Red Lake Nation & Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe present tribal flags to Hennepin & Dakota County judges


Representatives from the Red Lake Nation and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe presented their tribal flags to Hennepin County and Dakota County judges in a ceremony today.

The flags and ceremony are a way to acknowledge the sovereignty of the tribal nations and recognize the government-to-government relationships between the tribal nations and the state courts. The flags also symbolize the inclusion of native people in the two counties as they appear before judges in the courts of Hennepin and Dakota counties.

The flags were presented by Melanie Benjamin, chief executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and Darrell Seki, tribal chairman of Red Lake Nation. The flags were presented to Hennepin County District Court Judges David Piper, the presiding judge of Juvenile Court and Charlene Hatcher, assistant presiding judge of Family Court. Chief Judge Kathryn Messerich, chief judge of the First Judicial District and Judge Jamie Cork, of Dakota County District Court received the flags for the courthouse in Hastings.

Judge Hatcher is the former deputy Hennepin County Attorney and Judge Cork is a former prosecutor in the office. They were joined by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, Deputy County Attorney Lolita Ulloa, Lori Whittier, managing attorney for the Child Protection Division and Tom Arneson, managing attorney for the Juvenile Prosecution Division.

The flags will be installed in the buildings where juvenile and child protection cases are heard, as well as the Family Justice Center. That is significant because in 1978, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act, designed to keep families unified instead of automatically removing Indian children from their homes.