Native Nation Rebuilder: Brian Dillon

Brian Dillon is a Cohort 9 Rebuilder, an enrolled citizen of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, and the Community Liaison for the Vice President of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. We sat down with him for an interview to learn more about his experience in the Rebuilders program, his views on economic development strategies for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, and his passion for youth development.

Native Governance Center:Tell us a little bit about your background, family, and community.

Brian Dillon: My name is Brian Dillon. I’m a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. I live in Parmelee, South Dakota with my wife, Janice, our daughters, Dari and Jesyka, and our granddaughter, Haelyn. Parmelee is one of the 20 communities on the [Rosebud] Reservation. I also have daughters, Jory and Halana, and a grandson, Aiden, that live in Rapid City, South Dakota (off-reservation, but within our historical lands). My wife and I both work for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. I work as the Community Liaison to the Vice President, and my wife is the Tribe’s Insurance Officer. Together, we’ve worked 36+ years for our Tribe and our members. I was elected in 2014 to a three-year term on our Tribal council as a representative for the Parmelee community. Shortly after that, I became the Community Liaison, which is the position I hold currently.

Native Governance Center: Do you see any intersections between the Native Nation Rebuilders curriculum and your work? If so, please explain.

Brian Dillon: Every day, I reflect upon the nation building training I’ve received thus far and the ideas and support that I’ve gained from my fellow Cohort 9 members. The most important aspect of nation building for me is the identification of the key players involved in the development of ideas, approaches, and direction in my work. It’s really helped me to understand that a top-down approach is not going to work. The standard approach is not going to work. It can help you arrive at a decision, and it can set a direction, but I think that’s one of the reasons why a lot of the Tribes have so much change every time there’s an election year. The continuity doesn’t stay intact because we didn’t get the buy-in from the local community—the grassroots people, the highly-educated people, the people with a lot of knowledge, and the people with a lot of work experience. We’re not reaching out to them, currently. We’re trying to make a decision and say, ‘Here, now you figure out how to get it done.’

As a previous elected leader, I had a few people who would quite explicitly state, ‘We’re going to make sure that you don’t get re-elected because you didn’t do what we wanted you to do.’ All I had to do was find out what they wanted me to do in the first place! But I didn’t have that thinking process. I really didn’t, prior to coming to [the Rebuilders program]. For a lot of the Native Nation Rebuilders in our cohort, the first training that we had was such an emotional release. It was, ‘Oh my God. Why was I so neglectful?’ And after we got done with the first training, I talked with some of my cohort members over email. We knew this stuff. We just didn’t allow ourselves to do it because it’s not the norm.

Native Nation Rebuilder Brian Dillon

Cohort 9 Native Nation Rebuilder Brian Dillon (Rosebud Sioux Tribe)

Native Governance Center: If you could name three economic development goals for your nation, what would they be?

Brian Dillon: I’d like to see REDCO (Rosebud Economic Development Corporation) further broaden and develop their government contracting ventures. We’re one of a few Tribes that have a government 8A status, so we’re able to intercept some of the work that’s going to be done in the federal market with federal programs before it’s put out to bid.

Another thing that I’d like to see us do more of for economic development is to broaden and increase our food sovereignty initiatives. We started out with a small garden, and as we’ve broadened, we have now a farmers’ market back home in which people can participate and bring their goods for sale. It shows that we have the ability and capacity to do this here at home, rather than to rely 100% on the store.

Finally, I’d like to see our e-commerce project get off the ground. When I was on the Tribal council, we joined a coalition with about seven other Tribes; we all came together and wanted to start our own consortium for e-commerce because we were generally unhappy with the way that it had been structured with other Tribes. We did it formally—our coalition is recognized in Washington—so we’re able to speak as a unified group. The idea was initially to have a call center where we could do a couple of things. One was to do short-term loans, and the other was to be able to sell goods and products that are done on our reservation, whether it’s star quilts or anything to do with arts and crafts.

The crazy spin on it is that according to current federal law, we’re not able to provide these services to anybody within our state or on our own reservation. Let’s say you made a call. It would come to us initially, but the activity that you’d be requesting would be done by another Tribe. And you wouldn’t even know that you were talking to somebody somewhere else. And this ability is only available to Tribes. I really think that if it went through, we’d probably increase our workforce by about 100 positions. If we followed the model used by the other Tribes we’re working with, we could potentially be at about 350 employees in five years. When our Tribe has a fluctuating poverty level and unemployment rate—our unemployment rate currently sits at about 85 percent—that’s very important.

Native Governance Center: What issue facing your community are you most passionate about addressing?

Brian Dillon: There are many social and behavioral issues that our youth and young adults face back home. And I think it’s collectively the same on many reservations. We have a high degree of utter hopelessness felt by our youth and young adults. They oftentimes do not have a safe environment to escape to, so the hopelessness just keeps growing—it becomes contagious to the point where they start harming themselves. I’d love to see a youth wellness center complex built on our homelands. This would give our youth a nucleus, a facility that they could call their own. A safe place with 24-hour access for those who need a positive environment for whatever reason. This would decrease the hopelessness that often leads to dropping out of school, joining gangs, running away, and committing self-harm, including suicide.

