What Defines Me as a Mille Lacs Band Member


Joe Nayquonabe Guest Writer

Corporate Commissioner Joe Nayquonabe made the following comments after he was sworn in for a second four-year term at the District I government center.

First of all, I wanted to start out by saying Miigwech to Melanie for trusting me with this responsibility, al- ways believing in me, always having my back and always pushing me to do things well and be a part of helping the Band grow and move forward. It’s an honor for me to serve the Band these last four years and be given this opportunity.

Four years flies by really fast. When I think back to the man- dates of the first term — create jobs — create more non-gaming jobs for the community, five years ago — we started with 50 non-gaming jobs available for Band members and now we’re get- ting close to 250 jobs for Band members in a short amount of time.

The mandate from Melanie and the Assembly was also to create new revenue streams. We’ve been able to go from losing hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to our non-gaming portfolio that is not only worth several millions of dollars but it also produces several millions of dollars for the Band each year. I didn’t do that alone. I did it with a great team — let’s give them a round of applause for all the work that they’ve done.

I wanted to thank the Band Assembly for confirming me. I did want to address the timing of this a little bit. The last six months have been a really humbling experience for me as a Band member and as a public servant for the tribe. When you get in these Commissioner roles — doesn’t matter if you’ve been in it for a month like Brad (Harrington) has, or 16 years like Sam (Moose) has, they are really hard roles. It’s a lot of work, time and effort. Pretty soon you start to convince yourself that the job is what defines you as a Mille Lacs Band member.

The last six months — we’ve sort of been in limbo — I think you guys know that — it was a great experience for me to really think. It helped me so much, because it made me realize that this job — the jobs that we do as Commissioners — that really isn’t what defines us as Mille Lacs Band members.

MyjobonthetwodrumsthatIamon—Iwashonoredtobe put on another drum this past season — those jobs mean more to me than this job right here. That’s a lifetime job and that’s what defines me as a Mille Lacs Band member.

The job I have as a role model in this community for young men — I’ve always encouraged, instead of picking up a gun; pick up a basketball. Instead of running to the Twin Cities to pick up a bag of pills or a pound of weed; go to the Twin Cities to pick up a college degree. That role that I play for the tribe is more important than this job.

My role as a husband to my wife, my role as a father in this community for my three daughters — that’s more important and that’s what defines me as a Mille Lacs Band member. My role as a son to my father and as a brother to my sisters and my brothers — that’s a job. That’s more important than this job and that’s what defines me as a Mille Lacs Band member — more than this title and more than this position.

So if today never happens — if my name is not on the door that says “Commissioner of Corporate Affairs” — that doesn’t matter. What matters to me is that I’m a Mille Lacs Band member and there are many ways to be a Mille Lacs Band member. And I’m a proud Mille Lacs Band member.

Through the work that I do for you guys, my goal is that you feel that pride and that you feel that pride forever. Thank you very much.