Red Lake Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr. presents State of the Band Address - P30
May 12, 2017
On Friday, March 31, 2017, Red Lake Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr. presented the State of the Band Address to a packed Red Lake Casino Convention Center. The following is a transcript and notes on his presentation.
State of the Band Address
Darrell G. Seki, Sr., Chairman, Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians
Testimony by Chairman Seki in Washington DC
The United States and its agencies have a trust responsibility to the Red Lake Nation, which must be honored regardless of political dispute over budget cuts.
In the face of an unfriendly federal administration, we as Red Lake Nation must continue to build. As a Nation, it is very critical than ever that we build now so we can weather any storm the future brings.
The United States, through the BIA, has a unique position among Federal agencies because in addition to administering programs for the Red Lake Nation, BIA Officials are also trustees for the Tribal members of the Red Lake Nation and Tribal Resources!
The Red Lake Nation is party to treaties with the United States. Treaties are contracts, which must be honored. There is no excuse for the BIA and other agencies of the United States to disregard Treaty responsibilities by failing to articulate to Congress on behalf of the Red Lake Nation, in the forceful words required of a trustee.
It is totally unacceptable for the BIA and other Federal agency representative to withdraw from their duties as trustee to Red Lake Nation tribal members and permit Congress to provide inadequate resources to meet legitimate Tribal needs.
Treaty responsibilities of the United States should not be treated like Federal Programs that are routinely set aside through political "horse trading" Treaty responsibilities are very different than federal programs.
To further complicate the impacts of the BIA budget cutting, other federal agencies that the Red Lake Nation utilizes to access supplemental resources, such as USDA, Health and Human Resources, HUD and the EPA, are also facing deep budget cuts.
The BIA should lead the charge on formulating a policy that elevates the discussion of funding for the Red Lake Nation with the force of a trustee that respects the trust responsibility that exists between the United States and the Red Lake Nation.
Treasurer Johnson reports, the permanent trust fund grew by 1.65% during the last quarter of 2016 but zero percent on the year total. The December disbursement equaled three million, eight hundred eighty-five thousand dollars with 250 dollars going to each Band member.
The 2014 Audit showed that the Band spends 45.5 million in wages. Total expenditures for 2015 were 101 million compared to 93 million in 2014, and 85 million in 2013 and 81 million in 2012.
Secretary Cook reports that we have 11,961 members. Since January 2016, we have enrolled 145 new members.
Red Lake Gaming
This past year, Red Lake Gaming Enterprises, Inc. moved forward with a significant assessment and review of our three gaming properties. 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. The following changes were made:
Replaced all corporate management, the CEO, CFO, and hired a COO.
Hired a new Marketing Director and Assistant Director to design and implement a new marketing plan for all properties. A marketing plan to create excitement and entertainment on our gaming floors.
Replaced two property General Managers to ensure proper personnel and fiscal management on their respective properties.
Created and implemented a new philosophy for Red Lake Gaming which is based on accountability and customer service.
Management is promoting and demanding centralized purchasing to ensure fiscal responsibility.
Addressing the needs of our gaming floors by purchasing new machines for each site, exchanging machines among our properties, and performing floor resets on a regular basis.
Redesign of our Food and Beverage plan for all our properties with focus on new menus, inventory control, and customer service.
Created and hired an IT director to oversee, monitors, and upgrades our information technology.
Completed an assessment of all properties with regard to their structural and operating condition. We then created an overall plan to address these concerns and began the task of improving our sites. The priority site is Thief River Falls and we are currently working on the following:
• Installed a new boiler system for the hotel.
• Started the renovation of the water park ductwork support system, the air exchange system, and scheduled for a complete remodel and upgrade of the complete water park in August.
• Receiving bids to improve and upgrade our surveillance system.
• Repaired and replaced the electronic doors in the hotel.
• Moving forward with complete renovation and rebranding of the restaurant and dining area.
