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, March 31, 2017. They were there to attend the annual State of the Band Address scheduled to begin at about 11:00 a.m.
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 faced a stage set up in the East.
On the stage at the center was a glass podium, behind which were flags and eagle staffs. Spotlights shone on the podium, banners and floral arrangements. 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 took center stage as emcee for the event.Spiritual Advisor and Hereditary Chief Greeting Spears provided the invocation. The Colors, carried by members of VFW Post #6889, and Red Lake Nation Royalty entered the Center from the back to the drum beat of Eyabay.
After the posting of the colors, Jourdain recognized several federal, state, county and city of Bemidji elected officials seated scattered throughout the event center and visiting with Red Lake government officials and Red Lake 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’m honored and humbled to be standing before all of you Red Lake Nation members and visitors. It’s been nearly three years now since I was sworn in as the tribal chairman of this great nation.”
“Before I get started, first I want to acknowledge and congratulate our Red Lake high school boys basketball team with their awesome season and won the consolation trophy at state this year, and also our Red Lake girls basketball team with their awesome success and going to state for the first year” said Seki to loud applause. “Congratulations to the coaches and the Red Lake school district #38.”
VFW Post #6889 brought in the colors followed by Red Lake Nation Royalty
In this annual report to the people, Red Lake Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr., outlined the tribes major projects and initiatives for 2017 and into the future.
But before he began his report, he spoke about his recent testimony before the US Congress. The testimony discussed frustrations and challenges with the United States government saying that federal agencies had failed to live up to their responsibilities. “We as the Red Lake Nation will continue to utilize our sovereignty, strength and courage to remind the federal branches of the US government of their trust and their responsibilities to honor our treaties.”
First Seki praised the nation’s gaming industry while also addressing the necessity of expanding the Red Lake economy. “This past year, Red Lake Gaming Enterprises, Inc. moved forward with a significant assessment and review of our three gaming properties,” Seki said. “It became very clear that former corporate management had been misleading the Gaming Board and providing no overall management for our gaming operation. All fiscal and fiduciary responsibility had vanished, and profit margins had declined substantially from all properties. So last December, the Gaming Board turned the page and began to address the issues surrounding Red Lake gaming, and several changes were made, including replacing all corporate management.”
Seki then cited reports of major new developments for jobs and major initiatives. First up was an update on the well received Solar Energy initiative that will take place in three phases. First solar panels installed on major tribal buildings, a solar farm on the ceded lands, and a solar energy plant on the reservation. Other plans on the table include a 12 unit Dialysis center, a 16 bed Chemical Dependency treatment center, a new solid waste transfer station, new fire departments for Red Lake and Ponemah, expanding the Red Lake Food Shelf, a large Controlled Environment Agriculture (greenhouse) Project, and a new children and family services and elder complex.
“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.”
For off-reservation members Seki said, “As most of you know, Red Lake has acquired land in Minneapolis. We are planning on building affordable housing on the property, which will include 114 affordable 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments in a six-story building.
Finished with the report to the people, Seki assured the crowd to loud applause that the tribe continues working on the East boundary, and reminded everyone ”working together, there is hope.”