Five of seven Red Lake hereditary chiefs look on as new chief Darwin Sumner is sworn in by Chief James Loud. Photos by Michael Meuers
Swearing in Held at March 2016 Tribal Council Meeting
Published March 10, 2016
RED LAKE INDIAN RESERVATION—At about 9:30 a.m., just prior to the March 8, 2016, monthly meeting of the Red Lake Tribal Council, Darwin Sumner was sworn in as one of Red Lake’s Hereditary Chiefs. Sumner succeeds his father John Sumner who passed on December 20, 2015.
Darwin Sumner was sworn in by fellow Hereditary Chief James Loud while the five other Chiefs, Tribal Council, Red Lake members and friends looked on. A hand drum honor song followed the swearing in.
Darwin Sumner is an avid fisherman and shares his skills with Red Lake and other Youth. He has acted as the Red Lake Youth Fishing League Coordinator and Red Lake High School Bass Fishing Coach, as part of the Red Lake Youth Fishing League. “Red Lake has had several youth who have competed in state youth tournaments and compete at the National level as well,” he said.
One of those happy, but sad moments as new Chief takes the position of the former Chief. Darwin and mother, Donna.
“Fishing is a part of our culture and a way of life in Red Lake,” observed Sumner. “We feel that exposure and experience in fishing will have a positive effect on our youth and we are proud of them.”
“I teach the kids to ‘practice’ or ‘pre-fish’ when one is competing in order to establish a pattern or technique on a certain body of water as new lakes require some time to figure out,” noted Sumner. “Like any sport, practice helps in the fishing experience outcome.”
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.
If you’d like to know more about Red Lake government and the inclusion of Hereditary Chiefs in the system, check out the book Warrior Nation that describes Red Lake political history. Dr. Anton Treuer, a fluent Ojibwe speaker and professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University, wrote warrior Nation. The Red Lake Tribal Council commissioned Treuer to research and write the book.