Chairman Seki Presents State of the Band Message - P2
Outlines Tribe's Major Project Initiatives for 2020 and Into the Future
March 16, 2020
It was standing room only as Band members, and friends of Red Lake Nation slowly streamed into the Red Lake Seven Clans Casino Event Center on Friday, February 28, 2020. They were there to attend the annual State of the Band Address scheduled to begin at 11:00 a.m. "Sovereignty is Our Power" was the theme.
In this annual report to the people, Red Lake Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr., along with Tribal Treasurer Annette Johnson and Secretary Samuel R. Strong, would recap the Tribal Council's 2019 agenda, and present future goals, aspirations and plans for 2020. In a change from previous years, tribal program directors gave their reports rather than being read by the Chairman.
Upon entering the complex, the eye was drawn to scores of people visiting dozens of tribal program booths dotting the perimeter of the hotel lobby outside the event center. Most hosted drawings for giveaways. A simple but elegant look decorated the event center. Floral arrangements were centered on round tables facing a stage set up in the East.
At center stage was a glass podium, behind which soon, would be flags and eagle staffs. Spotlights shone on the podium, banners and floral arrangements. To the Northeast was a large screen projecting what was happening at center stage. (The event was streamed to Red Lake Tribal HQ, and to Red Lake Embassies at Duluth and Minneapolis) In front of the stage were rectangular tables, both left and right, and facing the crowd. Here Red Lake's eleven-member Tribal Council and seven Hereditary Chiefs would be seated.
Shortly after 11 a.m., Gary Jourdain stood at the podium as emcee for the event. The Colors, carried by the honor guard, (3 Star Warrior Society) and Red Lake Nation Royalty entered the Event Center from the West to the beat of the celebrated Drum, Eyabay.
After the colors were posted, Jourdain introduced the Honor Guard and Royalty by name. Spiritual Advisor Frances "Frannie" Miller had been offered asemaa and provided the invocation.
Jourdain then introduced Tribal Council members and Hereditary Chiefs. Following a Veterans and Chiefs Song again by Eyabay, Jourdain acknowledged the "Dignitary Guests" in attendance. They included representatives from Federal, Tribal, State, County, and Bemidji Governments.
Now the State of the Band would begin. Rather than presenting the entire report himself, Seki shared those duties with the people who do the jobs. Seki would speak last wrapping it all up.
(A complete transcript of Seki's message as well as the messages from Strong, Johnson and several tribal program directors will be available by press release, email and social media soon)
First up was Tribal Secretary Samuel R. Strong, who reported on initiatives and accomplishments of his office. He first spoke of the upcoming tribal election and the four district seats that are up this year. Filing has begun for the election in mid-May.
Other subjects touched upon included the new resolution regarding blood quantum and enrolling 1,212 new members at the February Council meeting.
Strong asked those gathered to take note of all the changes happening on the reservation and closed with a strong call for all to be part of the change, to be part of the education and to "protect our language, culture and identity."
Next, Tribal Treasurer Annette Johnson, gave a comprehensive report after being introduced by Jourdain. The report included all the tribe's financial statements, loans, income and liabilities...also noting the challenges presented by the federal government. She also shared with those gathered numbers related to Red Lake Gaming. She noted that the tribe employs over 1000 people, distributing 1,200 W-2 forms for 2019, most of whom are Red Lake members.
Hunter Boldt, Executive Director, reported on Red Lake Housing, Red Lake Builders, Red Lake Inc., the new Trading Post and Subway, and RL Fisheries the tribes' largest employer.
Jerry Loud, Director of Oskiimaajitahdah, (New Beginnings) gave a shout out to his 103 employees. He spoke of the much needed 50 childcare center coming soon. Oshki served 4500 people over the past year, and promised that the new radio station WRLN, will be on the air soon.
Next Cheri Goodwin, Director of Family & Children Services, (FCA) was introduced. She noted big changes are in process at what will now be called Ombimindwaa Gidinanwemaaganinaadog. (Uplifting Our Relatives)
"Ombimindwaa is in the process of transforming our approaches and service delivery system to be rooted in Anishinaabe language, culture, traditions, beliefs, and values," said Goodwin. "Ombimindwaa's main focus is to focus on Intergenerational Family wellness." Goodwin received loud applause when she reported that 182 children were returned to families this past year.
Because the tribal government will be taking a larger role in child protective services, legislation was introduced in both the State House and Senate, to fund the construction of an $8.7 million children and family services inter-generational complex. The tribal initiative is off to a solid start."
