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Red Lake settles lawsuit with United States Department of the Interior

Red Lake Band of Chippewa Chairman Floyd "Buck" Jourdain has announced that the tribe has settled a lawsuit with the United States.

"We are pleased to announce that the Red Lake Band has reached a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of the Interior that resolves a lawsuit we filed over four years ago," said Jourdain in a press release Thursday.

Jourdain received the news Wednesday evening from the tribe's representative, Philip Baker-Shenk, an American Indian law specialist with Holland and Knight Law in Washington, D.C.

The Red Lake Nation sued the Department of the Interior for money to operate a juvenile detention program in a new facility constructed in Red Lake by the U.S. Department of Justice. In a preliminary ruling last year, a federal court judge found that the Department of the Interior breached its promise to assist the tribe in obtaining the operating funds and to request that amount in the next budget request. As the tribe and Department of the Interior negotiated settlement terms, the court scheduled and rescheduled trial on causation and damages.

"The settlement helps the tribe avoid the greater legal expense and uncertainty of a trial, and finally provides some funding to the tribe to begin to operate a juvenile detention program," said Jourdain. "I wish we had not been forced to sue Interior, but the outcome made it worth our while."

He said the settlement is consistent with the 12-year-old federal policy that if the Department of Justice builds a tribal jail, the Department of the Interior will fund its operation.

"While I am frustrated that the United States took a very long time to do what it promised, late is better than never," Jourdain said.

He said the tribe would now begin looking at ways to apply the funds it receives for the benefit of juvenile justice needs on the Red Lake Reservation.