Sandra Skinaway is the chairwoman of the historic Sandy Lake Band (SLB) of Minnesota Chippewa. Before her, her father Clifford Skinaway, Sr. worked hard to achieve federal recognition for the Band. It was not to happen during his lifetime.
However, on Jan. 31 of this year, the SLB secured a Resolution of Support for its continued pursuit of restoration of its federal recognition as an Indian Tribe from the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (MCT). The Tribal Executive Committee (TEC) passed the resolution at its quarterly meeting on the White Earth Reservation at Mahnomen.
Clifford Skinaway Sr. passed in 1994, after working in vain for many years to gain recognition for the SLB as the seventh band in the MCT. He instilled in his children the importance of carrying on that work after he was gone.
Sandra Skinaway explained the importance of last month’s resolution, “Recognition has many legal implications. When the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs lumped tribes together during reorganization under the Indian Reorganization Act, also called Wheeler–Howard Act, (June 18, 1934), it diminished the individual standing of the SLB as a signatory to the 1855 Treaty. Getting back its status as a federally recognized tribe will help the Band regain its identity and will help Band members get the boundaries of their ancestral land restored as specified in the 1855 Treaty. Recognition will also give the SLB two seats at the table when the MCT’s executive committee meets to make decisions for the seven (now six) member Bands.”
Skinaway clarified that the status of the SLB is different than that of the Lake Lena and the East Lake/Rice Lake Bands, which have members enrolled in the Mille Lacs Band of Minnesota Chippewa (MLB) and have infrastructure in place that was funded by the MLB. Sandy Lake members are not enrolled members of the MLB.
The difficulty the SLB leadership has experienced is due to long-standing opposition on the TEC, members of which tend to keep their seats for many years.
“Last year there were a number of new members elected to tribal governments. We basically had a whole new TEC to work with,” said Sandra.
Skinaway started over with explaining the situation to new TEC President Kathy Chavers of Boise Forte. Chavers agreed to let SLB be on the January TEC agenda to request a resolution of support from the MCT. The MLB’s Melanie Benjamin told the MCT that she was not opposed to the resolution, but that they could not vote on it because of the lawsuit in process with Mille Lacs County. Skinaway continued to try to reach the other TEC members. On Jan. 31 she was able to get on the TEC agenda and asked the MCT to support the SLB effort to restore recognition. The TEC passed a resolution in support. David Morrison from Boise Forte was the only opposing vote; possibly because he had history with the MCT as one of the last remaining members of the previous TEC.
The White Earth Band spoke up in support of the Sandy Lake Band at the meeting. Skinaway had approached Ray Auginaush and asked for his support. He said he would bring it before council. Secretary/Treasurer Allen Roy was also sympathetic and they did everything they could to support the SLB.
“I believe the White Earth Band, Allen Roy in particular, was responsible for our success in this matter, because of this support and the nominations he made at the TEC,” said Skinaway. Roy is a veteran and still in the Army Reserves. Sandy Lake representatives are invited to the White Earth Nation’s State of the Band address on Aug. 2. Roy is also running for State Senate in District 2.
This week Skinaway said that the next step for the Sandy Lake Band will be to try to get a bill sponsored in the U.S. Congress that would restore the Sandy Lake Reservation and its status as a federally recognized Indian Tribe.