RED LAKE -- Red Lake Nation Tribal Chairman Darrell Seki gave a rousing speech Friday citing progress on several projects taking place on the reservation.
His comments were part of the annual State of the Band address, following speeches from several other government and organization leaders. Seki, who's in his second term after winning re-election in 2018, began his address by speaking on the tribe's sovereignty.
"We are a sovereign nation," Seki said. "Sovereignty is our power. Red Lake Nation is very strong because of our traditions, culture, customs, teachings and our language."
As his speech continued, Seki said 2019 had been a busy year, citing projects including two new fire halls, new fire trucks, along with the construction of a new chemical dependency treatment facility, a dialysis center and the tribe's solar project.
The solar power initiative began in 2016, with a three phase goal involving installing solar panels on tribal buildings and eventually producing a solar farm. In May 2018, the first phase of the project took place, as panels were added to the roofs of the Red Lake Government Center, the Red Lake Tribal College and the tribe's three casinos.
"Since 2016, Red Lake has been involved in the planning process for the development of a solar farm, with the ultimate goal of the Red Lake Nation becoming energy independent," Seki said. "The engineering study was estimating that the amount of solar power generated by our farm would be sufficient to power 25 homes. This demonstrates that a solar farm we're developing will put us on our way to energy independence."
The third phase of the project will be to develop a solar energy plant, also on the reservation.
Another part of Seki's speech highlighted the development of the Red Lake Nation initiative on child protective services. The initiative, approved by the Minnesota Legislature last year, will have the Red Lake Nation work directly with state and federal government for child service funding, rather than working through the county.
Because the tribal government will be taking a larger role in child protective services, legislation was introduced by District 2A Rep. Matt Grossell, R-Clearbrook and co-authored by local District 5A Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, among others, to fund the construction of an $8.7 million child and family services center.
"In the 2019 legislative session, Red Lake was focused on getting recognized as an initiative tribe. Ultimately, Red Lake prevailed. We didn't want to wait to get into the action. Now, both the House and the Senate have a bill that would provide $8.7 million for the Red Lake Nation to construct a new family, children services inter-generational complex. The tribal initiative is off to a solid start.”