My wife and I for the last 15 years have been heavily involved in youth activities. It’s an individual passion of mine. I can just imagine what our society might look like and what our members might do if their negative and extra energies were channeled into activities in a productive and nurturing environment. This facility could provide that for them. Their outlook on life would most definitely improve.

Brian Dillon (left) and Levi Brown (right) at a Native Nation Rebuilders session in Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota

Native Governance Center: Looking ahead, what are you most excited about accomplishing in the next year? In the next five years?

Brian Dillon: When I was a program director for the Tribe, I was involved in strategic planning. It wasn’t really strategic planning—it was just my ideas. At the time, five years seemed like an eternity to me. But it’s not. It takes about five years for any initial action to have a real value assigned to it. You can gauge success anywhere along the way, but if you don’t give it about three to five years, you’re probably stuck in that same standard approach-type thinking.

In the next year, I’ll be working with my fellow Cohort 9 [Rebuilders] from Rosebud. All five of us have decided to come together and work on one activity. I’d like to take what I’ve learned as a Native Nation Rebuilder and convey that to the youth in all 20 communities. We’re going to focus on getting buy-in from the youth. And it’s not to say that we’re not going to get buy-in from the elders, but we’ll take kind of a different approach. First, we’ll get the youth buy-in. And the youth are going to go home and talk to mom and dad. Mom and dad are usually the ones that are my age or younger and are kind of the missing link in this thing. And they’re not going to know what to say, so they’re going to usually reach out to the elders in their family to gain that information.

It’s going to work its way up so that it’s not the older people—the elders or the adults my age—telling the youth, ‘This is what you need to do.’ I know that when I was a youth, I hated it when they’d say, ‘You need to do this.’ But if our youth can grab ahold of this information, rationalize and internalize it, and then spit out a product for us to hear, that will be mind-blowing when we do it on a broad scale. Then, just maybe, we can start cultivating nation building-minded young men and women, and they’ll eventually be in those leadership roles.

Cohort 10 Rebuilders Announced

21 citizens from 14 Tribes join program to strengthen leadership skills, serve Native communities

(St. Paul, MN – October 8, 2018)Native Governance Center is pleased to announce that 21 citizens from 14 of the 23 Native nations in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota have been selected for the tenth cohort of the Native Nation Rebuilders program. Rebuilders are emerging and existing Native leaders looking to build leadership skills and nation building knowledge. Over 139 Native leaders have graduated from the program during the past nine years. With the selection of Cohort 10, Rebuilders now represent all 23 Native nations located in the three-state region.

“One of the most important roles of Native Governance Center is to empower leaders from across Indian Country,” said Wayne Ducheneaux II, executive director of Native Governance Center. “The key way in which we do that is through our Native Nation Rebuilders Program, which equips Native leaders with governance knowledge and organizing skills so that they may positively impact their communities.”

The Bush Foundation launched the Native Nation Rebuilders program in 2009 in response to the guidance of Tribal leaders. In early 2016, the Bush Foundation transitioned delivery of the Rebuilders program to the newly-created Native Governance Center, a Native-led nonprofit organization that supports Tribes in strengthening their sovereignty.

“Rebuilders gain a deeper understanding of native nation building and leadership in a cohort format,” said Native Governance Center Program Director Jayme Davis. “This allows them to form supportive relationships that continue years into the future. Armed with an understanding of nation building principles, Rebuilders share this knowledge with their communities and contribute to the long-term success of their governments, economies, and people.”

Rebuilders will come together for four structured sessions during which they will also develop action plans to share knowledge with community members and their respective Tribal governments. The sessions involve partner organizations and individuals with expertise in nation building, organizing, and issues specific to Indian Country. National partners include the Native Nations Institute, the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, and Parrish Digital.

The Cohort 10 Rebuilders’ names and Tribal affiliations are below. The next round of applications for the eleventh cohort of Rebuilders will be announced in the summer of 2019.

Native Nation Rebuilders Cohort 10

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe

Kathy Aplan

Julie Thorstenson

Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

William Blackwell, Jr.

Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

Benjamin Benoit

Lower Brule Sioux Tribe

Rebecca (Agleska) Cohen-Rencountre

Lower Sioux Community

Justice Wabasha

Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation

Thomasina Mandan

Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe

Valerie Harrington

Oglala Sioux Tribe

Angela Koenen

Dallas Nelson

Kiva Sam

Prairie Island Indian Community

Blake Johnson

Melanie Urich

Red Lake Nation

Charles Dolson

Cherilyn Spears

Deanna StandingCloud

Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community

Melinda Stade

Spirit Lake Nation

Natasha Gourd

Alicia Gourd-Mackin

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians

Michael Laverdure

White Earth Nation

Nicole LaFrinier

Nation Building Celebration Registration Now Open

Join us for our 2018 Nation Building Celebration! We’ll focus on community engagement strategies for strengthening sovereignty and have speakers from across Indian Country talking about how they engage their communities. Register today!

Need to Know: South Dakota Tribes

In this post, we take a look at nine Native nations that share geography with South Dakota.

Applications now open for Cohort 10 Rebuilders!

Are you interested in becoming a Native Nation Rebuilder, joining over 150 Native leaders from across the region? The Rebuilders program is for Native citizens in our region who have a passion for learning about innovative Tribal governance practices and ways to take these ideas and approaches to their own Native nations to make a positive difference. Apply today!

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 hello@nativegov.org.

The application deadline is June 29, 2018.