Arlan W. Jourdain Succeeds Alexander Gillespie as Red Lake Hereditary Chief

Hereditary Chief James Loud (left) swears in new Chief Arlan W. Jourdain

Published October 11, 2018

RED LAKE INDIAN RESERVATION — At about 10:00 a.m., near the top of the agenda at the October 9, 2018, monthly meeting of the Red Lake Tribal Council, Arlan W. Jourdain was sworn in as one of Red Lake’s Hereditary Chiefs. Jourdain succeeds Chief Alexander Gillespie who resigned the position in late summer.
Jourdain was sworn in by fellow Hereditary Chief James Loud, while Chiefs, Tribal Councilors, Red Lake members, friends and family stood in pride and respect to bear witness.
According to Chief Loud, members of Red Lake’s Seven Hereditary Chief system have the responsibility of deciding who is to succeed the previous Chief by examining the family trees or lineage charts.
“Sometimes it’s easy.” Loud said, “As a general rule, the honor and responsibility of being a Red Lake Hereditary Chief is inherited by the eldest son. There are other times, (for example a chief with no sons) that require more consultation. In all cases, lineage is examined and it is the Chief’s who determine who best meets the criteria for filling a vacancy. The Tribal Council then ratifies that choice.”

Family and friends filled the Council Chambers

Red Lake, one of two closed reservations in the US, is touted as having the first modern indigenous democratic governance system in the nation, while maintaining a hereditary chief system. 

During the 1950s, governmental reform efforts in Red Lake resulted in the drafting of a tribal constitution. The constitution established an elected Tribal Council; a group of seven traditionally selected tribal leaders was established to serve on an advisory basis. Together with the elected council members, these traditional leaders form the Tribal Council’s subordinate committees, are often relied on for advice on culturally related issues.
Photos by Michael Meuers

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