• Soliciting bids to completely remodel and upgrade the hotel rooms.
These various and major changes had to be made to ensure and increase the profitability for all the properties. These changes will result in the following at all properties:
1. Make the necessary management changes to provide the guidance needed to bring "accountability" to all levels of employment.
2. The development and implementation of the new marketing plan will "create excitement on our gaming floors."
3. Upgrade our property and improve our customer service.
4. Obtain control of expenditures and provide fiscal responsibility at all sites.
5. Increase profitability at all three gaming sites.
We have already seen some improvement as a result of these changes. Profits have already increased from a year ago at this time and we expect it to increase more. For example, all of our properties were profitable over the last two months, which wasn't always the case in year's prior.
While it is always a team effort and collaboration, these are important projects that I asked my staff to head up:
1. The construction of a new Red Lake Dialysis Center
We will begin construction of a new, 12-unit, state of the art dialysis center this June. It will be constructed next to our hospital and will be connected to it via a corridor. It will be owned and operated by the Red Lake Nation. It will provide approximately 10 jobs and provide additional revenue for the Band. We will utilize our partnership with the University of North Dakota to hire a dialysis doctor to oversee and administrate the operation of the facility.
We have received funding from the United States Department of Agriculture – Rural Development program to construct and purchase the necessary equipment for the center. We will use income derived from the services offered by our dialysis center and third party billing, to pay for the facility.
2. Red Lake Solid Waste Department purchase of a new garbage truck
We have been successful in seeking and receiving funding, which includes a partial grant and financing to purchase a new garbage truck for our Solid Waste department. This is an important part of our plan to provide better services for our communities and members, as we continue to strengthen our community infrastructure. The new vehicle will be delivered next month.
3. Our Red Lake Nation Food Shelf continues its expansion.
We have been working to develop and provide a first class food shelf for our communities. Initially, our food shelf was created and operated by the Red Lake Nation Housing Authority and the St. Mary's Mission and provided monthly giveaways at our various community centers. Then, last year, the Tribal Council provided a permanent facility, the old community center in Redby.
To enhance the quality of services for our communities and to provide a more diverse line of foods products, we moved forward with applications for funding to install a new walk-in freezer and cooler for our Food Shelf. We were successful in receiving the partial grant and financing to provide this must needed fixture from the United States Department of Agriculture. It was installed last month and provides a much needed service to our operation. For it provides us the ability to provide perishable food products, such as vegetables, fruits, and frozen food items to our line of products.
4. We will begin construction of new Red Lake & Ponemah Fire Departments
Our community fire departments are responsible for providing fire suppression, prevention, inspections, safety education, and investigate all suspicious fires. It is imperative that our facilities meet national standards to facilitate better response time and preventive activities. Public safety provides the foundation needed to build the required infrastructure for a community and a nation.
With that being said, we are moving forward with the construction of two new fire departments in the communities of Red Lake and Ponemah We will be advertising for bids shortly, and will begin construction this summer during the month of June.
The Red Lake Fire Hall will have a 4 stalls for fire trucks, 4 smaller stalls for other vehicles, training room, gear room, offices for dispatch, fire chief and assistant, and fitness room. Ponemah will have one stall for the fire truck, training room, gear room, and office space for the fire chief and assistant. Comprehensive Health will also provide garage space for 6 transportation vehicles, four bays for the ambulance center, and a fitness room.
We have also completed, and submitted, applications for the funding of new fire trucks for both the Red Lake and the Ponemah communities. In addition, we have submitted funding requests for two new ambulances for the ambulance centers in the communities of Red Lake and Ponemah.
