Prairie Island Tribal Council

The Prairie Island Tribal Council approved the memorandum of understanding in mid-March. Top Row: Michael Childs Jr. (Treasurer), Cody Whitebear (Assistant Secretary/Treasurer). Bottom Row: Shelley Buck (Vice President), Johnny Johnson (President), Valentina Mgeni (Secretary). 

The Prairie Island Indian Community and the city of Red Wing have signed an agreement between the two communities. 

Multiple city departments and PIIC representatives joined together to work on the agreement and bring it from idea to reality. Representatives from city engineering, public works, buildings and grounds, community development, capital investment and community engagement wrote a report for the Monday, March 28, City Council meeting. 

“The purpose of the (memorandum of understanding) is to form a basis for future partnerships, create a system of stronger communication and formalize an information-sharing agreement related to land and capital improvement projects,” the staff report stated. “This MOU is a foundational document and one that both communities enter into with good faith and goodwill.”

In mid-March, the Prairie Island Tribal Council met and approved the document. Prairie Island Tribal Council Vice President Shelley Buck signed the agreement and sent it to the city. 

Agreement background

Work on the agreement began 18 months ago. The staff report explains, “Because Red Wing sits on land of the Prairie Island Indian Community, descendants of the Bdewakantunwan Band of the Eastern Dakota, and other Indigenous nations, the area is unique, holding an unusually large number of burial mounds and sites with other archeological resources. For this reason, an MOU like the one being put forward for approval is especially important.”

The agreement has eight topics, including:

Government-to-government relationship: An annual meeting will be held in the first quarter of the year. The agreement states these meetings are “to review the status of policies, practices, and/ or projects and activities developed to implement the Parties' shared interests.” 

Staff of the communities can meet more frequently for administrative needs. 

Cultural and archaeological protections and education: Federal law dictates that human remains are to be protected. The agreement will build on this requirement “to further develop policies, practices, and/ or projects and activities that strive to protect other archaeological resources to the greatest extent possible. These will be developed through ongoing consultation and cooperation.”

This understanding adds that the communities will cooperate when state or federal funding is pursued “for the purpose of protecting, preserving, and perpetuating cultural and natural resources, and for the development of cultural and archaeological education programs related thereto.”

Environmental protections and productive use: The local environment has been a topic of focus in Red Wing and Prairie Island. For example, in 2018, the PIIC announced plans to become a net-zero energy community. In February, the PIIC announced that technical consultants were hired from two Native American firms – Indian Energy and Chief Strategy Group – to help create an energy system that will result in net-zero emissions.

Meanwhile, the Red Wing 2040 plan has numerous goals for the local environment. These include reducing CO2 and other toxic gasses by 80% by 2040, promoting clean electricity, expanding organic composting in Red Wing and more. 

The agreement states that Red Wing and the Prairie Island Indian Community will “cooperate, to the extent feasible, in encouraging economic development opportunities and pursuing projects for the protection of natural and cultural resources within the geographic boundaries of the city.”

Voluntary information sharing: Red Wing will share with the PIIC: 

  • The annual draft of the city' s five-year capital improvement plan. 

  • Notification of larger infrastructure projects that is not included in the capital plan.

  • Non-emergency development or construction on city-owned property that involves subsurface digging to a depth of 12 inches or more.

  • City projects that involve land excavation and includes direct federal or state funding.

  • If items suspected to be cultural resources are observed by the city.

The PIIC will share with Red Wing: 

  •  Maps of published traditional places and names with cultural relevance.

  • Educational resources describing traditional cultural practices, places and activities that may have occurred at( or near) the city.

  • Training materials that provide city staff and contractors with general knowledge of what staff and contractors need to look for, and how to respond when excavations reveal suspected cultural or archeological resources.

City Council President Becky Norton said when the agreement was first brought before the council in February, “What I think is most important between any two groups is just effective and good communication. And I think that this MOU really highlights that; it’s a process for that.”

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