Known for being a national spokesman for American Indian sovereignty, Roger Jourdain, Red Lake's first tribal chairman, will now be visibly remembered on a yearly basis.
Prior to the Bemidji City Council meeting Monday evening, Mayor Dave Larson signed a proclamation that designated July 27 as Roger A. Jourdain Day.
In commemoration of Jourdain's life achievements, the proclamation states the Red Lake Nation flag will be flown over the Bemidji City Hall every year on July 27, Jourdain's birthday. Next year, Jourdain would have celebrated his 100th birthday.
Jourdain died in 2002 at the age of 89. He was elected the Red Lake Band of Chippewa's first tribal leader in 1959, a position he held for 31 years.
Jourdain was known for fighting in Washington, D.C., to maintain Red Lake's sovereign status. He spent years challenging the practices and policies of the federal government and Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Jourdain successfully fought the closure of the Red Lake Indian Hospital in the 1950s and started the first tribally-managed health care facilities, which include the Jourdain/Perpich Nursing Home.
He served as a national delegate to the National Democratic Convention in 1976 and 1984, and was a member of the Electoral College in 1976.
Jourdain was named the American Indian Heritage Foundation's 1987 Indian Man of the Year for his efforts to preserve Indian sovereignty. He also received the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians Humanitarian Award.
In 2001, the Star Tribune recognized Jourdain as one of Minnesota's most influential people of the millennium.
In a letter sent to Jourdain's family written by Daniel K. Inouye, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, he stated, "Chairman Roger Jourdain was one of the greatest Indian leaders of his time - he was a mentor and a courageous warrior who always put the protection of the rights of his people before all else."
One of Jourdain's lasting accomplishments was creating the Minnesota Indian Scholarship Program.
"His legacy was enforcing sovereignty," said Kathryn "Jody" Beaulieu, Jourdain's niece, who was at the City Hall to witness the mayor signing the proclamation. "He was well known among national Indian leaders as well as non-Indian leaders and was the bridge gap between the two."
Beaulieu said she hopes the day of remembrance will encourage educators in the community to spend more time learning about Jourdain's accomplishments as an American Indian leader.
She said anyone interested in learning more about Jourdain should visit the Red Lake Library archives, where tribal records and historical material are kept preserved.