5. Construction will start this summer on our new Red Lake Nation Chemical Dependency Treatment Center
We have been successful in acquiring the funding necessary to build a new Red Lake Nation Chemical Dependency Treatment Center. The new treatment center will be a 20,136 square feet facility, designed to provide 16 beds, and serve both men and women. The new building will be built in the community of Red Lake. The facility will consist of the following:
• 16 beds/rooms for clients;
• Two large circular therapy/group rooms;
• Fitness room;
• Craft room;
• Office space;
• Intake/assessment room;
• Small theatre room;
• 2 Living rooms;
• Dining room;
• Shower and Sauna rooms;
The mission of the Red Lake Chemical Health Programs is to enhance the well being of all of all Red Lake Tribal Members through alcohol and drug abuse prevention, education, intervention, and treatment. All programs are based in Anishinaabe culture and philosophy to strengthen the minds, bodies, and spirits of the members, families, and communities.
We have received funding from the United States Department of Agriculture – Rural Development program to construct our new treatment center. We will use income derived from the services offered by our treatment facility and third party billing, to pay for the facility.
Advertisement for bids for this project will proceed shortly, and construction will begin this summer during late June.
6. Moving forward with our Red Lake Nation Solar Energy Project
As I shared with you last year, our Red Lake Nation Solar Energy Project consists of 3 phases. These phases will display growth and progress within the solar energy industry and address the needs of the Red Lake Nation and our People.
Phase I: The installation of solar panels on Red Lake Nation facilities.
Phase I will consist of the development of approximately $30 million of solar energy equipment to address the high cost of electricity in our larger facilities, such as our 3 casinos, government center, college, justice center complex, and Red Lake and Ponemah schools. We will provide about 15 Megawatts of electricity and save our Tribe $2 million per year. Plus, solar energy training for our People will be provided and jobs in the construction, installation, and maintenance of this infrastructure.
It was our intent to begin the installation of our solar panels on our facilities late last fall, but that has been delayed due to the local power companies that presently supply our electricity. The power company providers are co-ops who are subsidized by the federal government and do not have to comply with state and federal mandates. They are not interested or concerned with renewable energy, and will not purchase our excess electricity we generate from our solar panels. Therefore, we had to add electrical storage to our solar plan design. In fact, the addition of state of the art solar storage will place Red Lake in the forefront of utilization of this technology.
We have completed this addition to our design, included the additional cost to our projects, and are moving forward with the closing on the financing for Phase I. The new date to begin installation is late spring during the month of May.
Phase II: Will be the development of solar energy farms on our Tribal lands.
We have developed and entered into a partnership with Minnesota Power, one of the largest utility companies in Minnesota. They share our vision to develop solar energy and build a Red Lake Nation Solar Energy company. A company, owned and operated by the Red Lake Nation, that will generate a steady revenue stream for the Red Lake Nation.
We are currently working on the development of our first solar farm that will consist of approximately 100 acres of solar panels. This solar farm will provide 12 megawatts of electricity, all to be sent to the grid of Minnesota Power, then on to a customer who will purchase the electricity from us.
We are currently soliciting various companies, corporations, public utilities, and cities to purchase renewable, green, solar electricity from us, Red Lake Nation Solar, and sign a power purchase agreement with our partnership. Once we acquire a customer, we move on to the development of our first solar farm.
Phase III: Phase three will be the development of a plan to provide the capability for the Red Lake Nation to provide and to develop electricity to address the electrical needs of all the Red Lake Nation members.
Small installations of solar panels on the homes and other buildings of the tribe will be installed by our People after training and starting their own solar business. These solar businesses will employ people in solar product manufacturing, solar installations and solar equipment service.
This final phase of our solar energy plan will display and reinforce our Red Lake Nation sovereignty. It will consist of the creation and development of a clean, renewable source of energy, enough solar electricity to address the needs of our Nation. We will be providing electricity for all our communities, for all of our People, and provide an increase in the number of jobs available on our homeland.
The Red Lake Nation Solar Energy Plan for the future displays our commitment to the preservation and conservation of our environment. It provides an energy source, which is compatible with our Tribal beliefs of living in harmony with nature.
