Building bridges with the native nations

The American Indian Advisory Board was established to work towards a mutually beneficial relationship among Native nations and the University of Minnesota Crookston. This relationship is intended to be an active partnership that addresses the current and future needs for education and enhancement of relationships, programming and other mutually beneficial endeavors that benefit the region.


The American Indian Advisory Board will serve as a liaison between the American Indian communities and the University of Minnesota Crookston. The board will consult with the University of Minnesota Chancellor on matters related to campus programs and services on behalf of American Indian students; interests and concerns of the immediate American Indian community; methods to encourage and foster the educational advancement of American Indian students in admissions, retention, and achievement of educational objectives; and efforts to develop and increase support for American Indian educational advancement through public relations efforts at the community, state, and federal levels. AIAC will accomplish its purpose by providing advising and expertise to the University of Minnesota Crookston Chancellor, identifying and prioritizing the needs of the Native American communities, including students. It will also serve as a liaison to the region and will bring educational needs of the Nations to U of M Crookston as well as help to bring students to the U of M Crookston campus.

See the UMN Native American Promise Tuition Program

U of M Crookston American Indian Advisory Board

Lisa Brunner

Lisa Brunner

Community Extension Service Director & Adjunct Faculty

White Earth Tribal and Community College
2250 College Road, Mahnomen, MN 56557
Phone: 218-935-0417  
Cell: 218-902-0513

Lisa Brunner is a citizen of the White Earth Ojibwe Nation and is part of the Wolf Clan.  Lisa is the Director of the Community Extension Service and Cultural Department and is the Professor of Anishinaabe Culture at the White Earth Tribal and Community College.
Derrick Cupp

Derrick Cupp

Online Student Rep

6331 NW Klamm Dr, Apt 6310
Kansas City, MO 64151
Cell:  816-876-5744

Derrick Cupp is a Junior online student at the University of Minnesota-Crookston and is currently studying Sports and Recreational Management with a minor in Marketing. He plans to finish his Bachelor’s and UMC to then apply for his MBA and UofM with hopes of working with a professional sports team in Corporate Partnerships.

Derrick grew up in Houma, Louisiana and currently resides in Kansas City, Missouri with his wife and dogs. Derrick is a registered member of the Houma Nation Indian Tribe located in Houma, Louisiana, and hopes to bring an awareness to Native American culture by being active in his local community and Native American Community.

Derrick has held many leadership positions at a professionally level and continues to strive to improve his leadership skills academically. His professional goals include working with a sporting organization that wants to make an impact on the Native American community through using their platform to bring awareness and education to their community and fans.

LeRoy Staples Fairbanks

LeRoy Staples Fairbanks 

PO Box 522
Cass Lake, Mn 56633

LeRoy Staples Fairbanks III was elected as the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe District III Representative in 2012, re-elected in 2016 & 2020. Prior to being the elected Representative, LeRoy worked as the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe’s Deputy Director from 2010-2012 and worked in the human service field as a Chemical Health Counselor and Program Manager 2004-2010.

He also served on the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners from 2008-2012.

  • Founder of LeRoy B Fairbanks & LeRoy Staples Sr. Endowment Fund.
  • Created the Leech Lake Endowment Fund
  • Founder of the Leech Lakers Youth Sports
  • Governor appointment to Children’s Cabinet Advisory Council

LeRoy resides in Cass Lake, Minnesota with his wife Becky and 5 wonderful children.

Brent Gish

Brent Gish

PO Box 30
Naytahwaush, MN 56566

Brent Gish currently serves as executive director of the National Indian Impacted Schools Association (NIISA). In this role, Brent advocates for over 600 school districts and over 115,000 students residing on tax exempt lands held in federal trust, tribally owned or Alaska Land Recovery Act property. As a result of these federal actions, Congress appropriates Impact Aid to compensate local public school districts for lost taxing authority.  In his role as NIISA executive Director, Mr. Gish is advocates for full funding of the Impact Aid Program, monitors the reauthorization of the Program (Title VII of ESSA) and works for timely payments to federally impacted districts.  Prior to his present position, Mr. Gish served on the executive boards of NIISA and NAFIS—the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools as well as many other tribal, local/regional, state, national and tribal college boards.  During his service on these boards, he has been an outspoken advocate for the children residing on Indian lands and the school districts impacted by federal presence.

Brent’s experience in public education spans over 40 years and includes serving as an elementary classroom teacher, a K-6 principal and an innovative district superintendent.  Mr. Gish has a proven ability to build and lead teams with clearly defined goals, focused on student learning and the diverse and evolving needs of students.  His entire career in public education has been spent serving the students and families of the White Earth Ojibwe and Red Lake Ojibwe Nations in northern Minnesota.  

Mr. Gish earned his Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree and Administrative Specialist licensure from Minnesota State Universities.  In addition, he was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Education. Brent and his wife Gayle reside in northern Minnesota’s lakes and woodlands.

Laurie Harper

Laurie Harper

Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
Education Director

190 Sailstar Dr. NW
Cass Lake, MN 56633 
Phone: 218-335-3617
Cell: 218-839-5821

Laurie Harper serves the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe as the Director of Education, which includes Early Childhood, Workforce Development and Youth Activities Programs. Laurie is responsible for leading the Tribal Education Division on the development of a Tribal Education Code and a comprehensive education plan. She has led the development on the Band’s Policy on Tribal Consultation in Education. Laurie currently serves as the President of TEDNA (Tribal Education Departments National Assembly) and is also the Chairwoman of the Bug O Nay Ge Shig School Board, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Laurie holds an appointment to the Tribal Nations Education Committee for the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, which is tasked as the liaison between the eleven Tribal Nations and the Minnesota Department of Education.
Annette Johnson

Annette Johnson

Treasurer Red Lake Nation

1327 Daisy Ct SE
Bemidji, MN 56601
Cell: 218- 308-3325

Kaleb Pemberton

Kaleb Pemberton

U of M Crookston Student Representative 

Senior, Natural Resources Management
Desirie M Wilson

Desirie M. Wilson

P.O. Box 562
Red Lake, MN  56671
Phone: 218-679-1468
Cell: 218-368-0068

Desirie M. Wilson is the current Director of Internal Audit and Compliance at the Red Lake Nation Government Center.  She has worked for the Red Lake Nation Tribal Government for 32 years.

Desirie grew up in Bemidji, MN and graduated from Bemidji High School.  She also graduated from Bemidji State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree majoring in Criminal Justice.  She then went to the University of Minnesota Duluth and graduated with a Masters of Tribal Administration and Governance in 2014.


Jacob McArthur

Jacob McArthur

Associate Director of Veden Center for Rural Engagement / EDA University Center

123-B Dowell Hall
2900 University Avenue
Crookston, MN 56716
Cell: 218-401-1641

Chris Ehrhart

Chris Ehrhart

Director of Diversity

270-B Owen Hall
2900 University Avenue
Crookston, MN 56716