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Focusing on the future: Jourdain delivers State of the Band address

RED LAKE - Sovereignty issues, federal budget cuts and walleye fish stocks all featured prominently in a recap of 2013 Red Lake Nation initiatives given by Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. on Thursday.

In the 2014 State of the Band address at the Red Lake Event Center, Jourdain talked over a long list of Red Lake's struggles and successes. He urged the audience not to be fixated on the the former.

"When hard times overshadow the good, people tend to focus on the struggles we see every day, and we forget about the good things about our reservation and our people," he said.

Jourdain highlighted the fight against alcoholism on the reservation in the form of a 2013 Tribal Council resolution opposing the sale of liquor by stores just outside the reservation's borders, which circumvents the tribal liquor ban.

"We don't know if it'll do any good - probably not," he said. "But at least we made our voices clear: that we're concerned about what happens with our people and when people take advantage of our nation here by making a dollar off of us and all our relatives that we have to bury..."

He also talked about how recent cuts to federal aid under sequestration affected Red Lake programs, some of which get substantial funding from the the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service.

"Despite our efforts in Washington, D.C., and the efforts of President Obama, we see our federal appropriations reduced and resources becoming harder to come by," he said.

For example, Red Lake School District lost $1.6 million and the Red Lake Head Start program lost $75,000, he said. A subsequent bipartisan budget deal restored some of the funding cuts to tribal programs but not all the federal money was replaced. The federal agencies whose congressional appropriations were cut may not fully restore cuts they themselves made in response to the sequester - leaving Red Lake on the hook for more.

"BIA and IHS will not be restoring many of the sequestration cuts imposed on us at the tribal level," Jourdain said. "What this means is, in 2014 things will be better than in 2013 but we will not fully recover from the 2013 sequester."

However, later in his speech he called for less dependency on the federal government.

"I envision a day when we as a tribe will no longer have to grovel and beg the federal government for what they they promised our ancestors in treaties and agreements... in the first place," he said. "Other tribes are creating jobs - why not us?"

Jourdain also discussed the successful program to replenish the walleye population in Red Lake, which in October garnered recognition from Harvard University as one of the top examples of effective American Indian governance in the United States. He quoted extensively from a Harvard report on the fish restoration program that detailed how conservationists brought the Red Lake walleye back from near-extinction as a result of overfishing. The story of the walleye recovery, he said, was "near and dear" to his heart.

A "2013 Report to the People" distributed at the event also outlined plans for a new facility to be built in early 2015, which will include a Red Lake Nation College campus and a new home for tribal government. Construction on the the $21.4 million project was halted over the winter because of the weather, but work is planned to resume in the spring, the report said.


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