PRAIRIE ISLAND — Each year the Goodhue County Editorial Association honors a citizen of the year. This year, five people were honored: the members of the Prairie Island Tribal Council.

Anne Jacobson, the secretary for the editorial association, explained that those who win this award are honored for their impact on the community in such areas as spiritual, historic, economic, government based, person to person or infrastructure. In 2019 the Tribal Council contributed to the county in all of these categories.

Some of the Tribal Council's recent highlights include:

  • Building a senior care facility with land for people to live by their elders.
  • Purchasing Elk Run near Pine Island to expand the reservation's property.
  • Working with the city of Red Wing to preserve Barn Bluff (He Mni Can).
  • Continuing as Goodhue County's largest employer.

The five council members accepted the award Friday, Jan. 24, but the theme running throughout their comments was that many share in this award.

"It’s not just this council, it’s the councils previously before us that got us here, where we are today,” stated Council member Johnny Johnson.

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Tribal Council President Shelley Buck built on Johnson's comment:

“It warms my heart to know that winning will turn it around like that and it was because of the sacrifices of our ancestors that made all that happen. We wouldn’t be here today without those sacrifices that they made, so this actually is for them as well. They made us who we are. That DNA runs through us and makes us who we are because of them.”

The winner of the annual award is supposed to first learn that they were chosen at the award ceremony. Trying to keep the secret is always challenging because family and friends are invited and a scheme needs to be created to get the winner to the celebration location.

This year was especially difficult because five people were being awarded and they all had family and friends at the event. However, Buck was the only council member who learned about the surprise ahead of time and, she explained that she didn't know her family would be there.

Lucy Taylor hands her granddaughter to fellow council member Johnny Johnson. Photo by Rachel Fergus/RiverTown Multimedia.
Lucy Taylor hands her granddaughter to fellow council member Johnny Johnson. Photo by Rachel Fergus/RiverTown Multimedia.

After the council posed for photos with the award, they gave short statements and answered a couple of questions. One question was about how the new amphitheater has enhanced Treasure Island Resort & Casino as an entertainment venue.

Council member Lucy Taylor explained that she likes to see the increase in the number of visitors.

Prairie Island Tribal Council member Michael Childs Jr. gives a short comment during the award ceremony for the Goodhue County Citizen of the Year celebration. From left: Shelley Buck, Johnny Johnson, Valentina Mgeni, Childs, and Lucy Taylor. Photo by Rachel Fergus/RiverTown Multimedia.
Prairie Island Tribal Council member Michael Childs Jr. gives a short comment during the award ceremony for the Goodhue County Citizen of the Year celebration. From left: Shelley Buck, Johnny Johnson, Valentina Mgeni, Childs, and Lucy Taylor. Photo by Rachel Fergus/RiverTown Multimedia.

"It’s kind of cool when I have to tell my mother, who’s an elder, ‘you need to stay home, Mom… there's 16,000 people coming.”

Johnson added that "to see how many people we have brought down to our community over the years is unbelievable.”