Mary Lagarde, a member of the White Earth Nation, has served as the Executive Director of the Minneapolis American Indian Center (MAIC) since 2012. She oversees a broad range of programs in family services, youth services, culture and language, fitness and nutrition, elder support, workforce development, and native arts, and recently led the organization through a top-to-bottom renovation.

MAIC, built in 1975, doubled in size and welcomed new spaces for programs serving families, youth, elders, and jobseekers. With support from Xcel Energy, the building also received a solar/battery microgrid that allows it to have electricity in an emergency, providing a safe place for MAIC’s Native American and other clients to gather, receive services, and recover. This was a roughly $30 million project, and Mary accomplished the extraordinary feat of raising funds through the COVID-19 pandemic, effectively helping MAIC secure a future as a crucial center of gravity for one of the largest urban Indigenous populations in the United States.

Throughout Mary’s career, she has collaborated across sectors to advocate for and better serve the needs of the community she represents. Support comes from federal and state appropriations, other Tribal communities, the City of Minneapolis, foundations and corporate philanthropy, wealthy individuals, and new market tax credits, among other sources. Knitting together this patchwork of funding and partnerships means Mary has built relationships of trust and mutual benefit with a broad range of organizations—public, private, non-profit, and Tribal.

Mary Lagarde's Interview

Mary Lagarde is a significant example of what happens under extraordinary leadership. Her devotion to the Minneapolis Indian Center enables a thread of community, government, nonprofit, and business sectors to join in creating a safe and restorative hub for the Twin Cities’ Indigenous population. The solar/battery microgrid ensures that MAIC will be able to readily service native residents for years to come.

Critical Collaborator Evaluation Team

About the Critical Collaborator Category

The Critical Collaborator Award recognizes an individual whose career has been devoted to fostering enduring contributions to the environment, environmental health, or environmental justice through collaborative partnerships.

Dorsey sponsors the critical collaborator award because it furthers our core values of clients, community and colleagues. Inherent in these values is the recognition of the need to collaborate with its stakeholders. Dorsey believes contributing to the community is not only critical to our success but an obligation of our profession.