Native American Commission

Boards, Commissions & Committees

Native American Commission - March 2, 2017 Minutes

Regular Meeting: Thursday: March 2, 2017:

The Regular Meeting of the Board of Native American Commissioners of the City of Fargo, North Dakota, was held in the City Commission Room at City Hall at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, March 2, 2017.

The Native American Commissioners present or absent were as follows:

Present: Sharon White Bear, Guy Fox, Clinton Alexander, Maylynn Warne,
Lenore King

Absent: Connie Longie

Also Present: John Strand, Rebecca Knutson, Willard Yellow Bird, Kara Gloe

Item 1. Welcome and Introductions
Chair Fox welcomed Members to the meeting and introductions were made.

Item 2. Approve Order of Agenda & Minutes
A quorum was reached and in review of the minutes, Mr. Alexander moved the Agenda and Minutes be approved. Second by Ms. White Bear. All Members present voted aye and the motion was declared carried.

Item 3. Address Sweat Lodge Incident
Mr. Alexander recommended moving right into Item 3 to have a discussion as needed.

Mr. Fox set the tone for the meeting by stating that this is going to be a good meeting, focusing on moving forward with solutions, while recognizing truths. Mr. Fox went on to describe how the Sweat is central to Native American spirituality and conveying the importance it plays in Native American culture.

Mr. Alexander stated he spoke with families at the Sweat that night and they have stated they want this to be a teaching moment. He further stated that he is committed to the following three things and he hopes that everyone can commit to them, as well:

• Accountability at All Levels
• Healing and Reconciliation
• Meaningful Action and Follow Through

He went on to share some disparities that Native Americans face in everyday life. He defined what it means to be a culturally competent community. He stated that SCOTUS has upheld that Native Americans cannot be separate from their spirituality.

Maylynn Warne discussed historical oppression that Native Americans have faced throughout the United States. She talked about how this historical oppression still informs today’s society and explained that Native Americans still face much discrimination.

Ms. White Bear gave a brief history of the Native American Commission (NAC), its mission and goals, and awards it has received. She talked about obstacles the Native American Commission has historically ran into within the City of Fargo to realizing their goals. Mr. Alexander also added the Native American Commission had already been planning to develop a cultural competency model. He hopes this model can go further than fire departments and police departments to every institution in the city.

Ms. Warne presented information regarding Native American Essential Understandings, which is optional within Fargo Public School Systems. Ms. Warne stated the NAC would like to see this curriculum become mandatory for all students. She presented ways to establish trust and strong relationships with the Native American population.

Mr. Fox invited people who were at the Sweat that night to come up and give their account of what happened. Ray LaBeau and Keith Melroe both gave their accounts of the night. Mr. Fox also added that he had talked with one of the officers on the phone that night.

Mr. Fox then invited members of the Fargo Police Department to speak. Ross Renner, Deputy Chief of Field Services stated he believes this incident happened due to a lack of understanding and does believe there is room for education. Mr. Fox asked Officer Renner how to move forward and invited him to a Sweat. Ms. White Bear suggested on-going training as part of orientation. Mr. Alexander recommended having everyone involved take part in a Sweat as part of restorative justice and developing a cultural competency course that becomes part of training for all officers going forward. Officer Renner stated he saw value in the suggested education and basic orientation and committed to doing it. He asked that Officer Vincent Kempf help develop it. Officer Jim VanLith also talked about the presentation the NAC put on, noting it helped his understanding. Officer Kempf suggested that a representative from the NAC participate with the citizens’ academy.

Delvin Rogers, one of the lodge keepers, introduced the family that requested the lodge that night. Lamar and Angelina gave their accounts of what happened that night.

Mr. Alexander asked Commissioner Strand and Rebecca Knutson what it would take to make the Essential Understandings mandatory. Ms. Knutson stated she believed curriculum decisions were made at the school board. She directed that a conversation needed to start on one of the committees and with Dr. Jeff Schatz. Ms. Knutson committed to starting that conversation and moving forward with the process.

Ms. Warne requested that there also be a commitment to hire more Native American teachers. Ms. Knutson requested Ms. Warne be involved in the initial conversations. Ms. Warne agreed and requested that the Indian Education Department Coordinator also be involved. Mr. Alexander requested that a formal request be made by the Native American Commission to the Fargo Public Schools for a community forum discussion on the merits of making the curriculum mandatory. Mr. Fox recommended sending that to the Education Committee and set a goal to meet in one month to discuss the progress. Melody Stabner, Indian Ed Coordinator for Fargo and West Fargo Schools, stated that second round of training for teachers participating in the Essential Understandings curriculum. Fargo and West Fargo are on board with the training. Resources are available for parents. Ms. Stabner agreed to meet and help support making it mandatory.

Item 4. Shane Hawley – Presentation of 3D Model/Drawings of Sweat Lodge
Ben Dow, Director of Public Works Operations for the City of Fargo, discussed future plans for the new Sweat Lodge. He stated the Native American Commission has his cooperation to develop a site that is respectful of the Native American Commission, welcoming, and what the Board wants it to be. He stated some work has been done for parking needs.

Shane Hawley presented his design for the new Sweat Lodge. He talked about how the elements symbolize cultural values.

Item 5. Public Comment
Brianna Thompson asked if the Sweat Lodge was shut down until further notice. Cultural Planner Willard Yellow Bird assured her that it would only be shut down for the week and that it would be re-opened.

Joe White Hawk offered some additional insights into the significance of ceremonies that occur at Sweat Lodges.

Mr. Alexander moved the Board proceed with the Good of the Order and Announcements, before discussing the 2017 Budget Approval. Second by Ms. Warne. All Members present voted aye and the motion was declared carried.

Item 6. Good of the Order
a. Announcements
Ms. Warne encouraged people to vote in the upcoming Mill Levy vote, she will be giving rides to polling places from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. Anyone needing a ride can e-mail Melody Stabner, Indian Education Coordinator.

Mr. Alexander announced that on Wednesday, March 8, 2017, Steven Paul Judd will be hosting an evening of storytelling, short films and art from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at North Dakota State University, Harry D. McGovern Alumni Center. Free and open to the community. Light community meal served at 5:30 p.m. Contact Jered Pigeon at

Sandy shared that Circle of Life Homecare provides home care for people who are disabled and need help in their home. They are always accepting new clients and Personal Care Attendants. They can be contacted at 218-287-2005.

Item 7. Budget Approval
Mr. Alexander presented the 2017 budget. Ms. Warne asked for a summary of the budget versus actual dollars spent. Mr. Yellow Bird stated the NAC spent just slightly over the total budget in 2016. Mr. Fox clarified that none of the budget is allocated for future construction of the new Sweat Lodge. Mr. Fox and Mr. Hawley agreed to put together an estimate for the new Sweat Lodge and bring it back at the next meeting. Mr. Strand pointed out that this will be on City Property and suggested that perhaps the City of Fargo would be able to assist with securing funding from the City.

Ms. Warne moved to approve the 2017 budget. Second by Ms. White Bear. All Members present voted aye and the motion was declared carried.

Item 8. Adjourn
Mr. Strand moved the meeting be adjourned. Second by Mr. Alexander. All Members present voted aye and the motion was declared carried.