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White Earth chair celebrates recent successes, says land campaign will continue

A man speaks to a crowd
During the address on Thursday Chairman Fairbanks said work will continue toward the White Earth Forest land transfer after a bill in the state Legislature stalled this session. He also said the tribe is in negotiations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the return of the Tamarack Refuge.
Mathew Holding Eagle III | MPR News

During opening remarks of the White Earth Nation State of the Nation Address on Thursday at the Shooting Star Event Center, Chair Michael Fairbanks stressed the importance of tribal sovereignty and the role it’s had in the tribe’s recent successes to the packed audience.

One of the main successes Fairbanks identified was the opening of the tribe’s dispensary on Aug. 3, which included the creation of more than 50 jobs. Although he didn’t get into numbers, he called the dispensary a “million-dollar cannabis business.” 

“It’s something that I’m very, very proud to say that we’re doing well,” Fairbanks said. “We’re in full expansion mode right now. We want to be the nation to lead this and as of today, we are one of the top manufacturers in Indian Country.” 

Fairbanks also wants to work with members to help pave the way for small business ventures into the cannabis industry. 

He also pointed to the areas of food, energy and finances and praised social programs the tribe has developed such as an overdose recovery team, peer support group and a family treatment center opening soon. 

He said although a bill to return the White Earth Forest to the tribe stalled in the state Legislature this session, efforts will continue. 

“We have a lot of a lot of people around us that are scared. And it’s not us. It’s them on what we’re going to do with that land,” Fairbanks said. “Because remember, we’re the caretakers. We’re the stewards of this land for thousands of years. We know how to take care that.” 

People stand for a ceremony
White Earth Nation Tribal Chair Michael Fairbanks (right) stands with the honor guard during the State of the Nation Address opening ceremony.
Mathew Holding Eagle III | MPR News

Fairbanks announced White Earth has been negotiating an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the Tamarack Refuge. 

“We’re integrating our conservation code into the Fish and Wildlife code,” Fairbanks said. 

In his closing remarks Fairbanks said he would like to see White Earth’s health care infrastructure bolstered so that care is more accessible. 

“We have a lot of smart people in White Earth. I believe that our nation probably holds the most doctorates, the most master’s degrees across the country,” Fairbanks said. “I believe that we’re educated, I believe in education. And I believe in us, I believe in everyone out there. We can all choose our paths. We do as much as we can for everyone out there. And I want to say miigwetch.”

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