RED LAKE -- New home construction, infrastructure improvements, casino construction - Chairman Floyd "Buck" Jourdain Jr. listed successes and expectations for the Red Lake Nation Friday.
Following the color guard and youth royalty procession, the flag song by the Red Lake Singers drum group and invocation by Eugene Stillday, Jourdain said progress is moving quickly. Hundreds of people packed the Red Lake Humanities Center for the State of the Band Address.
"Things are developing so fast now for our band that things are changing from day to day," Jourdain said.
For example, he said he just received news Thursday of a $475,000 grant to help build a multiuse community facility in Ponemah. He added that changes were coming in so fast he had been revising his speech up until a few minutes before Friday's meeting.
Looking back at 2008, Jourdain noted the high rate of voter registration among 9,397 enrolled Red Lake members.
"We played an important role in electing the first African-American president of the United States, Barack Obama," he said to cheers from the overflow assembly.
He expressed hope that as racial barriers diminish, an American Indian might also one day lead the United States. Meanwhile, he called for vigilance in ensuring the United States honors its treaties with Indian nations.
In other good news from the past year, Jourdain said Red Lake Public Safety has reported a decline in methamphetamine use and gang activity. However, he said alcohol and prescription drug abuse is still a big concern.
He also noted the $200-per-member stimulus checks distributed in December. He said the money was a boost to the local economy, "including the Bemidji area, so don't let them forget about it."
For 2009, Jourdain said Red Lake has plenty of "shovel-ready" projects to tap into the $2.8 billion American Indian Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.
Jourdain said that in spite of the national recession, Red Lake Gaming, which employs 862 people, showed a 9 percent increase in 2008 over the previous record year of 2007.
"We continue to be one of northwest Minnesota's most successful businesses," he said.
Red Lake's investments are not immune to the economic downturn, but the band's permanent fund is intact, he said.
He also reported on the outcome of the second season of commercial fishing by Red Lake Fisheries. The fisheries sold $800,000 worth of fish and paid $435,514 in wages to the 45 employees. However, hook-and-line angling has only tapped about half of the 820,000-pound quota. So, in June, Red Lake Fisheries will begin netting fish, along with continuing to buy fish caught with hook and line.
"All harvesting will be scientifically monitored by our DNR," Jourdain said.
On the downside of the fisheries report, he said black market sales of Red Lake walleye continues. The allure of quick cash has cost the fisheries thousands of dollars, he said.
On a more positive note, Jourdain said the new $18 million casino-hotel complex on the south side of the reservation just to the east of state Highway 89 will be ready for business in December. He noted that the cost will be less than expected because of the favorable building climate.
"The best time to capitalize on construction projects is when companies are hungry," he said.
Other upcoming projects Jourdain announced include a Red Lake Urban Embassy Center in the Twin Cities, expansion of the reservation's land base, small business loans for members and new homes in the Walking Shield neighborhood and Ponemah. The new Law Enforcement Center is scheduled to open in March, the elder nutrition site in April and a new wastewater facility in July. School improvements, a new kidney dialysis unit and the new reforestation center greenhouse are all in the works.
"It's going to be a really busy summer," Jourdain said. "As you can see, there's a lot going on with the Red Lake Nation."