Leech Lake Nation as a Model

Speaker: Marilou Chanrasmi

There is a significant population of unmanaged dogs and cats on tribal lands. Misguided attempts at assimilation left native people disconnected from many aspects of traditional life, including the strong bond with animals and nature. It is important for animal health and community safety that animal management is addressed, veterinary medical resources be accessible, and the connection between people and animals on tribal lands is reestablished. Historically, efforts by well-intentioned non-native animal welfare organizations transported animals off tribal lands and/or provided sporadic spay/neuter services, but significant problems persist.

The Native America Humane Society (NAHS) works with the Leech Lake Nation, partnering with the University of Minnesota SIRVS (UMN Student Initiative for Reservation Veterinary Services) to provide care with volunteer opportunities for native youth. Ganawenim Awesiyag /Taking Care of the Animals Community events are led by the Tribal Council. Building on community knowledge and respecting tribal self-determination, NAHS engaged tribal leaders to explore solutions for sustainable veterinary care in the community and to develop educational programs. The University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and NAHS are collaborating with two tribal communities in Northern Minnesota to create veterinary student service learning experiences and a native youth tribal animal care mentorship program.