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Tribal Council 'ready' for challenges

Prairie Island Tribal Council President Ron Johnson (left) and Vice President Lu Taylor accept congratulations following Monday’s swearing-in ceremony. (Republican Eagle photos by Anne Jacobson)

Challenges await the newly elected Prairie Island Tribal Council, the leaders acknowledged Monday. Those include threats to sovereignty and to the tribal-owned Treasure Island Resort & Casino.

But the five leaders expressed confidence as they took the oath of office and delighted in the day and the tribe’s successes. They praised elders for leading the way through hard times and pledged to work equally hard to ensure Prairie Island remains as prosperous.

“We look forward to working with you,” said Johnny Johnson, who as the outgoing president and new assistant-secretary/treasurer with 20 years in office spoke first. “We must continue to pass down all that’s important to us” — language, culture and more.

Tribal members also re-elected Ron Johnson to the council; he is the new president. Emerging from the field of 19 candidates in the November election were Lu Taylor, Ed Buck and Shelly Buck. They succeed Alan Childs II, Audrey Bennett and Victoria Winfrey as council members.

“It’s an honor to represent the Prairie Island Community again,” Taylor said. The new vice president has served several times on the council. “I’m ready.”

Ed Buck returns after a two-year hiatus. He is now treasurer. Shelley Buck, the council secretary, served six years ago, but has been the tribe’s in-house lobbyist in the interim.

The five were elected to general positions. They met as a council Monday to determine who will fill the leadership roles.

Past and present

In his acceptance speech, Ron Johnson gave special praise to Bennett and Winfrey. Both women have held the tribal presidency.

“Without those two, I can’t grow as a council member,” he said. Then he extended his message to the casino staff as well as tribal members. “This council cannot just do it alone.”

He gave a special call-out to Xcel Energy, which operates the Prairie Island nuclear plant a couple hundred yards from the reservation, and praised officials for improved relationships with the tribe. He credited the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for helping facilitate the partnership.

“We’ve come a long way,” he said.

Before the several hundred people present came through the greeting line and the Prairie Island Singers sang a traditional honor song, he promised time for more conversation soon. “We’ll have time to see each other; we’ve got two years. We’ll have fun,” he said.

Anne Jacobson

Anne Jacobson has been editor of the Republican Eagle since December 2003. 

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