Lastly, our solar energy efforts and all of our projects provide the following:
• Improve the quality of life for all Red Lake Nation members;
• Provide training to enhance the development of our labor force;
• Provide meaningful employment for Red Lake Nation members;
• Create a steady source of revenue for the Red Lake Nation;
• Diversification of our tribal economy and investments;
• The development of these projects will be funded by the entities themselves, using the program or the business revenue generated by itself, NOT USING THE GENERAL FUND OF THE TRIBE.
Red Lake Inc.
The focus of the past few months has been a tax credit project to build two new stores, in Ponemah and in Red Lake. After the project was scrubbed a few years ago because of a straight loan, the Red Lake Inc. team has been working on building equity in the store and develops a tax credit plan to ease the burden of the costs of a new store.
Red Lake Incorporated reports revenue at our store as just fewer than 200,000 this past year. Fishery also made a profit and was able to handout a fish bonus. Builders and propane had a tough year. The C-store, in its history has never made a profit and sadly, this year is no different.
But revenue that was generated created did pave the way for more than 40,000 dollars in donations that were made.
Red Lake Inc wants me to remind you that:
"Please remember that every dollar you spend in Red Lake creates 4 dollars in our economy and helps us build new businesses to create jobs. We have not gotten the financial support and investment dollars that were promised from the tribe so we need our members to spend as much as possible in the community so we can create the opportunities we all want to see in our communities."
Grant writing department has been successful in obtaining more than 1.1 million dollars in grant awards for our programs. That number could rise if we are awarded funding from the several other grant applications we have outstanding.
Economic Development and Planning
Redby Community Center is under construction and scheduled to be completed this spring.
Shakopee Mdewankanton Sioux Community also awarded us a 1.5 million dollar grant for a new community center in Red Lake. Right now, the building is designed like a long house. Construction is scheduled to begin late this summer.
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. The ground floor will house health services and service as our new embassy. To make this project a reality, Red Lake is currently in competition for tax credits and other financing from the City of Minneapolis. Pending approval from the several funding sources, Red Lake will begin construction on the site in the fall of 2018.
Language preservation has been difficult to properly fund. We had to make some hard choices, but there isn't a single council member who doesn't believe in language preservation. Right now our language plans are centered on the youth with our Waasabiik Ojibwemotadiwiin language immersion school. The school currently serves 31 students.
When it comes to business development, we have our entrepreneur program that assists you in creating your business. But now it is becoming a Community Development Financial Institution known as: 4-directions development. A community development financial institution should open doors for funding to our entrepreneurs. While we do have funding available now, we will now have more for both technical assistance and more avenues to capture start-up money.
Since we know that just helping member develop their business ideas isn't enough, we are still building our business incubator. Currently the plan is to use the humanities building to house 6-8 individually owned businesses. This is a project that will take some time to complete and develop. Right now it's our goal.
For quite a while now we have been searching for a solution for a bank here in Red Lake. We are currently working with a bank that could open here in Red Lake sometime in the near future. Ideally, we'd like to see it in the same building as the incubator.
Food is a big deal to us, not only because it is a requirement for life, but because we also have a cultural connection to growing our food. Our foods initiative has been working hard and has established: a 48 fruit bearing tree orchard behind Oshkimaajitahdaa; created community gardens in Red Lake and Ponemah districts, constructed raised bed gardens for elders in each district, high tunnels to expand our growing season.
This is the third time I'm saying this-in order to build a strong economy, we need to increase and enhance the two things that will never leave our nation-infrastructure like roads, bridges, communication capabilities, emergency preparedness and such; the other piece that will never leave our nation is how we train our workforce.
Tribal engineering helps us build both components to creating a strong economy. This spring we'll see signs going up in our own language. But that's not all engineering is doing; they are currently working on a major improvement to US highway one. In addition to the road construction is a beautification project slated for work within Red Lake and finally, a series of walkways and lighting will be added along highway one.
