On Wednesday, Dec. 19, Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara (MHA) Nation Chairman Mark N. Fox participated in the Strengthening Government to Government Relations conference in Bismarck, ND. The conference, sponsored by the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission, brought tribal, state and federal leaders together to advance relationships and encourage collaboration.
This year’s Strengthening Government to Government Relations conference is the second since ND Governor Doug Burgum’s election in 2016. Chairman Fox and other tribal leaders commended Governor Burgum’s commitment to working with tribes on important issues. Chairman Fox also acknowledged North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission’s Executive Director Scott Davis in building and strengthening relationships between tribes and the state.
“When we communicate, even if we disagree, it’s how we get things done,” said Chairman Fox.
In his introduction, Governor Burgum thanked tribal leaders and federal partners for their commitment to working together.
“We all have an opportunity to look forward and think about how we can work together to create a better place, a better planet, for our children,” said Governor Burgum. “In getting to know tribal chairs and college presidents, I know they come to work to empower people, improve lives, and inspire success.”
Much of the conference focused on tribal self-governance and creating a framework for future collaboration.
“There are many things about the tribal-federal relationship that’s just broken,” said Governor Burgum. “We’d like to see more primacy on tribal land. We know that empowered leaders at a local level can make smart decisions for their people.”
The conference featured the unveiling of the first MHA Nation license plate, the product of collaboration between the tribe and the state. Chairman Fox and Governor Burgum signed a memorandum of understanding which will allow MHA Nation members to choose between a tribal license plate and a regular state-issued one.
“It’s an important time to emphasize how the state and tribe work together,” said Chairman Fox. “It’s a very proud day.”
Richard Hall, Department of Transportation director for the Three Affiliated Tribes, thanked Chairman Fox for his efforts in the MHA Nation license plate agreement.
“I want to thank Chairman Fox and the current administration. This has been in the works forever,” said Hall. “It takes good leadership. I want to commend him on his [re-election]. Chairman Fox is a great leader.”
South Segment Councilman Cory Spotted Bear also praised the license plate agreement.
“I think it’s very important that the tribes and state work together as partners,” said Spotted Bear. “This is a model of sovereignty,”
Chairman Fox also spoke about the importance of minimizing federal dependence as a way to regain tribal sovereignty.
“I’m a firm believer that the only way to make our economies strong again, the only way to eradicate social/economic poverty that devastates and destroys each one of our reservations, the only way is to accept amongst ourselves that the key is to lessen, diminish and eventually eradicate federal dependency. We have to do that as tribal nations,” said Chairman Fox.
“I’m not saying we have to forgo trust responsibilities, that we have to forgo what was guaranteed by treaties but broken, I’m not saying we’re not entitled to what we pay in federal taxes, because we pay a lot in federal taxes,” Chairman Fox continued. “I’m saying we have to establish our own economies, generate our own power, raise, consume, and export our own goods. I’m saying this is what we have to do to become true sovereigns again.”
“Change your mentality, move your objectives and goals in that direction. If we do that, it’ll go a long way in re-establishing what we once had,” Chairman Fox concluded.