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Red Lake Nation Makes Unprecedented Commitment to Higher Education

Council to Build $11.4M Tribal College & $10.1M Government Center

US Rep. Collin Peterson announced recently that the Red Lake Nation has been selected to receive over $21 million in loans from USDA Rural Development to build a tribal college and tribal government center. This includes a $11,348,000 loan for the college and a $10,130,000 loan for the Government Center.

"The existing facilities at Red Lake have outlived their useful lives," Peterson said in a press release. "Construction of these new buildings will help to create jobs in an area with high unemployment, and will be a source of pride for the Red Lake Nation."

Both loans come from Rural Development’s community facilities program, which finances essential buildings and equipment in rural areas. Since 2010, Rural Development has provided almost $27 million in financing to the Red Lake tribe to build or improve water and wastewater treatment systems and essential community facilities in the community.

“Rural Development is proud of its partnership with the Red Lake Tribe,” said Colleen Landkamer, USDA Rural Development State Director. “The staff in our Bemidji and Detroit Lakes offices have put in a lot of hours working with tribal leaders over the last couple of years and the results are starting to show.”

Red Lake Nation College

An $11,348,000 loan will be used to build a 42,000 square-foot tribal college building. The tribe currently holds classes in an old building and is not accredited. The new building will increase educational opportunities and will be an accredited school.

"Most politicians say they support education," says Red Lake Nation College President Dan King, "but the Red Lake Nation Tribal leadership has let their votes do the talking. Last June, the Council and Hereditary Chiefs unanimously approved building a new $11.4 million dollar Red Lake Nation College campus for the 12,000 Members of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians."

"The College is a key part of the new $21.4M Red Lake Nation Capitol that will feature a new Tribal Government Center building and a new Red Lake Nation College campus," said King. "Financing was approved by a USDA loan program for community development."

A ground breaking ceremony will take place in late April 2013. Completion and grand opening of both new facilities are planned to take place in July 2014.

"The Red Lake Nation capitol facilities were designed with powerful eagle symbolism on the beautiful shores of Red Lake," notes King. "The twin college campus and Tribal Government Center buildings’ eagle design symbolize the culture, strength, power and perseverance of Red Lake Nation."

Red Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the country wholly contained within one state. "The dramatic new Red Lake Nation Government Center and Tribal College campus will immediately place the Red Lake Tribe as one of the premier Tribal capitals in the Country," said King.

"Although it is routine for State College systems, private Colleges or private, for-profit companies to build new college campuses, it is almost unheard of for a local or Tribal government to make such a huge commitment to supporting higher education," King speculated. "This $11.4 million dollar commitment to higher education for its Community has to put the Red Lake Tribal Council near the top of any list of progressive government leadership in the world."

With unemployment rates on the Red Lake reservation hovering in the 60% range, along with numerous social and health problems, the Red Lake Tribal leadership feels that higher education is one of the best long-term solutions to community development.

The remote, rural location of the Red Lake reservation creates a huge access barrier to higher education for Tribal Members living there. Naturally, Red Lake Tribal Members have the academic ability to attend and succeed in college, what they lack is the financial resources to overcome the barrier that the great distance creates. The high cost of transportation for a two-hour daily round trip, (to the nearest college) the cost of daycare, etc., presents a financial difficulty for many tribal members.

"If the Red Lake Tribal College were not open today, about 90% of the 130 students who started classes in the fall of 2012 would not be in college at all," King explained. "That is how important this tribal college is to Red Lake families. "The Tribal Council and Hereditary Chiefs realized that an on-reservation college will serve as a crucial bridge to higher education. The motto for the Red Lake Nation College is “A Great Place to Start!”

It is hoped that tribal members after finishing a two year degree at Red Lake College, will continue on to attain higher college degrees from four-year universities, and then perhaps come back and help their Tribe in their chosen field of study. Currently 95% of the students are Red Lake Tribal Members. However, once the new facilities are built, College leaders anticipate there will be higher percentages of non-members and non-Indian students from the surrounding area, who will want to attend. Red Lake Nation College is open to anyone and follows a strict non-discrimination policy.

"The current Red Lake College campus is located in an old community center, and has reached its maximum at 130 students. Some potential students had to be turned away because of that fact," said King. "[Red Lake Tribal] Chairman, Floyd 'Buck' Jourdain, Jr., challenged the Tribal College to achieve at least 200 Tribal Member students in college by 2014 to help grow and develop more tribal leaders, teachers and managers."

Red Lake Tribal leaders have determined that higher education for its members will be a central part of the long-term Red Lake Nation community development plan.

