Thursday, July 19, 2018
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Red Lake tribe preparing to keep kids busy this summer

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Red Lake Tribal Chairman Buck Jourdain speaks to a group of youth program directors about plans for summer activities for kids on the reservation. Jourdain says the tribe continues to receive offers of financial help. (MPR photo/Tom Robertson)
Young people on the Red Lake Indian Reservation sometimes complain there's little for them to do once school gets out. This summer, the Red Lake School District has no plans to offer summer school. But there may be plenty of other activities to keep kids busy. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial help are flowing onto the reservation for summer youth programs. Tribal leaders are now planning ways to use those resources.

Red Lake, Minn. — Since the March 21 shootings at Red Lake, there's been lots of talk about how to improve the lives of kids. Now some tribal leaders are calling this the summer of youth at Red Lake. There are lots of things in the works, including summer camps, canoe trips and sporting opportunities. Tribal Chairman Buck Jourdain says it will be far from a typical summer at Red Lake.

"In the past, I think that the programming that we have had on the reservation has not been adequate enough," said Jourdain. "It's been effective in spots and we've been sort of fragmented. And I think with all of the additional resource that we're getting it's an absolute must today that we map out what's going to take place over this crucial summer."

Recently, Red Lake officials met with tribal youth advocates and state and federal agency representatives to coordinate the effort. Federal Administration for Native Americans representative Robert Parisian told the group the agency is developing an aid package of more than a quarter of a million dollars.

Some of that money will help villages on the reservation repair or alter local community centers to make them more usable for kids programs. Parisian says the package will also include truck loads of donated sporting goods equipment.

"The gamut runs from, everything from basketball, weight equipment, uniforms, pitching machines, golf equipment, boats, whatever you can think of from major sporting companies," Parisian said. "And all of that is going to be shipped into Red lake to be put into the community centers."

Parisian says the Administration for Native Americans will provide emergency response and first aid training this summer for high school students. And there are plans to bring in more than 20 volunteers from several American Indian tribes through a program called the Tribal Community Conservation Corp. Those volunteers will serve as mentors and help with summer activities.

This is a united tribal effort, especially this summer. There's never been a time when we've needed to pull together more than now.
- Judy Roy

Red Lake Tribal Secretary Judy Roy says some private foundations have offered money to hire two people to coordinate summer programs for kids. The idea is to pull together all summer activities into a single, well- publicized calendar.

Roy says that's something that hasn't happened before. She says in the past, the tribe has been criticized for only including kids who are in so-called prominent reservation families. Roy says summer programs for kids have been scattered and inconsistent.

"That has to all be set aside because all of our youth deserve whatever the tribe can do for them," said Roy. "And so that is my pitch, that we put aside our territorial feelings and say this is a united tribal effort, especially this summer. There's never been a time when we've needed to pull together more than now."

Some tribal officials want more than just activities to merely entertain kids. There are plans to hire coordinators who will focus on healing and trauma counseling. There are two youth conferences being planned that will provide leadership training for young people. And there's talk of creating a Tribal Youth Council.

Tribal Treasurer Darrell Seki says he's pleased there will be so many new opportunities for kids this summer. But Seki says kids will need more than that to heal from the trauma of the shootings.

"We cannot forget to love our kids, to listen to them, to use our eyes, to hug them," Seki said. "All these things we're going to create, we still got things we've got to do. It doesn't have to be your kids. Maybe your neighbor's. So we need to pool our resources and let's do it."

Tribal officials are still waiting on word of possible funding for a Boys and Girls Club building on the reservation. The club now operates out of a small office in the middle school. The national Boys and Girls Club of America organization has committed to helping the tribe come up with $4 million for the project.

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