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Continued: Heffelfinger slams Justice Department

  • Article by: ERIC BLACK , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 24, 2007 - 11:18 PM

And, he told reporters after the luncheon speech, he also briefed Gonzales on his continuing plans and commitment to the issue, and Gonzales made no complaints about any of it.

Minnesota tribal officials Thursday rejected the idea that Heffelfinger spent too much time on Indian issues.

Steven Day, police chief for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, said, "He did a wonderful job for Leech Lake." Day said, "With his help, we took down some major Native gang members who are now sitting in jail. With his help, we took $1.2 million of drugs off our streets. He's been nothing but a great help."

Red Lake Tribal Chair Floyd (Buck) Jourdain said he greatly appreciated Heffelfinger's presence in the days after the March 2005 shooting at the Red Lake school. Jourdain's son, Louis, later pleaded guilty to sending threatening messages in connection with the shootings.

Jourdain credited Heffelfinger with helping start a Family Advocacy Center in Bemidji to curb family violence in northwest Minnesota.

But, Jourdain said, there are many tribe members who look back on Heffelfinger's tenure wishing more had been done to battle drug and gang crimes on the reservation.

Heffelfinger was often seen at Indian country events around the nation, leaving some members of tribal governments to wonder whether he was positioning himself for a career in Indian country after his stint as U.S. attorney, Jourdain said.

"He's made friends in Indian country and he has his critics," Jourdain said. "I can't speak for the other tribes, but he didn't spend very much time up here. While he worked with us, I'm not sure people were happy with the end result."

That sentiment was echoed by Steve Blake, chair of the Twin Cities branch of the American Indian Movement. "If he spent all this time on our issues, what did he do?" Blake asked.

Eric Black • 612 673-7294 Staff writer Howie Padilla contributed to this report. • eblack@startribune.com

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