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Red Lake Tribal Chairman Floyd "Buck" Jourdain talked at the funeral ceremony of his cousin and friend and Tribal Council member Donald May on Friday morning. (Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer)

Family members, friends eulogize Red Lake Tribal Council member Donald May

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

By Molly Miron

Special to the Pioneer

RED LAKE -- Although Donald "Dudie" May died March 8 in an apparent shooting at a rural Red Lake residence, Friday's funeral emphasized not that tragedy, but the deceased man's character and service to the Red Lake Nation.

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The funeral for May, 58, at the Red Lake Humanities Center was officiated by the Rev. Jerry Rogers of St. Mary's Mission in Red Lake. May's casket was flanked by flags of the United States, Minnesota and the Red Lake Nation, as well as an eagle staff and scores of floral tributes. The tone of the memorial service focused on a celebration of May's life.

Several speakers described May's goal to restore the east side of Upper Red Lake to the tribe. "His mission was to get back the lake that was fraudulently taken from the Red Lake people," said Chairman Floyd "Buck" Jourdain Jr. "He dedicated his life to that."

Vernon May, Donald’s cousin, said he visited him the night he died.

"The last thing he was talking about was getting our land back," Vernon May said.

Because of May's determination in reclaiming Upper Red Lake, Jourdain said he bestowed on the councilman the name Zaaga'igan Ogichidaa, Lake Warrior.

Jim Walker, who worked with May researching the border controversy, said they found in official documents in Washington, D.C., the evidence they needed to make the case that the entire lake should lie within reservation boundaries. May was preparing to make a presentation to that effect this week, Walker said.

Jourdain noted that May was the Red Lake District representative to the tribal council. But he said May didn't maintain a narrow focus. For  example, he arranged to build basketball courts for youth recreation in all the Red Lake communities.

"He didn't just care about one district; he cared about every district," Jourdain, who also is a cousin of May’s, said. "He was always strong and he was there for the people. It's a huge, huge loss to our tribe, but we're going to carry on."

May served on the Red Lake Tribal Council since 2004, but his cousin, Donovan May, said his mind was on improvements reaching forward to future generations.

"Things were never political for Dudie. It was his life," Donovan May said.

"Our reservation lost the definition of a true leader," said Emmy May, one of Donald’s sisters. "I truly believe his memory will live on in all of us."

The testimonials concluded with a slideshow of May's life and his enjoyments. The montage featured family gatherings, wedding photos and snapshots of May leading the Red Lake Ride for the Troops and Suicide Prevention Bike Rally. One of his motorcycle friends, Brenda Dahl, remembered May saying he wanted the song "Born to Be Wild" by Steppenwolf to be played at his memorial. The result Friday, an impromptu download and broadcast of the song.

The service concluded with honor songs sung by the May Family Drum Group and a feast of Red Lake walleye.

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