Government to Government Conference works to keep relationships strong

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BISAMRCK, N.D. - Gov. Doug Burgum says the state made big strides in building relationships with its tribal members in 2019.

During his opening remarks at the third annual Strengthening Government to Government Partnerships and Relationships Conference, he highlighted signing a new tax agreement, displaying tribal flags at the capitol, and developing a partnership between the sovereign nations and tourism.

A traditional tribal song, and the presenting of flags, helped start two days of collaboration between government and tribal leaders.

Conference organizers want to create change and start fixing issues facing Native American communities in North Dakota.

"We've got an opportunity to get everybody in the room who has an opportunity to make progress on those issues to really listen to each other, talk to each other, gain understanding of each other, and move forward," Burgum said.

Attendees plan to discuss health care, education, economic development, as well as violence against indigenous women.

Burgum says they're facing these issues "one day at a time, one meeting at a time, people getting to know each other as individuals and as neighbors to understand that we all have a shared purpose and common goals."

Leaders say relations between tribes and the government remain strong.

“They're probably the strongest they've ever been, but you know, that's no time to let up on the gas pedal so to speak, so we want to continue strengthening those partnerships,” Scott Davis, executive director of the ND Indian Affairs Commission said.

"I would like to see the vision and the work that was done to set up the conference leave here with actual action," said Peggy L. Cavanaugh, Chairwoman of the Spirit Lake Tribe.

While state leaders say relations are always improving, tribal leaders hope that this conference will bring tangible change to their reservations. Officials also say they are proud of the dedication they’ve seen from all sides, including federal, state, and tribal leaders.