BISMARCK — Governor Doug Burgum today welcomed tribal members and other attendees to the fourth Strengthening Government to Government Partnerships and Relationships Conference, highlighting progress made through collaboration between the state and North Dakota’s tribal nations over the last two years and outlining challenges and opportunities to address in the upcoming legislative session and beyond.
“While we’ve made great progress in the last five and a half years, we know that this is just the beginning,” Burgum, who has prioritized tribal partnerships as one of his five strategic initiatives, said during his keynote address. “There are gaps that still exist, and we also understand that no two tribal nations are the same. Each has got different needs, whether it’s transportation, employment, emergency services, law enforcement, health care, education, economic development, tax agreements, or fighting the scourge of drugs, everybody’s different. But we’ve all got things in common. … We’ve got abundant resources, we’ve got people who care. We can together tackle even the biggest challenges that might be in front of us.”
About 250 people registered for the two-day conference, which was first held in January 2018 and was last held in January 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit North Dakota. Tribal leaders and elders, state agency leaders and staff, statewide elected officials and legislators are among those attending the conference. The North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission office, led by Executive Director Nathan Davis, is hosting the conference at the Bismarck Event Center. Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford and First Lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum are among the conference speakers.
The governor shared his gratitude for the ongoing partnership and collaboration by the chairs of the five tribal nations that share geography with North Dakota: Chairman Jamie Azure of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, Chairman Doug Yankton of Spirit Lake Nation, Chairwoman Janet Alkire of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Chairman Mark Fox of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara (MHA) Nation, and Chairman Delbert Hopkins of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate.
Burgum highlighted the progress made since the last conference, including:
The governor outlined challenges and opportunities that have been identified with the Indian Affairs Commission office and other cabinet agencies as issues to address during the 2023 legislative session and beyond, including enhancing access to primary and emergency care; eliminating food deserts; reducing barriers to accessing capital; tribal gaming; expanding law enforcement, cybersecurity and tax-sharing agreements; and growing tribal tourism. Other conference topics include maximizing funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, drug force task force expansion and increasing behavioral health services for tribal communities.
“We’ve got to challenge ourselves to do the things that we’re talking about, including to really listen to each other,” Burgum said. “And part of that can be part of the healing that has to occur, to achieve a greater understanding of our shared history. … We, right here in this room, working together, can leave a legacy of understanding, empathy and mutual respect.”