what’s left of wild rice habitat by participating in a collaborative project with Tribes across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The member Tribes have established a database to share and store information on wild rice densities across the three-state area.

Creating a Net-Zero HUD Home Prototype

Low-income people spend a high percentage of their monthly income on energy costs. Wayne and the Fond du Lac Environmental Program plan to remediate this issue for their low-income Tribal members and others by developing a net-zero home prototype that the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) can use when building low-income housing. A net-zero home is a regular grid home that produces just as much or more energy than it consumes throughout the year through both renewable energy and energy-efficient design. The Fond du Lac Environmental Program hopes to have the prototype design finished by fall of 2018.

Reducing Tribal Energy Consumption as a Kyoto Accord Signatory

Back in 2007, the Fond du Lac Reservation Business Committee passed a resolution to abide by the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and pledged to convert 20% of its consumed energy to renewables by 2020. The Tribe has made great strides toward accomplishing this goal, in addition to reducing its overall energy consumption. The Fond du Lac Environmental Program has spearheaded the effort. For example, the program performed an energy audit on all Tribal buildings (including examining energy bills) to determine the Tribe’s baseline energy consumption and possible ways to cut back. In addition to incorporating energy reduction mechanisms into existing infrastructure, Fond du Lac has pledged to put energy efficiency and renewable energy technology into all new construction. The Fond du Lac Resources Management Building is LEED Certified (the most commonly used green building certification in the world) and features 10.5 kW of solar, south facing windows, and a green roof, among other features.

In addition, the Tribe has installed a megawatt of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells near its casino. Minnesota Power, a northeastern Minnesota utility company, was in the midst of a settlement regarding pollution discharge and awarded Fond du Lac funding for a renewable energy project. Wayne Dupuis suggested using the funding to install solar panels, and the utility agreed. Overall, the Tribe has made great strides toward cutting its energy consumption and increasingly relying upon renewables for its energy generation. It plans to continue this effort into the future. “As a Tribe, we’ve reduced our energy consumption by 50% from our starting baseline,” Wayne explains.

Photo of Fond du Lac Solar Field

Fond du Lac Solar Field

St. Louis River Ecosystem Services Valuation

The St. Louis River, which begins on the Iron Range in northern Minnesota, forms both the northern and eastern boundary of the Fond du Lac Reservation. This portion of the river is downstream from much of the region’s current and proposed mining activities, meaning that sulfide waste flows toward Fond du Lac. As mentioned previously, Fond du Lac members maintain the right to hunt, fish, and gather on ceded lands, and they’re concerned that the pollution of the St. Louis River diminishes these treaty rights.

Wayne notes, “Even though we ceded these lands, we retain the right to hunt, fish, and gather—otherwise known as usufructuary rights. And our usufructuary rights are being diminished. …Every time [a] mine moves an inch, it’s a diminishment of our usufructuary rights. Every time a road goes in, it’s a diminishment. And there’s never been an accounting for that.” The Tribe recently completed an ecosystem services valuation study of the St. Louis River, meaning an estimate of the monetary value that the river ecosystem provides to the area. The valuation study determined that the St. Louis River watershed brings a value of up to $14 billion in benefits to the region each year with a total asset value of up to $687 billion. The Fond du Lac Environmental Program hopes to use its study as leverage as it seeks a seat at the table for negotiations surrounding proposed projects with the potential to impact the local ecosystem. “The value that [a river] brings to a region is eye opening,” Wayne asserts. “People just don’t realize it.”

Looking Ahead to the Future

Wayne Dupuis not only brings an awareness of the need to improve the environment in the short-term to his work, but he also instills a genuine care about the health of future generations into his role as Environmental Program Manager. In the coming year, he hopes to set Fond du Lac on a path toward energy sovereignty: “Energy is really going to determine how we interact with everybody. And we need to know and be strategic about what our energy sources are and how we relate to the world around us.” Wayne sees the importance of remaining accountable to future generations both through his work and in his personal life. He strives to make environmentally-conscious choices on a day-to-day basis. “It’s not only Fond du Lac, but me it’s me personally. That’s where it begins. It’s, ‘What am I going to do?’”