CASS LAKE -- Leech Lake Tribal College welcomed students back to campus at its first drum welcome event for the new school year on Monday, Aug. 30, the first day of classes.

With some students attending in person and others watching via Facebook Live, Dean of Academics Vikki Howard provided a welcome and announcements after an opening song and prayer.

“It’s a beautiful day to be Anishinaabe and we want to welcome those of you that are here for the first time at Leech Lake Tribal College,” Howard said.

Howard commented on the college’s hopes that this school year will be an exciting one while still being considerate of student safety with regards to COVID.

“It’s really a difficult time for all of us coming together and we’re trying to do this as safe as possible and be together as much as we can,” Howard said. “We’re trying to keep campus open this semester. … That’s why we encourage you to get some of those really fancy masks because you’re going to wear them all semester here at campus.”

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LLTC’s current enrollment is at 170 students, and roughly 65% of classes are being offered online/hybrid with 35% being on-campus, according to Howard and Interim President Helen Zaikina-Montgomery who also spoke.

“Our most important goal is to deliver higher education grounded in the Anishinaabe values that are key to this tribal college,” Zaikina-Montgomery said. “At the same time, we’re watching to keep everyone safe. Today’s our pilot test into what the year will look like.”

In addition to masks and a majority of classes being held online, LLTC is not allowing children to step foot on campus.

“It’s a decision that is devastating to us as much as it is to our students, staff and faculty,” Montgomery said. “However, right now we’ve decided that children are the most vulnerable of our population because some of them, depending on age, are not allowed to be vaccinated or cannot be vaccinated.”

With the assurance that the college will be revisiting these policies as the semester continues, Montgomery provided final remarks before the drum concluded the first Monday welcome event.

More information on LLTC’s COVID mitigation measures can be found at