Tadd Johnson

University of Minnesota Duluth

It took more than two years of conversations with Minnesota's eleven tribes and five University of Minnesota campuses to produce a draft update of the Board of Regents Policy: American Indian Advisory Boards for the University of Minnesota system.

And while it's still in the system (slated for discussion in September and passage in October), one of the policy's chief architects, Tadd Johnson, hopes it results in the inclusion of a representative from each of the Minnesota tribal nations on the Advisory Board.

Roxanne Richards/UMD Continuing Education

In 2013, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton mandated that employees of state agencies consult with the 11 sovereign tribal nations on matters of mutual interest.

But no one had any idea how to actually do that.

Enter UMD and the Tribal State Relations program, a training that continues to educate - and surprise - state employees throughout Minnesota.

UMD/Brett Groehler

It took three years, eleven tribes, a statewide council and UMD's American Indian Studies department, but the Tribal Sovereignty Institute is on its way to becoming reality.

The Institute, to be located at UMD, will provide resources and students trained in tribal governance best practices. In addition, it will provide training in applicable rules and regulations to state agencies working on Minnesota reservations.

St.Louis County

Families holding ceremonies in the bitter cold outside UMD late last winter were making headlines after car accidents just days apart took the lives of two Native people - and controversy erupted between the medical examiner's insistence on autopsies and the victim's families, who protested autopsies were in violation of their religious beliefs.  

Now St. Louis County has a new Chief Medical Examiner, and there's been a significant change in state law.

Two deaths, days apart, of Midewiwin  people have brought the conflict between secular practices and religious beliefs to the forefront.

Most people outside of tribal communities have never heard of Midewiwin, a religion that requires a body to be preserved intact for burial four days after death.