Commissioner Stresses Natural Resources are Gifts from Manidoo


Brett Larson Staff Writer

Bradley E. Harrington, Nazhike-awaasanang, was reappointed Commissioner of Natural Resources in late June to serve a full four-year term. He had been appointed in May to finish out the previous commissioner’s term.

“I looked at the first 30 days as a test run, to see if I could handle it — not just in my work life, but my family and ceremonial life,” said Bradley. “It gave me a different perspective, one I wouldn’t have had if I started with a four-year term.”

During those 30 days he learned how demanding the job is, whether meeting with Band members in East Lake and Lake Lena, or sitting at the table with state officials and other tribes.

“I had to learn how to adapt to different environments fairly quickly. I knew it was coming, but sometimes even though you know the water’s cold, that doesn’t change the temperature when you jump in.”

As Bradley has seen first hand the breadth of the DNR’s responsibilities — from fish and game, to air and water, to cultural and historical preservation — he has also been impressed with the talent the department has attracted. Among his top priorities is retaining those employees.

“We have some really strong biologists here,” Bradley said. “Some have over 20 years of experience, some over a decade. They’re really smart, passionate people. My job is harnessing their knowledge and ideas to continue the DNR’s role as a strong scientific partner in the region, and getting the information out about what we’re doing. Some of that information of- ten gets overlooked when we focus on fishing and treaty rights. Having access to clean water and air are also treaty rights. If we only focus on sh, we could lose those other things.”

Bradley became familiar with the DNR while working as a eld technician from 2012 to 2014. Since that time, he has worked in the private sector and as a language apprentice and recovery coach — while volunteering with powwow commit- tees, the Onamia Local Indian Education Parent Committee, and other nonprofits.

He has studied at Fond Du Lac and Central Lakes, graduated from the Blandin Reservation Leadership Program, and facilitated drug abuse conferences at the local and state levels.

He has received certification from Native Nations Institute, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, White Bison/Wellbriety, and other organizations.

Bradley’s vision for the DNR has been shaped by his immersion in Ojibwe language and culture during the last six years.

“The cultural component is one of the things I want to bring to the DNR. What would an Anishinaabe natural resources department look like? How can we best mirror ourselves based on how our ancestors viewed the world? I listen to the old guys talk, and when they reference the land, or the air, or the water, they don’t reference it as just things. They go as far as to say every rock has a Manidoo in it — deer, sh, plants, trees. The sun is a Manidoo that goes over the world and offers his hand. What the Anishinaabe see as natural resources are all the things the Manidoo have given them, including ceremonies, traditions, and the language. That was something speci cally given to us by the Manidoo. To forget that as Ojibwe people would be a very sad thing.”

Bradley is grateful to Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin and the four members of the Band Assembly — Secretary-Treasurer Carolyn Beaulieu and District Representatives Sandi Blake, David ‘Niib’ Aubid and Harry Davis — for putting their faith in him.

As part of his application, he put together a comprehensive five-year plan for the DNR, touching on everything from renewable energy to real estate purchasing to language reclamation to harvesting. He submitted the plan to Melanie, who sent his nomination to Band Assembly, who in turn interviewed Bradley and confirmed him as commissioner.

“That was a tough crowd,” he said. “They do their jobs very, very well. I’m glad I was able to experience it first hand, and I’m also humbled that they believe in me to do this job. They’ve been here a while and they know how tough this job is. For Melanie, Carol, Niib, Harry and Sandi to all believe in me, that gives me confidence. I’m really thankful for them.”

He’s also thankful to the mentors he’s made over the years who helped shape his vision for the DNR: Doug Sam, Lee Sta- ples, Amik and Joe Nayquonabe Sr.

“Those are the people who gave me the idea, added to the idea, and now I’m here. So what goes on now is putting the boots to the ground, not just learning but providing an opportunity for others to take in information and cultivate their own ideas.

“Joe (Nayquonabe) Jr. gave good remarks at our swearing in, about how this is not just a title I’m wearing for me. At the end of the day we’re just Band members serving the people the best we can, as fathers, brothers and sons.”