A Tour of the New Red Lake Community Center
October 16, 2020
It was Friday October 9 when I returned to Red Lake. It was one day shy of six months, my last visit being the March 10, Tribal Council meeting. It is the longest time without a visit in 26 years by far. COVID kept this Gichi-mookomaan in Bemijigamaag for long time with all events and powwows cancelled or postponed.
The first thing I notice...curbs. Curbs? And isn't that dip down to Ogaakaaning-Ziibiing (Pike Creek) shallower? Hwy. 1 thru Red Lake wider with a fresh coat of blacktop? A new Day Care building going up by the park? And I'm told a water tower in Redby? Hey COVID-19 ain't holding Red Lake Nation back. 'Course you been through worse than this.
It felt good to be back at my second home, the Homeland of the Red Lake Ojibwe, where laughter fills the air. I miss that. I need that. I came to witness the impressive Voter Registration Drive going on at the reservation that, I'm told, registered thousands of new Red Lake voters, through the efforts of scores, of Red Lake canvassers, in friendly competition, over ten days. (Story soon)
After experiencing the excitement of the registration drive at the OLD Red Lake Community Center, Mary Omen, Red Lake Center Coordinator, (her office still at the old center) offered to give me a tour of the NEW Red Lake Community Center, which is nearly finished.
So beautiful and in a special place. Off to the NW is Red Lake Nation College, and Tribal Headquarters both uniquely depicting Migizi. Out the west windows are the Boys and Girls Club and the Powwow Grounds, all within easy healthy walk.
The new Red Lake Community Center on the Red Lake Indian Reservation is the 4th of four new community centers built over the last dozen years or so beginning with Ponemah, followed by Little Rock, Redby and now Red Lake. All four communities...finally...enjoying new and much needed Community Centers.
Miigwech to the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux which has played a role in building projects at Red Lake, not only of the four Community Centers, but other Red Lake projects including the Skate Park and the Boys and Girls Club.
The first thing I noticed about the center; is it didn't have a high-ceilinged gym. No basketball court. When I mentioned that to Coordinator Omen, she said simply "there are lots of basketball courts in Red Lake, outdoors and indoors, and within walking distance." "I knew that," I said quickly.
Though a grand opening or a ribbon cutting ceremony has been postponed due to COVID, good things are already happening at the new Red Lake Community Center. The Census team set-up inside the entrance of the new center to make sure Red Lake gets accurately counted. Cooks and Drivers are on board for homebound delivery and elder community meals.
On the inside: One's eye is drawn to the Ojibwe floral patterns gracing the walls of the board room and hall, plus two large wonderful paintings, both created by Patrick DesJarlait. The Center features a full kitchen, top quality coffee maker, and yes, "a movie theater like" popcorn maker. Wonderful woodwork is seen throughout a rustic board/meeting room, and the gorgeous community hall/events center that will seat 200. There are large restrooms, and office space.
On the outside: the Center has picnic tables under the west veranda and a Spirit Fire area with the Nation's clans cut into the fire ring, grass seed has been sown, a "smoke house" as there will be smoking in the center, and a garage to store garden tools etc.
"I am pleased at how things came together on decisions of what the Red Lake community wanted in a center," said Coordinator Omen. "A functional design and space needs were part of the plan, including a full service, first-class kitchen all of which the community can be proud."
"There were several Red Lake Community meetings with the architect Sam Olbekson on the design of the building," Omen added. "Cherilyn Spears, Roman Stately, and Robert Smith were the ones mainly involved with the New Red Lake Center."