Mille Lacs Band creates pensions for elders
ONAMIA, Minn. (AP) - The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is creating pensions for its retirees in an effort to give more support to the band's elders. While the pensions will be small at first, band leaders say that in about 50 years, they could total ...
ONAMIA, Minn. (AP) - The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is creating pensions for its retirees in an effort to give more support to the band's elders. While the pensions will be small at first, band leaders say that in about 50 years, they could total $1 million for each member.
Don Wedell, the band's long-range planner, said the pension idea isn't one adopted by most tribes - he said most tribes put money aside for the young instead.
"I think many tribes have trust funds that they keep for minor children until they reach age 18 or 21, and this would be a similar thing only it would be extended out until you were 62," Wedell said Tuesday.
Mille Lacs Band Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin said the band will set aside 5 percent of net revenue each year, and the pensions will be funded from the interest generated. Wedell said the amount set aside annually will be $5.7 million.
The first pension payments for those retiring soon will be about $1,500 a year.
Benjamin said the 3,800 band members are a part of an extended family, and the band needs to do a better job of helping its elders.
"A few short decades ago, the work of our people did was seasonal and either paid little or nothing," Benjamin said. "Even when Social Security came around, our people were poor in their old age."
Marie Bengston, an elder from Hinkley, said she's looking forward to the pension, and that many elders could use the money.
"Their household expenses, and maybe get a new car or something different, or just help them cause they need help out there," Bengston said.
The pension payments would be in addition to Social Security payments and casino profit payments retirees already receive. Last year, Mille Lacs Band members each received a $5,600 check from casino profits.
Meanwhile, during her State of the Band address on Tuesday, Benjamin said the band will continue to make the war on drugs and alcohol a top priority.
"We have miles to go on this problem, and many sad days and hard times in store before we solve it," Benjamin said at Grand Casino Mille Lacs. "We have hope for the future, but we have much work to do together."
Benjamin said a series of group meetings will be held this year to discuss a strategic plan to address those problems.
On the Net:
Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe: http://www.millelacsojibwe.org/