Friday, December 15, 2017
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Red Lake shootings
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Red Lake chairman reflects on shooting and its impact
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Red Lake Chairman Buck Jourdain says seeing Red Lake in the state it's in breaks his heart. He says the focus for now is simply making sure everyone is taken care of. (MPR Photo/Dan Gunderson)
Red Lake Tribal Chairman Buck Jourdain spoke at length for the first time Thursday night about the shootings on the reservation. He reflected on how the tragedy has affected Red Lake, and how it may change the community in the future.

Red Lake, Minn. — Chairman Buck Jourdain says the Red Lake Nation is overwhelmed by support and offers of help from around the world. Jourdain says what the people need most right now are prayers and understanding.

"All of the things that are coming out now are indicitive of that happening. The support is tremendous," Jourdain says. "Bordering towns, the mayors, have flown their flags at half staff in honor of our loss. Just the human touch. that's what we need most at this time."

Jourdain says seeing Red Lake in the state it's in breaks his heart. He says the focus for now is simply making sure everyone is taken care of.

Jourdain says this tragedy is causing everyone to reflect on how to do a better job of reaching out to all kids on the reservation.

"Good role models are a good place to start. And we have a lot of people like that here, who will stop a young person and say, 'How you doing?'" Jourdain says. "And our Indian kids need that. They tend to keep to themselves, and we need to reach out to them more."

Jourdain says traditional culture needs to play a larger role in the lives of kids on the reservation. He says they need roots that can only come from knowing the ways of their ancestors.

In the wake of the shootings, tribal officials restricted access to the reservation. Chairman Jourdain says that's a reflection of traditional values, culture and a need to grieve in private. He bristled at questions that challenged the concept of Red Lake as a sovereign nation.

"A lot of times nobody wants anything to do with us. They never want to come here. Media doesn't want to come here. People have no reason to come here and they could care less," Jourdain says. "But now that we have this tragedy, all of a sudden our sovereignty is a question, and the way we conduct ourselves and our tribal customs. We're only looking out for our own, and following our own laws."

After the press conference, a handful of tribal elders shared their concerns. The national spotlight on Red Lake has been difficult for Melvin Jones to watch. Jones is a tribal elder from Ponemah, one of the most traditional Indian communities in Minnesota.

He says Indian people simply want to be respected for who they are.

"Have respect for us. Be for us at this time. Not only at this time, but come over and see us after this tragedy is over," Jones says. "Don't just drop in because of this tragedy is here. Come and see us all the time. That way you'll learn about us. If you seek, we will share."

Jones says people who are not Indian can't understand traditional spiritual and cultural beliefs. But he says everyone should be able to understand a simple plea.

"Pray for us. We need that. We have a lot of healing to do here on the reservation. It's not over with," says Jones. "The elders have a lot of work to do after the funerals are over. A lot of work."

Funerals begin Saturday for the 10 people who died in Monday's shooting rampage at Red Lake.

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