Monday, March 4, 2024
Go to What happened at Red Lake?
What happened at Red Lake?
The shootings
The suspect
The reaction
The healing
More from MPR


Should Jourdain remain as Red Lake chairman?

Larger view
Buck Jourdain's future as Red Lake tribal chairman may be in question, because of the alleged involvement of his son the Red Lake shootings last week. Some are debating whether he should resign from his position. (Photo by JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)
The arrest of the son of Red Lake Tribal Chairman Buck Jourdain stunned people on the reservation this week. Louis Jourdain, 16, faces charges that he conspired with teenage gunman Jeff Weise in last week's shooting rampage. Some Red Lake band members question whether Buck Jourdain will be able to continue leading the tribe through what the chairman himself called the worst tragedy in the tribe's history.

Bemidji, Minn. — Rumors have been flying across the Red Lake Reservation that Buck Jourdain would resign from office this week. So far, that's not happened. Jourdain issued a statement Tuesday proclaiming his son's innocence. He called Louis a "good boy with a good heart who never harmed anyone."

Some band members wonder whether the chairman is capable of leading the tribe, while dealing with the turmoil and uncertainty of his son's fate. Francis Brun is still grieving the loss of his son, Derrick, the security guard who was Weise's first victim at Red Lake High School.

On Tuesday, Brun told reporters that Chairman Jourdain should resign from office. In an interview Wednesday morning, Brun backed away from that statement. He says Jourdain should let his conscience dictate whether or not he steps down.

If, in his own mind, (Jourdain thought) that there was some involvement by his son -- then by all means, yes, I think he should step down. But he believes in the innocence of his son.
- Former tribal chairman Bobby Whitefeather

"At the least, he should maybe step aside and impose a suspension on himself until this matter is cleared up," says Brun. "I imagine some people's opinions have changed, whether his leadership will be effective in the coming months to try to heal the wounds that have been inflicted upon our communities."

Politically, Brun was not a supporter of Jourdain's even before the shootings. Neither was Bill Lawrence, who publishes the Ojibwe News, a paper that's often critical of tribal government. Lawrence says Jourdain should resign his post.

"I suppose he had ... obviously some knowledge of what his son's, at least acquaintance, with Jeffrey Weise was. And I assume he had some trepidations of what really happened there," says Lawrence. "And the question arose, did he know more than he let on, you know, and does that affect him in how he dealt with it in the immediate aftermath of the shooting?"

Former Red Lake Chairman Bobby Whitefeather was defeated in a primary election by Jourdain. Whitefeather says with funerals still going on this week, it's probably premature to call for Jourdain's resignation. But he says band members are traumatized and confused about what to expect next.

"If, in his own mind, (Jourdain thought) that there was some involvement by his son -- then by all means, yes, I think he should step down," says Whitefeather. "But he believes in the innocence of his son. And if that's what he believes, then I guess that he reserves the right to make his own judgment as to whether he should stay on."

Tribal leaders this week asked band members not to rush to judgment. They're supporting Jourdain as he takes time to be with his family.

When Buck Jourdain won election last summer, he received more votes than any chairman candidate in the tribe's history. At 40 years old, Jourdain was seen as a young new face who would bring reforms to tribal government.

Many people still support the chairman and are praying for his family.

"We raise our children with love. And I know that Buck raised his son with love," says Sandra King, a grant writer for the band. "And it must break his heart to hear the accusations against his child. It would break mine."

Federal authorities have been tight-lipped about what role they believe young Louis Jourdain may have had in last week's shootings. Legal proceedings against him are closed because he's a juvenile.