BEMIDJI — Already a young leader, Lori Martin-Kingbird of Cass Lake has been appointed by Gov. Tim Walz to the Young Women’s Cabinet, a group that aims to improve the lives and opportunities of young women across the state.
Officially announced on Nov. 21, Leech Lake Nation member Martin-Kingbird will join 31 other appointees from around Minnesota, in an opportunity that will center their voices and those of their diverse communities.
“I just can’t describe the feeling when I first found out (about my appointment),” Martin-Kingbird shared. “I feel an immense amount of gratitude to be part of this opportunity to create change.”
A part of the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota, a partnership between the Governor’s Office, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota and the YWCA, the program and cabinet bring together nonprofits, businesses, government and young leaders to promote equitable systems to benefit every Minnesotan.
Each of the 32 members of the cabinet are young women or gender expansive, and range in age from 16 to 24.
The grounding philosophy of the initiative lies in the belief that when young Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color in Minnesota thrive, families and communities thrive.
For Martin-Kingbird, this will be an extension of work she’s previously been involved in, namely through the Miss Minnesota and Miss America Organizations.
“This fits in perfectly with the work that I’ve done with the Miss America Scholarship Organization,” she said. “I’ve learned so much about the person that I am through that, I’ve been involved since I was 13 years old.”
Martin-Kingbird, who won the title of Miss Northland in 2020 and was the second runner-up in Miss Minnesota 2022, has used her time with the organization to promote social causes important to her and her home community.
“I’ve spent the majority of my time advocating for clean, safe water,” she explained. “It’s important to preserve our water resources right now so that we can create a healthy and positive future for future generations.”
Now that she’s been appointed by the governor to the Young Women’s Cabinet, Martin-Kingbird hopes to bring her perspective as an Indigenous woman to the conversation. Alongside clean water initiatives, she also hopes to draw attention to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
“My family has been personally affected by this unfortunate epidemic (of MMIW),” Martin-Kingbird shared, “and there’s another family in my community that’s experienced this as well. It affects one family, but it really affects the whole community. That’s something we really need to bring attention to.”
Her main goal, as it’s been with all of her work, is to be a leader her community can be proud of and to represent them well.
“I’ve always been an advocate for Indigenous communities and our rights, that’s a really big thing for me,” she shared. “I truly strive to be somebody that my community can be proud of.”