ONAMIA, Minn. – Mille Lacs Band Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin and District I Representative Sandra Blake were sworn into office on Tuesday, July 10. They were both elected to four-year terms in the Band’s general election last month.
As Chief Executive, Benjamin will lead the Band’s executive branch that implements Band laws and administers programs and services. She plans to immediately start tackling the many challenges facing the Band, including economic diversification, housing, education, language preservation, and more.
Most recently, Benjamin was interim director of the Pine Grove Leadership Academy, a Minnesota public charter school located in District III of the Mille Lacs Reservation. She previously served the Mille Lacs Band as Chief Executive from 2000-2008, Commissioner of Administration (the Band’s highest appointed position) from 1989-1997, and chief of staff to the late Chairman Art Gahbow. She has also been senior vice president of administration and finance at Grand Casino Hinckley, and has served the American Indian community through numerous boards and organizations at the local, state and national levels.
“I’m honored to be serving a tribe of 4,300 people who take so much pride in being Mille Lacs Band members,” said Benjamin. “I share that pride as their Chief Executive, and I plan to channel their energy and the executive branch’s hard work into solving problems and strengthening the Band.” Benjamin was born in Danbury, Wisconsin, and raised in Lake Lena (District III of the Mille Lacs Reservation) and St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis was one of the cities where the Bureau of Indian Affairs tried to relocate many American Indian families at that time.
In her second consecutive and third overall term, Blake will represent District I of the Mille Lacs Reservation, which is made up of the four northern-most townships in Mille Lacs County (with the exception of the Isle community) and has the highest concentration of Band members. She has also served the Band as executive director of education, among other positions, and has held numerous roles within the Minnesota Historical Society at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum. Blake was born and raised on the Mille Lacs Reservation.
“My job is to serve District I Band members,” Blake said. “I appreciate the support that I received in the election, and I will continue to protect and promote the general welfare of the Band members from the district that I was elected from.”
Three Nay Ah Shing school board members – Kimberly Jayne Kegg, Semira Kimpson, and Eloise Betsy Wind – were also sworn in during the ceremony. Located in District I of the reservation, the Nay Ah Shing Schools provide education to pre-school through grade 12 students.
Hundreds of people gathered for the swearing-in ceremony, which was held at the Mille Lacs Band Government Center.