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Red Lake Band of Chippewa Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. delivers his State of the Band address Friday to a full audience at the Seven Clans Casino Event Center. Submitted Photo

Red Lake Tribal Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. outlines goals, successes in speech

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RED LAKE – Red Lake Band of Chippewa Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. sees hopeful signs for the coming year, but lists challenges as well.

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“I’m proud to report the state of our nation is good,” Jourdain said in introducing his annual State of the Band address Friday to a full audience at the Seven Clans Casino Event Center.

However, he said unemployment, historical injustices and the federal sequester that would cut funding to tribes are among difficulties that continue the Red Lake Band’s struggles.

On the positive side, he described the efforts to preserve and spread the use of the Ojibwe language in everyday affairs.

“Our ultimate goal is language immersion,” he said. Roads and areas of the reservation will also be renamed in Ojibwemowin.

He also cited as advances a decrease in crime over the last year, increase in membership to close to 12,000, improvements in health and elder care, the $300 high school graduation incentive awards and the upcoming ground breaking for a new Red Lake Nation College building and renovation of the powwow grounds.

Red Lake Inc. is also an exciting endeavor as an enterprise designed to foster small businesses and entrepreneurship. RLInc., he said, is separate from tribal government to avoid the distrust connected to some of the previous failed tribal businesses such as a door company and water bottling efforts.

Jourdain noted the 39 percent unemployment rate on the Red Lake Reservation. “This is unacceptable,” he said. “Job creation continues to be a priority. We can create jobs on the reservation if we only take the time to do it right.”

He said RLInc. is the right direction, modeled on the Hochunk tribe’s pattern of success. RLInc. is, in its turn, a model for other reservations. Future development plans include a dollar store, strip mall and bank.

With 2013 marking the 150th anniversary of the Old Crossing Treaty between the Red Lake Band and the U.S. government – “one of the most fraudulent land grabs” – Jourdain said Old Crossing Day will be commemorated Oct. 2, the date of the signing of the treaty in 1863, that stripping Red Lake of much valuable farmland to the west of the now 750,000-acre reservation.

“We must educate our people and the whole state on how much we gave (up),” he said looking forward to a government-to-government dialogue. Such a meeting would give “closure to this blemish in our history.”

Further challenges will feature reform of the 1958 constitution to bring it up to date and strengthen tribal sovereignty. For example, he said the clause requiring approval by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in Red Lake decisions should be excised. The process will involve all interested band members, and Jourdain encouraged everyone to become engaged in the process.

On the financial side, Jourdain said gaming continues to be the tribe’s economic driver with 951 employees in the Red Lake, Thief River Falls and Warroad Seven Clans Casinos. The band is partnering with Red Lake Nation College to train workers for customer service, Warroad will expand and Thief River Falls will undergo renovations.

“Our tribe is financially sound and in good shape,” he said.

Article written by Molly Miron for the Bemidji Pioneer.

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