The State of the Band Message was given by Red Lake Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr.
Published February 25, 2018
Outlines Tribe’s Major Project Initiatives for 2018 & Into the Future
RED LAKE INDIAN RESERVATION – It was standing room only as Band members, and friends of Red Lake Nation slowly streamed into the Red Lake Seven Clans Casino Event Center on Friday, February 23, 2018. They were there to attend the annual State of the Band Address scheduled to begin at about 11:00 a.m. “We All Stand Together,” was the theme.
In this annual report to the people, Red Lake Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr., would recap the Tribal Council’s 2017 agenda, and present future goals, aspirations, and plans for 2018.
Upon entering the complex, the eye was drawn to scores of people visiting dozens of tribal program booths dotting the perimeter of the hotel lobby outside the event center. Most hosted drawings for giveaways. A simple but elegant look decorated the event center. Numerous “Indian Blankets” covered round tables facing a stage set up in the East.
At center stage was a glass podium, behind which soon, would be flags and eagle staffs. Spotlights shone on the podium, banners and floral arrangements. To the Northeast was a large screen projecting what was happening at center stage. In front of the stage were rectangular tables, both left and right, and facing the crowd where Red Lake’s eleven member Tribal Council and seven Hereditary Chiefs would take seats.
Shortly after 11 a.m., Gary “Rez Dawg” Jourdain stood at the podium as emcee for the event. Spiritual Advisor and Hereditary Chief Greeting Spears provided the invocation. The Colors, carried by the honor guard, (members of VFW Post #6889) and Red Lake Nation Royalty entered the Center from the West to the celebrated drumbeat of Eyabay.
After the posting of the colors, Jourdain recognized several state, county and city of Bemidji elected officials who were sprinkled throughout the event center visiting with Red Lake government officials and Red Lake members.
Prior to the State of the Band address by Seki, the other two tribal officers gave reports for the first time in recent memory. First up was Tribal Secretary and Hereditary Chief Darwin Sumner who reported on initiatives and accomplishments of his office. He reported that for the first time the tribe has topped 12,000 members.
Jourdain then introduced Tribal Treasurer Annette Johnson. Johnson gave a report on the tribes financial statements, loans, income and liabilities. She noted that the tribe employs over 1000 people most of whom are members.
Seki then took the stage and as is his custom first spoke in his native Ojibwemowin. “Ozaawi Naabesim indizhinikaaz, Migizi indoodem, Obaashiing indoonjibaa,” he said introducing himself, his clan and where he was from. He also thanked the Color Guard, the Drum Eyabay, Royalty Dancers, and Chief Spears.
Now speaking in his second language English, Seki said, “I am honored to be standing before all of you Red Lake Nation members and visitors. Miigwech! Today, we gather as a Red Lake Nation. We all have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony.”
“Before I get started, first I want to acknowledge and congratulate our Red Lake high school girls basketball team with their awesome season and also our Red Lake boys basketball team with their awesome success for a young team. Red Lake is basketball,” said Seki to loud applause.
Seki then went on to recognize the recent passings of Tribal Council members. Tribal Secretary Donald Cook passed last May, and Little Rock Representative Richard Barrett passed earlier this month. He also recognized other recent passings. He asked that people keep an eye out for Red Lake member Amy Dow who has gone missing, then asked for a moment of silence after noting that the two fishermen who disappeared on Lower Red Lake in November have yet to be found.
In this annual report to the people, Red Lake Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr., outlined the tribes major projects over the past year and initiatives for 2018 and into the future, by reading reports written by the various managers and directors of tribal programs.
Before reading the litany of reports from tribal programs, Seki noted that much of the reservation programs are dealing with the opiate epidemic. “We must have respect for all people and all things. We need to work together to deal with drugs. We need to heal. We need education because incarceration does not work. Don’t play politics with the lives of our people. We are not the only ones who suffer, other tribes and Bemidji suffers. We must work together. I hate it when my phone rings, I fear it may be another report of overdose.”
Seki began the reports from tribal programs, first up was the Red Lake Nation Youth Council submitted by Jerald Cobenais. The Youth Council organizes the annual Youth Leadership Summit held at the High School, to be held soon for the 13th consecutive year. This was followed by a report from Red Lake Schools superintendent Melinda Crowley.
Next up was Public Safety. “They sent a book,” quipped Seki. Public Safety had a good year confiscating more that a million dollars in confiscated drugs and paraphernalia. They noted that meth use was down, but heroine use was up. Next was a report from the Three Day Response Team, submitted by Tom Cain, which meets and shares information on the drug epidemic every three days.
Revitalizing and the teaching of tribal culture as an answer to dealing with social problems, was reported to be having success with Children and Family Services according to Director Cheri Goodwin. Abinoojiiyag Noojimmoo Wiigamig (Children’s Healing Center) gave similar response.
Oran Beaulieu of Comp Health reported receiving four new ambulances, and plans for a 12-unit Dialysis center will happen soon. Chemical Health programs are building a new halfway house, and also praise the healing properties of culturally related programs.
Oshkiimaajitahdah has been graduating welders from its new program. The Self-governance committee is concerned about funding from the federal government, and the Constitution Reform Committee will be giving a report to the membership soon.
Off reservation member concerns are also being met. Economic Development had an extensive report that included Red Lake acquiring land in Minneapolis, and plans to build affordable housing on the property. The building will include 114 affordable 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments in a six-story building. Seki, and Ojibwemowin First Speaker, was visibly pleased when he read the report from Economic Development concerning the Ojibwe Immersion School Head Start named after Anna Gibbs (Waasabiik Ojibwemotaadiwin) which hopes to add a second grade this coming Fall. Seki was all smiles when relating a story about children greeting him in Ojibwemowin.
An update on the well-received Solar Energy initiative was next. The project will take place in three phases. First solar panels installed on major tribal buildings will happen very soon. The solar farm on the ceded lands now may have wind energy added, and a solar energy plant and school on the reservation will train members to manufacture, install and maintain solar panels on member’s homes.
“The development of these projects are designed to address our basic needs and understandings,” said Seki. “They include the preservation and conservation of our environment, providing an energy source which is compatible with our beliefs of living in harmony with nature, the diversification of our economy and investments, improving the quality of life, training for our labor force, and employment; jobs for our People. The development of these projects will be funded by the entities themselves, via the program or the business revenue generated by itself, and Not Using General Funds of the Tribe.”
Reports came from Four Winds, Red Lake Housing, and Gaming rounded out the reports. Red Lake radio is coming soon, the call letters are WRLN and you’ll find it at 103.7 FM on your radio dial. Two new fire departments for Red Lake and Ponemah are in the works, and the long-awaited new community center for Red Lake is set to be completed by the summer of 2019
“I’ll bet your hungry,” said Seki as he finished the report to the people, which was met by loud applause from those there gathered.