Tom Barrett, Chemical Health Programs Director, first off complemented all staff with a shout out to Reyna Lussier. Chemical Health is employing 3rd party billing and it is helping with the budget. He spoke of the ripple effect of sobriety, and the new treatment center in Obaashiing which will concentrate on the healing properties of culturally related programs.
Dave Conner of the Self-Governance team was up next somehow budging in line ahead of Al Pemberton. The purpose of self-governance is that tribes know best. The Self-governance committee is concerned about funding from the federal government, and Conner spent time to explain how the Trump administration continues to cut back on BIA and self-governance programs but is hopeful that congressional allies will lessen the blow.
Allen Pemberton, Director of DNR, and Tribal Council member from Redby reported that 10,000 sturgeon have been stocked in the big lake. It takes 20 years to have babies. He noted that zebra mussels have been seen in both Upper and Lower Lakes, and the DNR is working hard to eliminate this and other invaders. He is hoping that some of the bigger fish like sturgeon will take them out. The DNR is also planting wild rice in smaller lakes. The green house doing well, planting 336,000 trees in 2019.
Jonathan Richards, Interim Director, Public Safety Dept., reporting that public safety is working closely with other programs, including Equay Wiigamig and Chemical Health. He also provided a list of drugs confiscated, etc. and a short report on the opiate epidemic.
Ogema Neadeau, Prosecutor at Red Lake Nation Court, explained Red Lake's special unique status and the responsibilities of a non-280 tribe. The Red Lake Nation Tribal Court continues to collaborate with various Tribal Programs to address the issues identified in Court Cases i.e. Family & Children Services, Red Lake Chemical Health Programs, Red Lake Schools, Oshkiimahjiitahdah - Child Support Program, and others as needed.
Thomas Barrett, Director of Boys & Girls Club, spoke of the Club's innovative programs. Barrett gave a shout-out to staff and volunteers. The Club is doing outreach and will host a 7th Generation powwow in Ponemah this year. The Club has increased its participants to 400, serving 100 per day.
Alisha Gehlert, Director of Economic Development and Planning, highlighted four projects the crew is working on; a Food Coop, Enhanced Broadband, expanding on the Waasabiik Ojibwe Immersion program by planning for a charter school, and working on the 2020 Census and how important it is to get a Complete Count of Red Lakers. Complete Count means money. She encouraged cooperation and will be hiring locals for census workers.
Dan King, President of Red Lake Nation College, as is his manner put together a PowerPoint executive summary for all to view. The college will receive accreditation this year, 20 years in the making. Enrollment is increasing and even drawing non-member students who want to start off with a community or tribal college. It's a great place to begin.
Melinda Crowley, Superintendent of Red Lake Schools, spoke of the school's extensive effort in promoting language and culture. "By the time a student graduates from Red Lake High School, students should be comfortable with basic Ojibwe conversation," said Crowley. Teachers are also learning language and culture and using it she said, but noted, "we are not teaching culture, we are using culture to teach." There has been a 43% improvement in suspensions.
Earlier as Directors were giving their reports, Event Center staff began serving a meal of ribeye steak, walleye, baked potato, wild rice hotdish, corn, roll and dessert. Drawings were also held as Seki spoke and the crowd ate.
Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr. was upbeat and noted it was "time to rock this building, woo!"
Seki took the stage, and as is his custom, first spoke in his native Ojibwemowin. "Ozaawi Naabesim indizhinikaaz, Migizi indoodem, Obaashiing indoonjibaa," he said introducing himself, his clan and where he was from. He thanked the Council, Chiefs, Color Guard, the Drum Eyabay, Royalty Dancers, and Frances Miller for the invocation. He also thanked all the members and guests present.
Now speaking in his second language English. "It's an honor and I am humbled to stand before you all to present the State of the Band," he said. "We are a sovereign nation and sovereignty is our power."
"Red Lake Nation is very strong in beliefs of our traditions, culture, customs, teachings and revitalizing our language. We as a nation protect our lands, waters, air, our territories and most of all our tribal membership, from golden age to our newborn and generations to come. The creator and spirits are with us to move forward to love one another. Sovereignty is our power and we are strong as a nation. DEBWEWIN – TELL THE TRUTH."
Seki then began an update on several projects including the new Trading Post, new fire halls, treatment center, dialysis center, and the Mino-bimaadiziwin Project in Minneapolis. He spoke of the , hemp project and that medical marijuana is on the ballot for the members to consider.
He said that the council will look into reopening the swimming pool at the Humanities Center and credited Red Lake Representative Robert Smith for shepherding the project.
