Lance Morgan: Commodity cheese and world diplomacy

Lance Morgan, a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, is the chief executive officer of Ho-Chunk, Inc., the tribe's economic development corporation. Ho-Chunk Inc owns Indianz.Com and AllNative.Com.

winnebagocheese.jpg My brother, Maunka Morgan, teaches Native American Studies classes at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He brought his students to the Winnebago Reservation and I gave them a presentation on Ho-Chunk, Inc. Before starting, I asked each of the students to tell me where they are from and why they took the Native American Studies class.

Two of the students where young men from Saudi Arabia and they took the class because they were interested in tribes and how they function because their society had tribal elements to it also. For fun, I asked them whether or not their government gave their tribes cheese too.

The two Saudis didn’t know what I was talking about so I explained to them that in the United States the government gives low income people cheese and that since tribes are some of the poorest places we get lots of cheese. The typical reservation is sort of an all you can eat cheese buffet.

I asked the rest of the students to raise their hand if they ever got in on the government cheese thing and about half did and started talking about how good it was and how it made the best grilled cheese sandwiches. I am not entirely sure this is what my brother had in mind by bringing his students to Ho-Chunk, Inc, but in my opinion this is what a college education is truly all about—traveling the world and learning all about new cultures.

I could see that the two Saudi students were confused, but seemed strangely intrigued by the prospect of an excellent grilled cheese sandwich. My assistant, Joi, was in the meeting and I asked her to see if we could get some cheese from the commodity program for our foreign tribal guests.

The commodity program was kind of enough to play along once we explained they were gifts for visiting tribal leaders from a foreign land. For some reason they also gave us some neck bones, but those suspiciously disappeared with Joi at the end of the day.

At the same time, one of the photographers from Blue Earth Marketing came by to take a picture of the visiting students. I wouldn’t let them take the picture until Joi returned with the cheese.

We do a lot of government contracting with the State Department and even won their small business of the year award in 2008. Obviously we have picked up a few things regarding international diplomacy. My sources (CNN) have told me that the Saudis are upset with how the United States handled the Egyptian crisis a few months ago too.

So in an effort to improve foreign relations, we formally presented the blocks of cheese to them as a gift to our foreign dignitaries—just humbly doing our part for international diplomacy.

I thought the whole thing was funny, but then it occurred to me that this was these young gentlemen’s first time with such a large and tasty block of government issued cheese and I warned them that they shouldn’t eat too much at once because this too much cheese could really back you up and I certainly didn’t want another international incident on our hands, so to speak.

Hopefully the picture is in the paper somewhere this week. You really can’t make this stuff up.

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