With an eagle soaring overhead, the Red Lake Nation on Thursday celebrated the groundbreaking of its new government center and tribal college.
"Here in Red Lake we pride ourselves on our history, our culture, and most importantly, our land," said Floyd Jourdain Jr., tribal chairman. "It's really a good feeling to walk up here and see our brotherly eagle, our inspiration, circling around here today. That's always a good sign for the Anishinaabe people."
The tribe will construct two new buildings atop a bluff overlooking Red Lake. The complex, with separate buildings for the 27,400-square-foot government center and 42,000-square-foot college, has been designed by DSGW Architects of Duluth to look like a soaring eagle.
"We can build square boxes, we can have more policies and rules, the three R's of education, but unless we incorporate our own Anishinaabe identity into that, then as people, over time, we will cease to exist," Jourdain said. "That's our priority, just like our ancestors."
The tribe secured more than $21 million in low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program to fund the project.
"This is all about the future; it's about investing in the future," said Colleen Landkamer, state director of the USDA. "By the leadership you have shown as a tribal nation, coming together, figuring out how you could build this wonderful facility and improve the pow-wow grounds and the tribal college, it is your future. It's everyone's future."
Red Lake's tribal college, not now accredited, currently holds classes in an old building. A tribal news release said about 90 percent of the 130 students enrolled in classes last fall would not have attended college at all had it not been for the local option in Red Lake.
A college education is not a given for members of the Red Lake tribe, said Dan King, president of the college. Those who do pursue a secondary education do not have easy access to a nearby campus, having to figure out transportation and day care to allow them to travel an hour each direction for classes for as long as four or five years.
"Overwhelming obstacles are put in front of our members," King said. "But our new tribal college is going to remove a lot of those obstacles. Our members will have an opportunity (for) and access to higher education right here in Red Lake."
The new college will have an Ojibwe immersion Head Start and day care for up to 60 children, a 5,330-square-foot library, an Ojibwe Language Center, a student cafe, wellness and fitness center and sweat lodge. It also will house the tribal archives.
"This is truly a historic event," said Eugene "Bugger" McArthur, director of development for the college.
Also included in the project, expected to be complete by September 2014, will be centralization of the tribe's governmental functions, now spread throughout the reservation in several old buildings, including a former hospital.
Page 2 of 2 - "We've talked about this for about 30 years on the reservation," King said of the project, expected to create 120 jobs. "All the tribal councils have tried to do this. This tribal council got it done.
"They worked with the communities and the support was unanimous, wherever we went, in the Twin Cities, in Duluth, in all the communities, everybody supported this."