Steering Spotlight: Erma J. Vizenor, Chairwoman, White Earth Reservation

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Washington, D.C. – As the first woman to lead the White Earth Reservation, Chairwoman Erma J. Vizenor has always prided herself as a trailblazer. She shared her story, and that of her tribes, and its championship of education at last week’s Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee (DSOC) meeting in Washington, D.C. on economic opportunity with tribal leaders from across the country. “As the leader of the largest tribe in Minnesota, I believe it is very important for the Senate Democrats to take the lead and call for a Steering meeting with the Indigenous Nations of our country; to affirm the government to government relations between the United States and the sovereign Tribal Nations; and to elevate the visibility of sovereign Tribal Nations,” said Vizenor.

Vizenor had the opportunity to participate in last week’s DSOC meeting as an invited guest of both Minnesota Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar. “I am thankful to Senator Al Franken and Senator Amy Klobuchar for giving me the opportunity to not only focus on the dire human needs in Indian Country, but collectively seek solutions at the highest policy level,” said Vizenor. “In my administration, education is the highest priority. To address disparities in education of Native students, I constantly work for system change at all levels: federal, state, and tribal.”

On the White Earth Reservation, she has worked her entire career in education. She holds an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education; a master’s degree in Guidance and Counseling, a specialist degree in Education Administration from Minnesota State University Moorhead, and a doctoral degree in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from Harvard University. Vizenor believes education is a ticket out of poverty and a great equalizer.

Not often blessed with spare time, Vizenor enjoys reading and spending time with her family whenever and wherever she can. When asked what something she hopes people discover about her tribe she remarked, White Earth Nation is a beautiful place with beautiful people who love one another, care for one another, and want a wonderful future for their children and grandchildren.

Related: Steering and Outreach Committee Welcomes Tribal Leaders to Meeting on Economic Opportunity in Indian Country