This past year, Red Lake engineered a cutting edge idea to get the State of Minnesota to pay our TERO fees. It worked and the state went along with our plans. It didn't totally work however, because BIA interfered. The BIA roads department insisted that any federal funds going to an Indian reservation must come through BIA. So MnDOT cut a check and mailed it to BIA in Bloomington, Minnesota. In true BIA fashion, they lost the damn check.
Red Lake Transit
More than 24,000 passengers rode the Red Lake Transit this past year. That's down slightly from the year before. Red Lake did manage to upgrade our transit fleet and are now almost every vehicle is a 2015 or newer. Fixed routes are still in our plans and hopefully we'll see them start at some point this year. As always finding a way to fund the program is difficult and it makes building the program a very slow process. Red Lake Transit has a need for drivers. Oshkimaajitahdaa can help you get the commercial class of driver's license you need if you're interested.
Family & Children's Services
Family and Children's Service will soon be under a new name: it hasn't yet been determined yet. It highlights our need for all of us to work together to get through this drug epidemic and keep families together. Our leadership at FCS feels that we should judge ourselves on how well we treat our elders and youth and in that endeavor have expanded some of our services to elders.
Family and Children's Services combined with Oshkimaajitaadaa and the Abinoojiyag Noojimoo Wiigamig and our Courts are currently working on reducing our rate of juvenile repeat offenders. This collaboration is an example of programs working together to better our services to Band members.
For the first time in our history, we have all law-trained judges. One even is a speaker of our language! But more importantly Red Lake tribal court is expanding services and is currently implementing a family and wellness court. Red Lake Tribal Court is growing, and we expect to add three more position this year, and have added some staff already.
Abinoojiiyag Noojimmoo Wiigamig
The core work of Abinoojiiyag Noojimoo Wiigamig is a court diversion program for our youth with the goal of reducing youth repeating offenses. We have been building towards this diversion program since I became chairman and today, I can report the program is providing services to our children through their own work and a series of partnerships with other programs, schools and courts. Our data suggests we have reduced repeat offenses by as much as 40 percent.
What is the important take away here is the partnerships programs are developing with each other to achieve a common goal. It's a critical part of our work to foster and build those relationships.
The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians began providing health care in July 1967. So that means this year will mark 50 years of service to our band members.
The suicide prevention task force, which is a collaboration of a number of tribal programs, schools and IHS meets monthly with the goal of ending youth suicide on our reservation. We've been lucky this past year and hopefully our lucky streak and good work from the team continues.
IHS is planning on expanding the emergency room and urgent care. The new emergency department will consist to 2 trauma bay, 4 exam rooms and 72-hour hold rooms along with other needed buildings. Urgent care will grow to ten exam rooms. Ground breaking is scheduled for May 2017.
Comp health is currently engaged in a review along with Indian Health Services to identify where the problems are in our health care and find solutions to those problems. Red Lake hired a consulting agency to conduct the review. Right now the consultants are currently examining data from both comprehensive health and Indian Health Services.
Chemical health is undergoing an assessment on its operation. We have the final report, but haven't digested it yet. We can suspect that we'll adopt some of the recommendations of the report.
Rule 25 assessments are the starting point for anyone interested in going to treatment. This past year, Chemical Health did 833 rule 25 assessments. 2,524 people participated in various activities offered by chemical health. These activities include: Drug and gang summit, youth conference, traditional language camp, sobriety run and traditional hunting camp, co-ed softball league, summer youth program, new year's gathering and back to school fest.
Chemical Health is embarking on a new way to finish rule 25 assessments more timely. Redefine its relationship with some providers like the Oshki-manidoo program in Bemidji and Leech Lake's suboxone program.
Coming soon, the Red Lake tribal council will decide whether to pursue creating our own suboxone program. Staff has been working diligently and is near finishing plans for a suboxone program here in Red Lake. Please let your council member know what you think about Red Lake engaging in such a program.