“To compete in today’s twenty-first century information society, we need more educated tribal members in all areas of Tribal operations — leadership, management, business, accounting, education, social services, legal, health care, everything,” said Jourdain. “I'm pleased that the Tribal Council really bet ‘all-in’ and unanimously voted to make the Tribal College a twin building of our Tribal Government Center. It says that we place education as a high priority, and that higher education is key to the future.”

King responded to Jourdain’s challenge by developing a vision and plans for a new, larger campus with a capacity of up to 500 students. The new campus will feature state-of-the-art technology for shared distance learning with other Universities and Colleges. The new campus will also contain a large, multi-purpose Student Union and hold 14 classrooms (up from the current three) that will include a Biology lab, a Chemistry lab and two Computer labs.

The new Tribal College will host a 5,330 square-foot library, tribal archives/library center, Ojibwe Language Center and an Ojibwe Language Immersion Head Start and Daycare Center for up to 60 children. Included also is a Student Café, Wellness and Fitness Center, and a Sweat Lodge to promote healthy lifestyles and strong cultural living. The college facilities will be open to the public, King said.

Red Lake Nation College: A Strategy for Success

It's about Health, Fitness, & Education…and Basketball?

Red Lake Tribal Chairman Floyd Jourdain, Jr., took pride when talking about the Humanities Center being returned to the people. Now that Center will be the home court of Red Lake Nation College basketball. "Some people may come through the door and see only this gorgeous basketball court and see a shiny floor, but it's much more than that," said Jourdain, "it's about health, fitness, and above all education."

"Although this will be the home court for the future Red Lake Nation College Team, the Red Lake Migiziwag (Eagles), the facility is for the entire community," Jourdain reiterated.

The new tribal college Migiziwag logo is painted on the center floor already.

Basketball, as anyone in northern Minnesota knows, is significant at Red Lake High School and the entire reservation.

"We hope to capitalize on this interest to keep kids in school and go on to higher education," said Jourdain. "This way players can move on from High School to the tribal college and play basketball, and then move on the BSU or other University and continue to play. We know we have the talent, and we hope then to have many Red Lake collegiate players end up playing pro-ball like Red Lake member Ben Strong."

"The 2015 college team will come in phases," says College President Dan King. "The floor of the basketball court has been expanded a bit so that it meets college regulation. Basketball is very much a part of a post secondary effort to hook the kids into college basketball, and thereby a college education."

"Many players stop at high school, we want them to go on to college and if basketball can help, great," said King. "It's a mechanism to try and keep youth in school. And then we hope that youth will discover that there is life beyond basketball."

Red Lake Tribal Government Center

A $10,130,000 USDA loan will be used to build a 27,400 square-foot tribal government center next to the college. The tribal government currently works out of several old buildings including a former hospital, which have issues with mold that could cause health problems. The new center will provide a safer environment and allow the tribe to operate out of one central location.

"The current council headquarters it is outdated and worthy of condemnation due to asbestos and a number of other issues," stated Red Lake Chairman Floyd Jourdain, Jr.

By the fall of 2014, Red Lake Tribal Government will be housed under one roof for efficiency and the convenience of the people. The Government Center along with the Tribal College will be located betwixt the powwow grounds and the Sacred Lake known as Miskwaagamiiwizaaga'iganiing (Red Lake).

The front of the twin buildings will bear the silhouettes of wing-spread eagles. Inside the building will be 27,400 square feet of government center.

“We’ve been hoping to further our educational pursuits and also government,” said Jourdain. "Investing in both at the same time just made sense. This is something we’ve been striving for many years, and it’s finally coming to fruition.”

King gives credit to staff members who have worked on the proposals, especially Director of Development Eugene McArthur. McArthur said he and King began developing a master plan for the tribe in 1995.

All through the process, the Tribal Council, Chiefs and the community have been informed and provided input on the designs for the new construction, and the success of obtaining the loans. The Government/College complex was designed by DSGW architects of Duluth.

In addition to the new buildings, Jourdain said the project will include a new powwow grounds, walking trails along the lake and a Veterans Park honoring all Red Lakers who have served in US Armed Forces. The park will feature black granite monuments for inscribing names of living and deceased service personnel with plenty of room for more names if need be.

"The Red Lake Nation College and the new government center are the biggest things to happen on the Rez since Roger (Jourdain) brought in the Red Lake hospital," concluded Jourdain. "It's a bigger deal than casinos because it's an investment in the future, an investment in people."

Dan King is President of the Red Lake Nation College. Dan is also an Enrolled Red Lake Tribal Member and a graduate of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Master of Public Administration (MPA) Program. The Red Lake Nation College is a non-profit, IRS 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization and is seeking tax deductible donations to help with the new campus library development, operations, administration and development. More information about the Red Lake Nation College and the Red Lake Nation Capitol Master Plans can be obtained at:


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