Red Lake Tribal Chairman and Bemidji State University Alumnus Floyd “Buck” Jourdain first met Barack Obama during the President’s first campaign for President. At the Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Chairman Jourdain asked then Senator Obama, “If elected President, what is your plan to assure that tribal sovereignty, the Federal-Indian relationship, Treaty rights, and Indian territories are protected, and upheld under your administration?”
Melanie Benjamin, Mille Lacs Tribal Chairwoman (also a BSU Alumnus) and Jourdain were the only Minnesota tribal leaders in attendance at this pivotal event. With the attention of Indian country riveted on his response, Obama crafted a careful answer from which administration’s policy on Indian affairs would emerge. Obama’s answer focused on improved communication and a strengthened relationship with Indian country as well as a series of initiatives designed to strengthen native nations. And that is exactly what happened after Obama’s election. Bemidji State University is very proud to count among their alumni Red Lake Tribal Chairman Buck Jourdain, Mille Lacs Tribal Chairwoman Melanie Benjamin, and Leech Lake Tribal Chairwoman Carri Jones. Setting new directions in Indian country and shaping national policy—that is what Minnesota tribal leadership and BSU Almuni do.