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Governor highlights progress at state, tribal and federal conference

BISMARCK – Gov. Doug Burgum on Wednesday welcomed attendees to the third Strengthening Government to Government Partnerships and Relationships Conference, highlighting the significant collaboration with North Dakota’s tribal nations during the past three years and emphasizing the need to continue working together to overcome challenges.

“These many examples of partnership and collaboration are really only possible because of the foundation of trust, understanding and mutual respect,” said Burgum, who has prioritized tribal partnerships as one of his five strategic initiatives. “But we know that this real progress is just the beginning. We know that there are serious gaps that still exist, and we know that each of the tribal nations represented in our state have different challenges, approaches, opportunities and needs. We’re committed to working not just collectively but individually with each of the tribes on the opportunities they have.”

About 300 people registered for the conference, similar to the turnout for the first two conferences in January 2018 and December 2018. Tribal leaders and elders, state agency leaders and staff, statewide elected officials, legislators and federal partners are among those attending the two-day conference focused on strengthening relationships between the tribal, state and federal governments. The North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission, led by Executive Director Scott Davis, is hosting the conference at Bismarck State College.

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, all of whom attended the conference along with members of their tribal councils: Chairman Jamie Azure of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, Chairperson Peggy Cavanaugh of the Spirit Lake Nation, Chairman Mike Faith of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Chairman Mark Fox of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, and Chairman Donovan White of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate.

Burgum highlighted the progress made in the past year through a variety of state-tribal compacts, partnerships and legislation:

A historic compact signed by Burgum and Fox, and later ratified by the Legislature, changed how the state and tribes share tax revenue from new oil and gas activity on trust and fee lands. The bill, which will increase revenue to the tribes by an estimated $33 million this biennium, resulted from nearly two years of dialogue and work by the legislative interim Tribal Taxation Issues Committee created by the Legislature and chaired by Burgum.

For the first time in more than 35 years, the North Dakota Department of Human Services and the chairs of the four tribal nations headquartered in North Dakota – MHA, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Spirit Lake Nation – signed updated comprehensive agreements to enhance child welfare services for Native American children and families.

During his 2019 State of the State Address, Burgum directed the flags of the five tribal nations that share geography with North Dakota to be displayed in the Capitol’s Memorial Hall for the first time. Lawmakers have since approved the flags as a permanent display.

Legislation was passed authorizing the governor to enter state-tribal agreements for sales, use and gross receipts taxes, as well as for a per capita distribution of alcoholic beverages wholesale tax, tobacco wholesale tax and alcoholic beverages gross receipts.

The state Tourism Division fostered tribal relations through partnerships with the North Dakota Native American Tourism Alliance, inspiring expanded tourism offerings to showcase North Dakota as a premier tribal tourism destination.

Topics for this week’s conference include tourism and economic development, historic preservation, electronic gaming, youth leadership, the 2020 census, environmental quality, education governance, missing and murdered indigenous women, and improving health care.

“We have a historic opportunity to really improve the lives of all North Dakotans, but it requires us to do what we’re doing over the next two days,” Burgum said. “We can be a model for the rest of our country, and we can lead our children and grandchildren, inspired by our collaboration and with the legacy of understanding, empathy and mutual respect, to improve their lives.”

The conference continues today with Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford and First Lady Kathryn Burgum among those delivering remarks.

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