Seki said he'd like to see a new retail center in Ponemah and spoke extensively on IT security that has been a problem at times. He gave an update on legislative issues at both the federal and state level.
Seki then spoke of Red Lake's Solar Energy Initiative. The initiative began in 2016, with a three-phase goal involving installing solar panels on tribal buildings and eventually producing a solar farm. Soon panels will be added to the roofs of Red Lake Tribal College and the tribe's three casinos
"Since 2016, Red Lake has been involved in the planning process of a solar farm, with the ultimate goal of the Red Lake becoming energy independent," Seki said. "An engineering study estimates that the solar power generated by our farm would be sufficient to power 2500 homes. This indicates that the solar farm we're developing will put us on our way to energy independence."
The second phase solar farm is coming together having met some resistance from electric companies in the purchase of excess energy produced by the tribe.
"The development of these projects is designed to address our basic needs and understandings," said Seki. "They include the preservation and conservation of our environment, providing an energy source which is compatible with our beliefs of living in harmony with nature, the diversification of our economy and investments, improving the quality of life, training and jobs for our people.
The third phase of the project will be to develop a solar energy plant on the reservation and job training to build solar panels and install solar arrays.
Seki gave a rousing speech citing progress on several projects taking place on the reservation, but he closed on a more philosophical note. "We need to be good to each other, take care of one another, we need to put people first," Seki said. Let's be kind to one another, love one another, because the negative things are not the way of life as Anishinaabe people."
Having finished his comprehensive report, and those in attendance having finished their most excellent dinner, the time seemed right for this fulfilling conclusion to the 2020 State of the Band Address. Seki then called on Eyabay again for Healing and Traveling Songs. "Take care of your family, love one another, safe travels, concluded Seki."
Elected Officials & Special Guests in Attendance
Andy Martin, Outreach Worker for US Senator Amy Klobuchar; Ravyn Gibbs, Native American Outreach Director for US Senator Tina Smith; and LeRoy Stumpf former State Senator, Representing US Congressman Collin Peterson.
Faron Jackson, Chairman, Leech Lake Band; (Faron has Red Lake ancestors) David Morrison, Secretary/Treasurer, Bois Forte Band; and Andy Wells of Wells Technology, Wells Academy & Red Lake member.
Roger "Giniw" Moe, Former State Senate Majority Leader and adopted Red Laker; John Persell, DFL State Representative District 5A; Jeremiah Liend, DFL Candidate, State Representative for Red Lake, District 2A; Kari Howe, MN Dept Employment & Economic Development, NW Project Manager; Theresa Ebbenga, MN DNR, NW MN Regional Manager; Kerry Ross, MN DNR, Planner; and Pat Znajda, MN DNR, Captain Law Enforcement.
Beltrami County Delegation
Tim Sumner, County Commissioner, & Red Lake Member; Commissioner Reed Olson; Commissioner Richard Anderson; Ernie Beitel, Beltrami County Sheriff; County Administrator Kay Mack; and Becky Secore, Beltrami County Health & Human Services Director.
City of Bemidji Delegation
Rita Albrecht, Mayor, & Candidate for State Senate District 5; Nate Mathews, City Manager; and Mike Mastin, Chief of Police.
Friends of the Nation
John Eggers, Creator of Project Graduate/100% Graduation & former RLHS Principal; Tim Flathers, Executive Director, Headwaters Regional Development (HRDC); Curtiss Hunt, Chairman Beltrami County DFL; and Mary Forney, Vice Chair, Beltrami County DFL.
Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians Royalty
Hunter Boldt, Executive Director, Red Lake Band
Ponemah Head Start; Princess Kambria Johnson and Brave Robert Cobenais, III
Red Lake Head Start; Princess Anevay Schoenborn and Chaske Wilson
Ponemah Elementary; Princess Rianna Cloud and Brave Cole Kingbird
Red Lake Elementary; Princess Grace Needham and Brave Adrian White
St. Mary's School; Princess Aniah Sumner and Brave John-Henry Defoe
Ponemah Labor Day; Princess Jasinda Kingbird and Brave Treyson Cloud
Red Lake High School; Princess Ariah Sumner and Brave Steven Bellanger, Sr.
Red Lake Nation; Jr. Princess Natanne Caldwell and Jr. Brave Cade Dow
Red Lake Nation; Sr. Princess Elise White and Sr. Brave Sidney Kingbird
Red Lake Elders Gathering; Queen Sylvia Branchaud and King Ed Strong