Tribal Council

Top Row: Michael Childs Jr. (Treasurer), Cody Whitebear (Assistant Secretary/Treasurer)
Bottom Row: Shelley Buck (Vice President), Johnny Johnson (President), Valentina Mgeni (Secretary)

Johnny Johnson

President – Johnny Johnson
President Johnny Johnson is serving his 14th term on Prairie Island Tribal Council and second term as President. Prior to serving on Tribal Council, Johnson served as education director for the Prairie Island Indian Community for seven years. In this role, Johnson achieved a marked increase in the graduation rate for the Tribe’s high-school students. During his tenure, Johnson saw the formation of summer school, driver’s education, GED and North Dakota Independent Studies programs as well as tutoring services. These programs and services have been very successful among Community members.
Johnson currently serves on the board of the Red Wing Chamber of Commerce and is a former member of the Human Rights commission of Red Wing, Minnesota. He previously sat on the boards for the Red Wing School Foundation and the Red Wing Hockey Association. He supports youth sports for our community members. Johnson enjoys spending time with the elders and has served as chair of the Prairie Island elders committee for four years.
Johnson has lived in and around Prairie Island his entire life. In his free time, Johnson enjoys spending time with his wife Terrie, their four children, Scott, Blake, Grant and Kennedy, and his seven grandchildren. He enjoys attending youth sporting events, watching hockey, golfing and traveling.

Shelley Buck

Vice President – Shelley Buck
Vice President Shelley Buck is serving her sixth term on Prairie Island Tribal Council, including three terms as president. Prior to being elected to Tribal Council, Buck held other positions serving the Tribe, including enrollment clerk and government relations specialist.
Buck has a Bachelor of Science in business accounting from Indiana University and a Masters of Art in sports management from Concordia University. She recently finished a second Masters of Jurisprudence in tribal Indian law from the University of Tulsa.
Buck currently serves on the boards of the Minnesota Wild Foundation, and Great River Passage Conservency in St. Paul. She was recently re-elected Regional VP Alternate for the National Congress of American Indians.
A native of Indiana, Buck has lived in Minnesota for 17 years and has two daughters – Kachina and Sage. In her spare time, Buck enjoys playing and watching sports, and hanging out and traveling with her daughters and friends.

Michael Childs Jr.

Treasurer – Michael Childs Jr.
Treasurer Michael Childs Jr. is serving his second term on the Prairie Island Tribal Council. Childs previously served on the Tribe’s Business Committee, Election Board and Election Committee.
He had a 14-year career at Xcel Energy nuclear power plant, where he worked as an instrument and control specialist. He served as a technical consultant to Prairie Island during the relicensing of Xcel’s nuclear power plant in 2008.
Childs earned an associate degree in computer and consumer electronics from Northwestern Electronics Institute, an associate of arts from Inver Hills Community College, and a bachelor’s degree in automotive engineering technology with a minor in manufacturing engineering technology from Minnesota State University Mankato, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude.
Born in Minneapolis and living there until he was about 10, Childs finished growing up on Prairie Island. Childs’ father, the late Michael Childs, Sr., served on Prairie Island Tribal Council in the 1990s. His mother, Myra Childs, volunteered at schools by teaching Dakota culture and beading. Childs and his wife, Wendy, live in Welch. He has two daughters, Ally and Emmy, and two stepsons, Jaime, and Dylan. Child’s loves animals and has three cats. He also has a lifelong passion for repairing cars and general fabrication and has two racecars that he will race occasionally. He enjoys volunteering, exercising, and working outdoors.

Valentina Mgeni

Secretary – Valentina Mgeni
Secretary Valentina Mgeni is serving her second term on the Prairie Island Tribal Council. Prior to being elected to Tribal Council, Mgeni worked for 12 years in the Tribe’s Finance department as a staff accountant. Mgeni’s been active in the Community, serving on The Enrollment and Pow Wow Committees, the Election Board and Green Team.
Mgeni holds an associate degree in business administration from Globe University and a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in accounting from National American University.
Mgeni grew up on St. Paul’s Eastside and lives in Maplewood with her husband, Rahkmon. They have four daughters (Monica, Marissa, Mahalia, Maia) and two sons (Rahkmon II and Alex), and are grandparents to eight granddaughters (Mah-Leigha, Jayciana, Milliana, Addyson Mae, Myla, Mni, Leilani and Aliya). Mgeni likes to spend time with family, crafting, and cheering on our Minnesota sports teams.

Cody Whitebear

Asst. Secretary/Treasurer – Cody Whitebear
Assistant Secretary/Treasurer Cody Whitebear is serving his first term on the Prairie Island Indian Community Tribal Council. He ran for Council because he hopes to encourage a new generation of young leaders to emerge and help shape the Tribe’s future and elevate Tribal voices in the broader community. He is excited to walk in the footsteps of his elders and past esteemed Tribal leaders. Whitebear’s grandfather, the late James (Jim) White served on the Prairie Island Tribal Council in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
Prior to being elected to Tribal Council, Whitebear held other positions within the Prairie Island Indian Community government, including Commissioner of Licensing at the Prairie Island Gaming Commission, and federal government relations specialist.
Whitebear graduated high school via the North Dakota Independent Studies program through the Tribe’s education department. Subsequently, he earned his real estate salesperson license in the state of Minnesota in 2007 and pursued a career in real estate sales.
Whitebear was born in Red Wing and grew up in nearby Hastings. He and his son, Cayden, live in Cottage Grove. In his spare time, Whitebear enjoys cooking, exploring life through food, traveling, playing poker, and watching his son play hockey.

The Prairie Island Mdewakanton Dakota Tribe holds an election every two years for positions on Tribal Council. The five-member Tribal Council maintain their positions for a two-year term. It is respectful of Mdewakanton Dakota culture to follow the proper protocol when looking to contact Tribal Council members.

All inquiries should be directed through Tribal Council’s Executive Assistant:

Jody Johnson 651-267-4062

*Tribal Members should contact Tribal Council Secretary Johnny Johnson at with inquiries.

Tribal & State Courts

Minnesota state courts have been fairly deferential toward Tribal courts and have even adopted a state law abstention doctrine for certain disputes that arise in Indian country. As the Minnesota Supreme Court indicated in Gavle v. Little Six, Inc., 555 N.W.2d 284 (Minn. 1996), abstention by a state court is appropriate when the exercise of state court jurisdiction would “undermine the authority of the tribal courts over Reservation affairs” or “infringe on the right of Indians to govern themselves.” A Tribe may also wish to assert aggressive jurisdiction over domestic relations matters especially involving its children both on and off the reservation that may implicate the Indian Child Welfare Act. Although tribal courts lack criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians the federal courts have recognized that tribal courts retain extensive authority to remove non-Indians from their territories.

Tribal Court

All correspondence for the Tribal Court should be sent to:

Prairie Island Tribal Court 5636 Sturgeon Lake Road Welch, Minnesota 55089 Fax: 651-267-4009

The Court consists of a Chief Judge, an Appellate Court, a Clerk of Court, Guardian ad Litem, and a Probation Officer. According to the Judicial Code of the Prairie Island Indian Community there are no Ex Parte communications allowed. If you have any questions or communications for the Court they should be directed to:

Clerk of Court Deb English 651-385-4161

Tribal Court Forms

Family Court Forms

General Court Forms

Judgment Creditors Court Forms

Legal Representation Court Forms