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.

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!

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?’”

Culturally Competent Policing

A Conversation with Fond du Lac Chief of Police and Native Nation Rebuilder Herb Fineday

The world needs more police officers like Herb Fineday. As the newly-appointed Chief of Police for the Fond du Lac Police Department (located on the Fond du Lac Reservation in northeastern Minnesota), Herb is working to instill Ojibwe values into the department and collaborate with other area police departments on issues related to cultural competency.

For Herb, culture starts at home. He’s an enrolled member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and resides in the Brookston community (Ziibins) on the Fond du Lac Reservation. An Ojibwe word, Ziibins roughly translates to mean “the other side of the river.” The St. Louis River runs through the northern edge of the Reservation, and the community of Ziibins is located on the other side.

Photo of Herb Fineday

Herb Fineday, Fond du Lac Chief of Police

Herb and his wife Patti Jo, also an enrolled member of the Fond du Lac Band, instill culture into their family of seven through participating in traditional activities that align with the seasons, such as ricing, fishing, hunting, and gathering maple sap. Herb is also a talented artist and powwow dancer. On top of his work and family responsibilities, he somehow finds time to teach sewing classes for elders in his community, travel the summer powwow circuit, and make Ojibwe floral appliqué ties and shirts. “What’s huge for me and my family is that cultural component, that traditional component,” explains Herb. “We maintain that, and we pass it down to our children. It’s also going to be a huge component of my new role at the police department.”

Herb has been Chief of Police for just a little under a month, but he already has plans in store to increase cultural competency and build upon the work that he’s accomplished in his previous roles with the department (most recently in the narcotics division). He sees building community trust as one of the most important aspects of his day-to-day responsibilities as a law enforcement officer. From stopping by the community center to visit with elders about elk sightings and muddy roads to carrying tobacco to comfort those who are suffering, Herb understands the value of police-community relations.

As Chief of Police, he plans to launch a new community policing initiative. All officers within the Fond du Lac Police Department will be required to complete one hour of community policing per day and provide a record of their activities. Community policing encompasses a range of activities, such as reading to students at Fond du Lac Head Start or having coffee with community members at Nahgahchiwanong Adaawewigamig, the Tribe’s gas and convenience store. As someone who’s served in a variety of roles within the Fond du Lac Police Department, Herb believes that requiring officers to document their community engagement activities will promote accountability; he wants to prevent community relations from taking a back seat when things get busy.

In addition to community policing, Herb hopes to add Ojibwe verbiage to Fond du Lac’s police cars and create social media pages for the department with titles in Ojibwe. He starts out each week by smudging the police department and invites anyone else in the building at the time to participate. Prior to implementing changes at the department, Herb receives guidance from spiritual advisors: “I have spiritual advisors—people that I entrust—and I give them tobacco and tell them my ideas. They’re always like, let’s allow the spirits to think about this—don’t just move ahead and do it.” Herb’s approach to the Chief of Police role is deliberate and grounded in culture.

Aside from instilling Ojibwe culture into the Fond du Lac Police Department, Herb wants to focus on building relationships with other area jurisdictions. He ultimately hopes to increase cultural competency within non-Native police departments on both a local and statewide level. Three jurisdictions fall within the boundaries of the Fond du Lac Reservation—the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office, the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office, and the Cloquet Police Department. Herb hopes to improve Tribal-county relations by offering a curriculum for law enforcement on the culture and traditions of the Ojibwe people in the Great Lakes Region. He’s received clearance to hold a pilot training with the Duluth Police Department on May 17-18, 2018. The training is not only a first for the Duluth Police Department, but it’s also the first of its kind for law enforcement in the state of Minnesota.

Herb’s eventual goal is to get his training credited by the Minnesota POST Board (Peace Officers Standards and Training). The POST Board is the occupational regulatory agency that’s responsible for licensing police officers across the state. Police officers are required to complete continuing education credits in order to maintain and renew their licenses. If credited, the training, which will be sponsored by the Fond du Lac Police Department, will provide participants with six hours of POST Board credit.

The curriculum would also become part of the implicit bias training required for all police officers in the state of Minnesota. “The implicit bias training that we take online is so vanilla,” Herb acknowledges. “Basically, all you have to do is understand what implicit bias means. It doesn’t cover the social stereotypes of the state. Even in a large city like Minneapolis, it doesn’t even scratch the surface at all.” Herb hopes that by improving the required implicit bias training and instilling cultural competency into police departments across the state, Tribes can build stronger collaborative partnerships with local jurisdictions that will ultimately benefit both Native and non-Native Minnesotans.

The Fond du Lac Police Department is leading the way in advancing cultural competency for law enforcement across the state, yet it faces significant jurisdictional restrictions due to statutes in place at the state level. Essentially, Minnesota state law limits the policing authority of the six Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (MCT) Bands, including Fond du Lac. “There’s a state statute written that limits the authority of the six Tribes of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe,” Herb explains. “Our police department is actually not the primary jurisdiction—the primary jurisdiction goes to Carlton County and St. Louis County.” In line with his focus on partnerships, Herb hopes to collaborate with other MCT Tribes and the MCT Tribal Executive Committee to advance a bill that will give Tribal police departments primary jurisdiction over land within reservation boundaries.

Cultural match and a team building approach to collaborative partnerships guide Herb Fineday’s approach to policing and his new role as Fond du Lac Chief of Police. Herb credits his participation in leadership programs, such as the Native Nation Rebuilders Program (Cohort 7), for instilling in him the importance of both inter- and intra-community relations: “The leadership training I’ve had—for example, being a Rebuilder—is going to assist me exponentially. The everyday aspect of being a Rebuilder is going to help me implement change and gain more of that community trust that I want. When I talk about community trust, I’m talking about the core relationships that we have with other agencies as well.”

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