red lake net news
Red Lake Net News
Michael Barrett
P. O. Box 80
Redby, MN  56670
Telephone:  218-679-5995

About the Red Lake Indian Reservation
mbarrett@rlnn.com
News updated weekly...
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A brief overview of Red Lake


 

The Red Lake Indian Reservation is located in the northern Minnesota counties of Beltrami and Clearwater, approximately 30 miles north of Bemidji. There are four districts within the reservation which include Red Lake, Redby, Ponemah and Little Rock. Tribal headquarters is located in Red Lake.

During the French period of the fur trade, the Dakota had a major village at Red Lake. It was around 1796 that the Ojibwe settled along with the British North West Co. and a fur trading post established in 1806.

The Red Lake Band, through treaties and agreements in 1863 (amended 1864), 1889, 1892, 1904, and 1905 gave up land but never ceded the main reservation surrounding Lower Red Lake and a portion of Upper Red Lake. This unceded land is spoken of as the "diminished" reservation and "aboriginal" land. It is 407,730 acres. In addition, there are 229,300 acres of surface water area on both the lakes.

Tribal leadership during the late 1800's and early 1900's skillfully resisted allotment legislation and held the land intact for the Tribe as a whole. Today the Tribe's Independence Day, July 6th is in honor of the courage of their chiefs in resisting allotment during the negotiations of the 1889 Nelson Act. Only one other tribe in the United States also resisted allotment, the Warm Springs Tribe in Oregon. When land that had been ceded but not sold was returned after 1934, this restored land amounted to 156,696 acres. It included 70% of the Northwest Angle of Minnesota, as well as lands scattered between the reservation and the Canadian border. The total land area controlled by the Tribe, 564,426 acres, is about the size of Rhode Island. The land is located in nine different counties. The Tribe has jurisdiction to regulate hunting and fishing on the original, diminished lands, and the ceded lands that were returned. The remainder of the ceded areas, not held by the Tribe, is under state jurisdiction.

The tribal government has full sovereignty over the reservation, subject only to federal legislation specifically intended to deal with Red Lake, which makes it a "closed" reservation. The Tribe has the right to limit who can visit or live on the reservation. It has never been subject to State law. The Red Lake tribe withdrew in 1918 from the General Council for the Chippewa, intended to bring all Ojibwe into one tribal structure, and continued to maintain its own identity separate from the Minnesota Chippewa Tribes (MCT). There are many legal and program differences between Red Lake and the other state reservations. The Tribe has its own constitution providing for elected officials representing the four reservation districts and a participating council of hereditary chiefs. While the federal government is responsible for major criminal matters, as specified in federal law, the Tribe has jurisdiction in all other criminal matters. Its court has full jurisdiction over civil and family court matters. In 1997, the Tribe began administering its own programs under a Self-Governance Contract with the BIA. The police became a tribal responsibility at that time.

The reservation completely surrounds Lower Red Lake, the State's largest lake, and includes a major portion of Upper Red Lake, the State's fourth largest lake. Bemidji, the closest city, is 30 miles to the south. Thief River Falls is over 70 miles west. The land is slightly rolling and heavily wooded, with 337,000 acres of commercial forestland under management. There are lakes, swamps, peat bogs, and prairies, with some land on the western side suitable for farming. The main population areas are in Beltrami and Clearwater counties.

The four reservation communities are the towns of Red Lake, Redby, Ponemah, and Little Rock. Red Lake is the location of the tribal headquarters, a renovation of what was once the Red Lake Hospital in 1996. The tribal court, the BIA Agency office, Red Lake Schools, (K-12th grades, operates as a regular state public school) are located in Red Lake. Ponemah has a K-8th grade school and a Headstart School. St. Mary’s Mission also operates a 1-6th grade school. Other facilities located in Red Lake are a modern IHS/CHS hospital, the Jourdain/Perpich Extended Care Facility for the elderly, the Elderly Nutrition Program for nutrition and activities for the elderly, a new Criminal Justice Center, the Headstart Center, a new Fitness Center, and the new Red Lake Nation College. Other community buildings include the Humanities Building that houses the Seven Clans Casino-Red Lake, the Red Lake Nation College, a new Fitness Center, a new bank and other recreational and group facilities. The main powwow grounds are north of the Humanities Center, and Ponemah also has an expanded powwow arena.

Redby, also on the south shore of Lower Red Lake, is further east and five miles from Red Lake. During the logging era, Redby was the town at the end of the railroad line. A small amount of Indian land went into private ownership at that time. A dozen property tax payers remain. Redby has a community center–which also houses the Food Distribution Program–Red Lake Fisheries, a Forestry Greenhouse and tree nursery, Red Lake Industries, Red Lake Custom Doors, the Whitefeather-Moe Technical Training Center, an adolescent group home and a chemical dependency treatment facility, two Indian owned and two non-Indian owned stores–all of which serve food–a non-Indian owned garage, and a water bottling plant that no longer is in business.

Ponemah, near the end of the peninsula separating Upper and Lower Red Lakes, is the home of very traditional members. It has a community center, a K-8th grade school, Head Start, a health clinic, programs for elders, a new Fitness Center, a grocery store and laundry facility, one Indian owned store, and renovations of their powwow grounds took place in 1994.

The Little Rock area is to the west of Red Lake. It has a community center, a health station, a cattle and buffalo farm, two Indian-owned stores, numerous pine plantations managed by Red Lake’s Department of Natural Resources, and is also the physical location of Red Lake Net News.

Red Lake is the first reservation in Minnesota to build an archives-library program to preserve tribal records and historical material. Employment on the reservation is, however, somewhat limited, resulting in high unemployment rates. Expanding the economic base has high priority. Governmental services provide employment. Timber management, operating a tree nursery for replanting, and logging provide some employment. Fishing with gillnets used to also provide some employment, until a moratorium had to be placed on the lake because of a declining fish population. A farm was purchased on the southwest corner of the reservation in 1994 and the Tribe has continued with its paddy rice operation. A pilot project to grow cranberries was started in 1997. Gravel is also sold commercially.

The reservation has its own Department of Public Safety, ambulance service, fire department and sanitation service. Solid waste disposal is done at a recycling, incineration facility, SWIScorp, in Thief River Falls. The Tribe has a 20% ownership of the operation. Red Lake Builders, tribally-owned, does reservation building, road construction, and other construction work off the reservation. In 1987, the Tribal Red Lake Retail Center was built in Red Lake village. It offers a grocery store, a laundrymat facility, and houses the new branch office of Deerwood Bank. Indian-owned stores sell groceries, gasoline, auto parts and repair, hardware, a take-out food shop, and video store. There is also a retail center at Ponemah with groceries and gasoline, as well as a laundrymat which is a tribally operated business.


The Tribe has three casino operations–7 Clans Casino-Red Lake, Thief River Falls and Warroad–built on trust land funded and managed by the Tribe. There is a modest operation in the Humanities Center in Red Lake that is also a bingo hall. 7 Clans Casino-Thief River Falls is located eight miles south of Thief River just off Highway 59 and is currently the largest of all three gaming facilities with a hotel, two restaurants, and a water park. 7 Clans-Warroad is the second largest. Although not attached to the Warroad facility, Red Lake also owns a new restaurant situated a block away, as well as the Super 8 Motel.

Click the Tribe's logo to visit their Website
Check out Red Lake History in the Archives and the RL History section...
Information on Hereditary Chiefs and Chief's Day...
Red Lake Schools
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