Red Lake chairman expresses optimism about state of band

RED LAKE -- Red Lake Band of Chippewa Chairman Floyd "Buck" Jourdain Jr. recognizes the difficulties his people face. But he believes Red Lake can be a great nation.

RED LAKE -- Red Lake Band of Chippewa Chairman Floyd "Buck" Jourdain Jr. recognizes the difficulties his people face. But he believes Red Lake can be a great nation.

On Monday, following prayers by Spiritual Leader Tom Stillday and Chief Greetings Spears, Jourdain presented the Red Lake 2007 State of the Band address, the first such speech using that format for Red Lake.

He greeted the gathering of about 300 people -- Red Lake members and fri ends from outside the Red Lake Nation -- using what he called his "broken Ojibwe."

"I am constantly trying to learn as much of the language as I can," he said.

He said the Monday's celebration marked the first steps "in a journey that we will take to restore a once proud Indian nation to prominence."


He noted difficult times during the last few years and divisions among the people. But now, he said, is the time to look forward with no separations by districts, politics, degrees of Indian blood, gender, age or religions.

He cited four priorities he and the Red Lake Tribal Council have identified for 2007: reviving the Red Lake fishing industry; combating the plague of illegal drugs on the reservation; giving youth better opportunities; and ensuring the sovereignty of the nation.

Positive efforts he cited include the start of 44 housing units on the reservation slated for the spring, the senior assisted living apartments opened in the fall, the partnership with North Country Health Services for the Family Advocacy Center and White Bison, Indian and Free and Project Safe Neighborhoods to promote public safety and help break addictions to harmful substances.

Jourdain said the strong participation in the January anti-drug summit showed the community is committed to solving the illegal drug problems and the Tribal Council will impose stricter penalties on those who traffic in drugs, strengthen tribal courts and explore the potential for a special drug court.

He said Red Lake will also seek an agreement with 11 tribes to network and track the flow of illegal drugs among reservations and from urban areas to reservations.

"We are mindful of protecting the sovereignty of the Red Lake Band and our jurisdictions, but we are also fully aware that without partnerships, it will be difficult to address the problems our communities face given the limited resources that the tribe receives from the federal government," Jourdain said.

Jourdain expressed concern about the flow of non-members accessing the reservation for illegal activities and noted that other tribes have started setting up checkpoints to restrict visitors. Red Lake might follow suit, he said. Red Lake at one time implemented a passport system requiring non-members to declare their business on the reservation. They could be removed if they disturbed the peace.

"On our reservation, we are experiencing an influx of criminal activity by people who have no business entering our tribal lands," he said.


On the positive side, Jourdain praised the efforts that rescued the walleye fishery and said restoration of the fishing industry, by hook and line harvest at this point, not gill netting, looks likely. Establishing a tribal Department of Natural Resources provides the capacity for monitoring the status of the fishery, as well as the overall health of the lake.

He cited the construction of the new Boys & Girls Club to open in late summer in Red Lake and plans for constructing another club in 2008 in Ponemah. The projects are funded in part by $2.8 million in federal money, grants and private donations. Elders are working with youth to preserve and revive traditional culture, a new tribal Web site helps off-reservation members stay in touch with their homeland and the Youth Council is active with plans for a summit and powwow in the spring, he said.

Other plans the chairman cited for 2007 include a sex offender registry, animal control requirements, lower speed limits, limited truck traffic in neighborhoods and efforts to regain former tribal land. The tribal school collaborative brings together the Red Lake School District, Minnesota Department of Education and tribal law enforcement, courts and public health entities to create safe environments for students and improve education.

In fiscal matters, Jourdain said the band expects to pay off by the end of this year the final $6 million borrowed for expanding the casinos at Thief River Falls and Warroad. The original debt of $38 million for these projects is on schedule to be retired this year, he said.

Red Lake received $3 million from the federal government to improve sewer and water infrastructure last year, and work will continue through 2007 on these projects, Jourdain said. And the band also obtained $275,000 per year in funding for high crimes areas from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In spite of problems on the reservation, Jourdain said these examples of progress give him cause to feel optimistic.

"There are better days ahead of us," Jourdain said.

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