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Healing ceremony helps alleviate sting of arson at Bois Forte Headquarters; Band regroups, rebuilds and remembers on powwow grounds, beside burnt headquarters

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NETT LAKE, MINN. - A week that began with shock and pain has closed with some peace and quiet. The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa hosted a healing 9 a.m. ceremony today on its powwow grounds, located beside the tribal headquarters that were destroyed in a July 20 fire.

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It's been a hectic week as tribal employees scrambled and shuffled to set up new offices in the nearby school, housing and DNR buildings. Approximately 200 people attended the ceremony which allowed Band members to pause and recognize the loss and begin grieving as a community.

Arson hurts, Tribal Chairman Kevin Leecy said before the healing ceremony. Knowing the fire was begun intentionally makes it harder to deal with. (The FBI, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bois Forte Tribal Police Department are pursuing several strong leads, having confirmed the state fire marshal's determination of arson.)

And yet, Chairman Leecy said, this has compelled Bois Forte to pull together, to step up and help out. The well-attended healing ceremony focused on rebuilding. Band members were encouraged to look to the future. Ironically, they already have an idea of what the future holds: A groundbreaking ceremony for the new government and community services facility that will replace many of the burnt offices is slated for Aug. 11.

To aid in the effort to capture the arsonist, Bois Forte has established a reward of up to $14,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible. The Minnesota Arson Hotline number is 800-723-2020.

A fire rebuilding fund has been established to help Bois Forte replace the materials lost in the fire. Monetary contributions can be sent to the First National Bank of Buhl, 121 State St., Buhl, MN 55713. Office supplies or furniture can be donated by calling Public Works Director Marty Connor at 218-757-0193 or 218-757-0196.

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