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Reps. Becker-Finn and Keeler Remark on Legislative Achievements for Indigenous Minnesotans

Friday, July 9, 2021

Saint Paul, Minn. — On July 1st, the Minnesota House of Representatives finished approving a new two-year state budget and adjourned sine die. The House DFL fought for several provisions which advance the interests of Indigenous Minnesotans. These efforts were led by Representatives Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL - Roseville) and Heather Keeler (DFL - Moorhead), with support from Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan and Senator Mary Kunesh (DFL - New Brighton). These critical provisions being included in the final budget highlight significant achievements for Indigenous Minnesotans.

The Office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women is established in this year's Public Safety omnibus budget in a long overdue win for justice and safety for Indigenous people. This office will serve as the frontline in the fight to end the targeting and deaths of Indigenous people. In another landmark win, HF 903, which establishes formal recognition and relationships between Indian Tribes and the state of Minnesota, passed. This bill will help secure the autonomy and legal authority of Indian Tribes in tribal matters to ensure that they are fully consulted and valued in matters that affect them.

“We came into this session facing several significant challenges, but we overcame these challenges to pass numerous bills that support Indigenous people and our Tribes. This year represents a high point for Indigenous legislation, and we will work to maintain this momentum into the future,” said Rep. Becker-Finn. “This session showed what is possible when Indigenous people step up to run for office and bring their lived experiences and passion to their legislative work.”

"I'm extremely proud of the work we got done this session. We worked collectively with other members to ensure we all understand the importance of recognizing and seeing the value in investing in our Indigenous communities,” said Rep. Keeler (DFL - Moorhead). “Working with tribal communities and working towards the greater good has been a very humbling experience. This session we accomplished steps in the right direction. We have a long way to go, but we are committed to continuing the work."

Several other bills and provisions that advance the well-being of Indigenous people passed into law as well. These include:

  • HF 1007: Removes court fees for actions brought by Indian Tribes on issues related to child support, civil commitment, the appointment of a public conservator/guardian, or court relief in certain cases.
  • HF 1042: Establishes a waiver process for state building and fire codes to allow tribes to build in a manner that recognizes religious beliefs, traditional practices, and established teachings.
  • HF 1273: Creates the Ombudsperson for American Indian Families who is charged with monitoring agency compliance with all laws related to child protection, placement, education, and housing as related to American Indian Children.
  • HF 1812: Corrects an oversight in tax status for certain property owned by Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.
  • HF 2154: Provides significant funds for reimbursement to tribes for expenses related to substance abuse treatment, mental health care, foster care programs, and cash assistance overpayment.
  • Funding for Teachers of Color and Indigenous Teachers: There is funding in both the Higher Education Budget and E-12 Budget to support the education of Indigenous youth. The Higher Education provision establishes an aspiring teacher of color scholarship program to help encourage Indigenous people to become teachers. The E-12 budget contains several provisions which will advance the education of Indigenous youth including aid for the education of American Indian students, American Indian teacher mentorship, funds to retain American Indian teachers, and training and grants for American Indians seeking to become teachers.

Senator Mary Kunesh, Representatives Heather Keeler, and Jamie Becker-Finn

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