"Preserving the Indian Family"
Office of the Ombudsperson for AMERICAN INDIAN Families
The Minnesota Office of Ombudsperson for AMERICAN INDIAN Families is a new independent state agency as of 2021. It is the first independent state agency of its kind in The Nation.
The Ombudsperson operates independently, but in collaboration with the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, who serves the American Indian Communities. The Ombudsperson works to resolve complaints from families who have been negatively impacted by child welfare social service agencies, to include out-of-home placement of American Indian children, as well as public education and housing issues as they relate to child protection cases.
Minn. Stat. §3.9215 OMBUDSPERSON FOR AMERICAN INDIAN FAMILIES
In recognition of the sovereign status of Indian Tribes and the unique laws and standards involved in protecting Indian children, this section creates the Office of the Ombudsperson for AMERICAN INDIAN Families and gives the ombudsperson the powers and duties necessary to effectively carry out the functions of the office.
Read the Statutory Language on the Office of the Revisor of Statutes website.
Meet the Ombudsperson
Jill Kehaulani (Kay-HOW-La-Knee) Esch is Native Hawaiian and was born and raised in Hawaii. She is a graduate of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She and her husband moved from Hawaii to Minnesota in 2000 so that she could attend William Mitchell College of Law, now known as Mitchell Hamline School of Law. In 2013, she was appointed the Ombudsperson for American Indian Families and then reappointed in 2021 when the new agency was created by the Minnesota Legislature.
Previously, she worked in a small Hawaii law firm for 24 years; after law school she was a judicial law clerk to Judge John Q. McShane and an associate attorney in Duluth for several years. She is an active member of the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA); in 2017, she received its Member of the Year Award. She has been an active member of the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association since 2000 when she was in law school and later served on the Board once she became an attorney. Since 2017, she has served as Co-Chair of the Children and Families Chapter for the United States Ombudsman Association and is an Ex Officio Member of the Board.
Our Story - The Medicine Wheel and Baby Moccasins in Minnesota
The Medicine Wheel is an ancient and sacred symbol used by American Indians in many different ways, different tribal cultures and has many different spiritual meanings. Along those lines, the Native Image was designed to represent the “Circle of Life” – from birth to grandparenthood – with baby moccasins signifying the beginning of the journey of life. Moccasins represent the first steps of a baby and symbolize helping children move forward in life – from being a youth, to being an adult and then to being a grandparent and elder.
For the colors of this Medicine Wheel, yellow represents the East, a new beginning – a baby/child; red represents the South and in the cycle of life, is the youth’s journey; black represents the West and an adult’s journey; and white represents the North and a grandparent or elder who comes to The Circle with wisdom, knowledge, lived experience and teachings.
This independent state agency -- the first independent state agency of its kind in The Nation -- “was born” as a result of the zealous advocacy of tribal leaders of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council and the American Indian Community-Specific Board, and with the support of the Community and with bi-partisan support of the Minnesota Legislature and support from the Governor and Lt. Governor.
The outline of the State at the center of the Medicine Wheel depicts the advocacy and support of the Minnesota tribal leadership and the Native Community, with the Minnesota legislative and government support – all which will benefit the Native children of Minnesota.