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Viewpoint: Our strong commitment to Goodhue County

"Kiciyuonihanpi." We are honored to be with you all.

The Prairie Island Indian Community broke ground last week on an assisted living center for tribal elders that will be located on 18 acres of federal trust land in Welch Township that is under tribal jurisdiction.

Respecting and providing for our elders is part of our culture. This 38,000-square-foot, single-level facility will offer a comfortable, safe living environment for those who have taught us and shaped our community.

Looking out for the larger community is one of the valuable lessons we've learned from our elders and we know that responsibility extends beyond Prairie Island's borders. Being a good neighbor is a responsibility we take seriously. We are part of this broader community and strongly vested in its future.

Our commitment to strengthening Goodhue County and the surrounding region is unquestionable. We are the top employer in this region, providing over one thousand jobs and generating tens of millions of dollars in economic activity and tax revenue. Beyond the employment and economic impact, our charitable contributions have benefited hundreds of organizations and individuals in the region from local youth sports teams to the construction of the National Eagle Center in Wabasha.

We believe we are making this community stronger and remain steadfast in that commitment as we look to our future.

That's another fundamental lesson our elders taught us: considering the impact upon seven generations as we make decisions. That principle guides everything we do and ensures that we aren't making choices that hurt the environment or the community — on Prairie Island or beyond.

Our Welch neighbors can rest assured that the seven-generations philosophy is guiding our decisions as we build the assisted living center and consider other uses for the property.

Questions have been raised about the environmental impact of the facility, specifically around water, drainage and noise. We want our neighbors to know that respect for the earth is a fundamental belief in our culture. We draw essential elements such as food, water and medicine from our lands so there is nothing more sacred to us than protecting them.

An ancient Dakota proverb "Owe unkahnakapi kin etanhan ihunniya sdodunyapte" teaches us that we will be known forever by the tracks we leave. That lesson will guide us as we proceed with this project.

Our commitment to responsible environmental stewardship is on display every day at Prairie Island. The experienced, dedicated staff in our land and environment department oversees a variety of initiatives from habitat restoration, preservation and conservation, to working within the community to reduce our footprint. We've made significant investments to upgrade our infrastructure, including an updated waste-water plant and new pumping station, as well as installing a natural gas pipeline that allowed us to convert tribal homes from propane to cleaner natural gas. Because of our location next to the nuclear power plant and nuclear waste storage site, we are constantly monitoring our soil, water and the air.

We apply that vast experience to all tribal projects, including the assisted living center. In addition to our own staff, we are working with experienced engineers and construction companies to design and build an attractive, professionally managed and environmentally responsible facility.

We purchased the Welch property more than 15 years ago as part of our commitment to tribal members to provide safer alternatives to living on Prairie Island. The proximity to our community was important since it allowed us to reclaim a small portion of what is historical Dakota Territory. The federal government placed the land into trust for our tribe in 2015, recognizing our burden of a limited land base that is under constant threat.

Building on the land that is under our jurisdiction in Welch is not about leaving Prairie Island; that is something we will never do. It is about strengthening the community — ours and the surrounding area.

We have a rich history of collaborating and cooperating with neighboring communities to bring value and we want that to continue as we move forward in Welch.

Prairie Island  Tribal Council