By Tom Cherveny and Anne Jacobson
Minnesota's incoming administration is committed to upholding good government-to-government relations and serving individuals. That is a message that Gov.-elect Tim Walz and Lt. Gov.-elect Peggy Flanagan are making clear as they hold listening sessions throughout the state.
Flanagan spent the morning Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Prairie Island Indian Community and invited leaders from surrounding communities to join her.
"We were so honored to host the listening session for lieutenant governor-elect, Peggy Flanagan. She and the governor-elect, Tim Walz, are showing us they truly want to include everyone in the discussion and make One Minnesota a reality," said Shelley Buck, Prairie Island Tribal Council president. "For us as a tribe we have never been included in the discussions let alone had a seat at the table from the beginning. I am personally excited and hopeful for the future of this state."
Flanagan, an Anishinaabe and member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, urged community members to hold the administration accountable. When she is sworn in next month, Flanagan will become the first native woman in the United States to hold a state executive office, attendee Tim Figge noted.
He said she not only listened but took notes based upon responses to three questions:
• What are the state agencies that you interact with most?
• What has been your experience success and what can be improved?.
• What traits should state agency commissioners possess?
Topics ranged from broadband to well water degradation in the region, from roads to agricultural concerns as well as housing needs and homelessness.
"The Q & A was measured and thoughtful throughout the varied session - a wonderful meeting that ran a little overtime," said Figge, who lives between Red Wing and Hastings. A wrap-up thought was, "What else do we need to know?"
Flanagan spent Thursday, Nov. 29, at the Upper Sioux Community near Granite Falls, where similar questions and concerns surfaced, including important to the state's indigenous peoples and statewide concerns about child care, education and health care.
Dallas Ross, an Upper Sioux Community member, pointed out some of the social injustices they have experienced through the years, including the depiction of Dakota people as savages. He suggested schools teach the true history of how Minnesota came to be, and "who paid the price to do it."
Marisa Anywaush, vice chairwoman of the Upper Sioux Community, urged the new administration to address the violence inflicted against native women. Murder is the third leading cause of death for native women, and they are disproportionately victimized in the sex trade, she said.
Flanagan said that, as a mother, the need for child care is one of the most important issues to her, adding she is mindful of the costs of child care for young parents. She also cited the need for economic security for all Minnesotans and the importance of education.
Flanagan said she expects to play an active role as lieutenant governor, stating she and Walz are working as partners.