Our TANF caseload was of December 31, 2016 was 634 families. TANF is now tied to school attendance. This year marked the second year of our school attendance policy; so far we have seen a three percent increase in attendance at school since the attendance policy started. Over this past year more than 204 individuals obtained employment either part time or full time. Another 35 got their drivers license. 18 people got their GED and 40 families are utilizing the cultural programming. TANF added 35 new jobs over the course of this last year.
So far, our welding program has graduated 31 students; with our new welding II program we have graduated 9 people.
Oshkimaajitahdaa has taken the lead and completed a license application for a radio station. Thanks to Oshkimaajitahdaa, Red Lake's new radio station is 105.3. Oshkimaajitahdaa is currently compiling an equipment list and accepting bids for the equipment. That means soon we'll be on the radio.
Red Lake vocation rehab moved into the Oshkimaajitahdaa building a little more than a year ago. Since the move, the traffic into program has increased substantially. Monthly averages show an 89 percent increase in clients and a 73 percent increase in hires. It is exciting to see more traffic and add in the collaboration with Oshkimaajitahdaa's job services has resulted in 29 individuals hired and remaining employed.
Last year, the Legislative Affairs was successful in obtaining a 400,000-dollar grant to start our foster care initiative. It was the latest step in the project. This year we'll continue with our initiative. Legislative Affairs is also working with the city of Minneapolis in regards to our tax credit applications for the housing project.
The inability of the legislature and the governor to come up with a bonding bill hurt our interests. We had a couple of projects for consideration and now have to wait until bonding is taken up again in 2018.
From the reporting year of October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016 Red Lake suffered zero deaths on our roads. We also met zero deaths in the 2016 calendar year. Suffering the tragic and unexpected loss of a loved one on our roads is so unbearable; I'm glad the police department made zero deaths a goal.
Our police have been active in drug seizures. I think the total of heroin pulled from the street isn't as high as 2015, but the police still executed close to 35 search warrants and a number of people were arrested. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of drugs have been seized this year. Red Lake Police also seized dozens of firearms, large amounts of currency and vehicles this year. It takes awhile for drug money to be processed and awarded to the police department, but once the process is finished, the money is used to further our drug operations.
But our police are doing more than just drug interdiction, they are working hard to create a neighborhood watch and operation ID programs in Red Lake. Red Lake police are taking kids fishing on Fuller's lake and doing other community oriented events. Red Lake conservation officers are planning a "take an elder" fishing event.
Our officers have been carrying a drug to counter-act heroin overdoses for quite a while now. It is stunning the total amount of times our police have used it.
We still need funding for more police officers.
A 40-unit rehabilitation project is slated to be finished this year-hopefully by December. Housing also recently was awarded a tax credit financing for 35 new homes. Rental assistance and security deposits were provided to 27 families in Beltrami County outside of the reservation. Also, 5 families received ongoing rental assistance in Conifer estates.
Solid Waste Transfer Station
Solid Waste transfer station has started the planning to make a recycling center along with addressing issues of public safety. Solid Waste is getting a new garbage truck through a USDA loan. The Transfer station is also looking at creating a new construction and demolition dumpsite due to all the illegal dumping that has taken place at various sites.
Bears getting into our garbage bins are a problem. This summer we'll be testing a new method to keep bears out. The test facility is the Ponemah station. Please bear with us-pun intended-while we do construction at the Ponemah bins to test a new method to keep bears out.
Red Lake Nation Tribal College
Red Lake Nation Tribal College entered candidacy for accreditation this past year. It is a huge step forward for the college since candidacy also means federal funding. The tribal college added 21 new jobs since the completion of construction. This past fall the college had 149 students enrolled.
Ever since I became chairman, the youth council has delivered a monthly presentation to the tribal council. The youth council's objective is to provide a collective voice and to serve as a means of mobilizing and coordinating youth action. Any youth at least 14 years old can be on the Youth.