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BELTRAMI COUNTY: Commissioners host Red Lake Tribal Council

(From left to right at table) Richard Anderson and Jack Frost of the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners sit alongside members of the Red Lake Tribal Council, Julius Thunder, Redby representative, Chairman Darrell Seki Sr., William Greene, outgoing Little Rock representative, and Robert Reynolds, incoming Little Rock representative, on Tuesday at a meeting at the Beltrami County Administration Building. (Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- Two chairmen were seated at the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners meeting table on Tuesday -- a rare occasion if not a historical first.

Red Lake Tribal Chairman Darrell G. Seki Sr. joined Beltrami County Board Chairman Jim Lucachick in conducting a joint meeting between the two government entities.

Seki was accompanied by Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians regional representatives, Tribal Secretary Don Cook Sr., Hereditary Chief George King, the band's administrator and members of New Beginnings. Oshkiimaajitahdah (New Beginnings) is a skills development department on the reservation located in Redby.

A project centered around Oshkiimaajitahdah was the primary focus of Tuesday's meeting. The organization and Beltrami County's Health and Human Services Department are spearheading a program that will bring a health and human services presence back to the reservation.

"This is a pilot, we are the first and only one doing this in the state," said Kay Mack, Beltrami County Administrator.

The project, called the Shared Service and Access Pilot aims to support access to Minnesota Family Investment Program services in the Red Lake Nation, which is approximately 30 miles from the county seat of Bemidji. The pilot will establish a video telepresence to connect people on the Red Lake reservation with an eligibility intake staffer in an electronic face-to-face interview. Information could then be faxed directly to Beltrami County Health and Human Services electronic files.

Programs anticipated to improve under the project include employment services referral, diversionary work program eligibility, child care assistance program eligibility, food support and expedited food support.

"We've got to remember we are public servants and are taking care of all the folks that live in our boundaries," Lucachick said.

The outcome of the Shared Service and Access Pilot project will be a transition of Red Lake Nation to a direct relationship with the federal government and the Minnesota State Department of Human Services. The Beltrami County Health and Human Services department is assisting with training.

"That's the purpose of this meeting, to start a government-to-government dialog," Seki said. "Our members depend on services provided in Beltrami County."

Seki began working on government relations with Beltrami County Commissioner Tim Sumner. Sumner's district surrounds the Red Lake Nation, where Sumner, who lives in Redby, is a member..

"Red Lake Nation is planning on taking over TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families)," Seki said.

Jerry Loud, director of New Beginnings joined Tuesdays meeting via conference call from a symposium in Washington, D.C., where he submitted Red Lake's TANF plan. Minnesota uses TANF money to fund the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP). Submitting the plan now puts Red Lake on track for opening doors to a human services office in Red Lake on Jan. 1.

"That's being pretty aggressive, as far as submitting today. We're on track for that timeline," Loud said. "Everybody's excited to get this online."

Lucachick said having the plan make its way to Washington shows progress. Charles Dalson, executive administrator for the Red Lake Band, said as a federally recognized tribe, the band brings something to the table in that it is an ear for the federal government.

"We're excited to see it moving forward. We're the first ones to encourage you to do so," Mack said. "I think we'll be a great catalyst for the training efforts. It's not going to be an easy task for your New Beginnings people by any means."

Loud said a trial test for a video conference is scheduled for Aug. 14. The Red Lake Internet Technology department has already been testing the video system with the county.

"It's better to build bridges than to build fences," Lucachick said. "And that's what we did here today."

Beltrami County commissioners and the Red Lake Tribal Council plan on holding a second meeting in Red Lake to address additional concerns shared by the reservation and county.

"Miigwech to all here at this meeting," Seki said. "At the next meeting, I'd like to bring up another issue, economic development."

Crystal Dey
Crystal Dey covers crime, courts, tribal relations and social issues for The Bemidji Pioneer in Bemidji, Minnesota. Originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range, Dey has worked for the Echo Press in Alexandria, Minnesota, The Forum in Fargo, North Dakota, The Tampa Tribune in Tampa, Florida, the Hartford Courant in Hartford and West Hartford News in West Hartford, Connecticut. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Crystal Dey on Twitter @Crystal_Dey.
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