Community Meeting Held at Ponemah - P2
The fourth gathering of the third round of Red Lake Nation Chairman's Community Meetings began at about 6:15 PM, Monday, December 7, 2015, at the Boys and Girls Club in Ponemah. The meeting was well attended as more than 70 community members joined Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr., Treasurer Annette Johnson, and Ponemah District Representatives to the Tribal Council, Gary Nelson and Randy Kingbird.
The Chairman's Community meetings were recently held at Little Rock on Thursday, November 12, Red Lake on Monday, November 22, and Redby on December 2, 2015. Meetings being considered for Bemidji, Duluth and the Twin Cities are to be announced.
Staff representatives from tribal programs were present to provide information and get feedback from Ponemah citizens. They included Jerry Loud Director of Oshkii-maajitahdah (New Beginnings), Cheri Goodwin Director of Family and Children's Services, Harvey Roy of Red Lake, Inc., and Director of Public Safety, Bill Brunelle. Tribal Administrator Charles Dolson conducted the meeting. He said questions would be "press conference" style. Most of the questions were directed at public safety, social services, housing, education, and jobs.
Margaret Porter offered an invocation and blessed a spirit dish. Chairman Seki opened the meeting, as is his manner, first in Ojibwemowin and then in his "second language" English. Other tribal council members and key staff also introduced themselves before many excellent questions and suggestions were heard.
Representative Nelson, when introduced, spoke about health care and the need for traditional medicines. He suggested the Tribal Council should consider funding for the learning of traditional medicinal plants. Jobs & Community Development Facilitator, Eugene "Bugger" McArthur will look for monies to teach and learn more about traditional medicines.
Nelson also said that "the old Ponemah center is an eyesore and dangerous, and we aren't able to use the solar panels, but it would cost $100,000 to knock it down. The council will direct staff to search for monies for that project.
Chairman Seki told a short story of accompanying his grandmother to gather traditional plants for medicines, but he and his brother found it more fun to shoot squirrels. His sister learned a bit but lives in Oklahoma. "I wish I'd paid attention," he said.
Seki spoke about drugs being brought on the reservation by non-members, that drugs and suicide are a major concern for the membership, and that we need to work together. "Many of us are in denial, hope we wake up and see things are bad," he said. We do drug testing not to punish but to heal, to follow the Red Road.
Seki interrupted the meeting to cheers from the audience when he announced that the Warriors had just won over Stephen/Argyle 83-47.
Treasurer Johnson announced in her introduction the Trust Fund distribution will be paid on Saturday, December 12, starting at 8 am. Checks will be mailed off-reservation on December 10. Checks can be cashed at any Seven Clans Casino or the Red Lake Trading Post.
Representative Kingbird spoke to the importance of keeping language initiatives on the front burner. He also spoke of the need for more housing. New market tax credits are available and the tribe will look into constructing apartment buildings. There are some boarded up houses but there is not enough money to rehab them. Seki noted that housing is separate from the Tribal Council, and that "they have their own board, we don't have a say," he said. Johnson said the last audit was in 2002.
A short report was presented by Aaron Jabs, Principle of Ponemah School on behalf of Schools Superintendent Anne Lundquist. Asked what the school is willing to do for language and culture, Jabs responded, "anything and everything we can. We have a new Ojibwe language teacher, but we do need to do a better job and we will do whatever it takes." Asked about perks for attending school, Jabs responded somewhat cheekily at first with "an education?" But then quickly followed with "we provide no carrots. We try to make school the place to be with special activities such as going on a variety of field trips."
Jerry Loud reported on the education guidelines for EFC and how jobs are posted...at Human Resources and on the Internet. Other initiatives include classes in welding...in partnership with Arctic Cat, auto maintenance, and more.
Extensive discussion was held on Public Safety with Director Bill Brunelle fielding several questions. On crime and drug offenses he said, "its like whack a moll, we knock down one and a couple more pop up. I suppose there's good money in it is why," he said. Many of the drugs come from Chicago off Rez. He said heroine seems to be the biggest problem of late. "The answer is not putting everyone in jail, we need treatment for the addict," he said, "its not just here, its everywhere. Indian people are reluctant to share what they might know about users, as users might be relatives or friends. It really hurts me to see this, we need to help each other."
"We have 15 patrol officers that handle 17,000 to 18,000 calls a year," said Brunelle. "Generations of people think this is normal behavior, it's up to us to change it." Attendees suggested a permanent police patrol in Ponemah. Brunelle said he has 12 officers and hopes to get that up to 16 while inviting young people to attend the police academy. He also invited anyone to come along on the "ride-along program," and noted that a community patrol and youth training is coming.
Cheri Goodwin talked extensively about out of home placement services; foster care rules, and the removal of children. She said she will be holding parenting classes and explained that we need a community "buy in." Asked about truancy, Goodwin said there would soon be a truancy court, which the goal is to create a "teachable moment." She also spoke of the "Tiwahe Initiative," which will bring many social services together. "We have an epidemic of drug use," she said. "It's a health care crisis."
Through the Tiwahe Initiative, social services and job training programs will be integrated and expanded to address child and family welfare, job training, and incarceration issues, with the goal of promoting family stability and strengthening the tribal community.
Jobs & Community Development Facilitator, Eugene "Bugger" McArthur cited a litany of New jobs and Economic Development initiatives he's currently working on. They include; a solar energy farm on 100 acres to provide electricity, income, and jobs for the band. "The farm will generate enough to power 2500 homes." he said, "and long range goal will be to eventually provide solar generated electricity for the Rez." He is also looking into providing solar for casinos and other tribal buildings. Pay back comes back in just a few years. Solar energy is a big deal and part of the initiative will be solar energy training for our people.
Other projects McArthur is working on include new fire department buildings at Red Lake and Ponemah, along with two trucks. An ambulance center will share space at Ponemah, with Comp Health picking up the tab. (Redby also requested a fire department) Two Chemical Health treatment facilities for women and men, and a half way house. The cost finalized on that very day, McArthur hopes for a ground breaking in the spring. A 12-unit dialysis center that the tribe will manage. It will be a separate building but attached by a walkway to Comp Health. It will be a business with the tribe employing workers, buying equipment and then doing 3rd party billing instead of letting Sanford Health get that money. He hopes to break ground in the spring for this project too. Finally, McArthur is working on a first class golf course at Seven Clans Red Lake, which should lead to hotel and gaming floor expansion...and more jobs. "We are looking at not only how to create jobs and services for the people, but also to make money," said McArthur, "we don't want to drain the general fund to subsidize these things."
Harvey Roy gave a report on Red Lake Inc. Activities include the expanding of Red Lake Farms bringing new jobs, exploring tobacco manufacturing, and a new construction company.
Chairman Seki toward the end spoke extensively about the Enbridge trespass and a bit about the negotiations the tribe is conducting. He drew applause when he said "if Enbridge does not negotiate in good faith, they can just shut off those lines and move them off our Rez." He also mentioned the development of a trail from Red Lake to Ponemah, new retail centers, and "we want the east boundary back."
Other discussion items included; Temporary Assistance for needy families (TANF), housing, home invasions, and starting a Neighborhood Watch. "We need the fitness center open in the evenings, and on Saturday," suggested one member. Mary Ringhand spoke to the issue of needing a traditional birthing center and what is being done and being planned for traditional birthing practices. Another suggestion was to print crimes in the paper. "Heck yeah, we will do it," said Seki.
More Chairman's Community Meetings are being considered for off-reservation communities of Bemidji, Duluth and the Twin Cities. To be announced. Dinner will be served and everyone is welcome.