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By Jason Adkins, Published April 07 2009

White Earth convention ratifies new tribal constitution

MAHNOMEN, Minn. – A new constitution for the White Earth Reservation was ratified at a constitutional convention in Mahnomen on Saturday.

Delegates approved the draft document by a 16-8 vote conducted through a secret ballot.

The new constitution provides for a separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. As part of the separation of powers, a president position is being proposed to replace the current chairman's job and the tribal council will become the legislative council with an undetermined number of council members at this point.

The tribal president would have veto power, subject to override by the legislative council.

In what's being described as a monumental step for tribal representation, two seats on the legislative council are being reserved for enrolled tribal members who live off of the White Earth Reservation, but within the state of Minnesota.

In addition, the White Earth Reservation will establish new membership guidelines that eliminate blood quantum rules.

Before the constitution can go into effect, it will go before White Earth tribal members for approval in a referendum on a date yet to be determined.

The Detroit Lakes (Minn.) Tribune and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.