Red Lake Indian Reservation opens doors to separate new college, government facilities
The Red Lake Indian Reservation in northwestern Minnesota opened its doors Monday to a more than $21 million facility that was developed nearly five years ago when the tribal college was running out of space.
The so-called Red Lake Capitol project morphed into twin buildings that were built in the shape of soaring eagles. One is the college facility that has classrooms for 550 students. The other is a government center that will allow the tribes to have its services under one roof. The campus includes new pow wow grounds and a veteran's memorial.
Eugene McArthur, the tribal college development director, said the project is the first step toward keeping people employed and help businesses meet their needs.
"This is to prepare our people for the 21st century, with education enhancements and providing services at the government center," McArthur said. "It's an exciting time."
McArthur said he expects enrollment at the college to grow from about 130 to at least 200 in the next semester alone. Many of the students will work in virtual classrooms that will allow them to share classes with other Ojibwe colleges in the state, as well as Bemidji State.
"Our goal in the end is to have enough virtual classrooms where a student can get a four-year degree right here at Red Lake," McArthur said.
The project was built with two separate low-interest loans through the USDA's rural development program. Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, who participated in Monday's grand opening ceremonies, said there was a lot of competition for the money but the administration has made tribal lands a priority.
"They were at the right place at the right time," Peterson said.
Peterson said the remote location of the reservation, which is about 35 miles northwest of Bemidji, makes it more important for tribal members to have a place to further their educations.
"In this day and age, people need to continue their education all through life in order to keep employed and keep up to speed because technology changes and jobs change and so forth," Peterson said. "Having that facility available on the reservation will be a big help not only to their young people, but the employed people up there. It should really pay off."
McArthur said the project has "exceed our expectations" and credited the architect and contractor with incorporating tribal culture into the design and feel of the facility.
Said Peterson, "You have to see it firsthand to see how it blends in."