RED LAKE, Minn. — The Red Lake Nation has broken ground on a $21 million project that includes a government center and tribal college in northern Minnesota.
The tribe will build two new buildings on the top of a bluff overlooking Red Lake. The college will have an Ojibwe Language Center, a 5,330 square-foot library, student cafe, fitness center and sweat lodge. It will also house an Ojibwe immersion Head Start program and day care for up to 60 children.
"We can build square boxes, we can have more policies and rules, the three Rs of education, but unless we incorporate our own Anishinaabe identity into that, then as people, over time, we will cease to exist," tribal chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. said. "That's our priority, just like our ancestors."
The tribe has $21 million in low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program to fund the project, The Bemidji Pioneer (http://bit.ly/15QhMXS ) reported.
"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 future."
The Red Lake tribal college currently holds classes for 130 students in an old building. Transportation, day care and other issues can prevent a tribal member from pursuing a higher education, college President Dan King said.
"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."
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."
The tribe will also centralize its government functions in its new center. The project could be completed by September 2014.