The Red Lake Band of Chippewa in northern Minnesota has opened a new shopping center on its land north of Bemidji.

“It’s finally a reality” after years of discussion and development, Red Lake Tribal Chairman Darrell Seki told Lakeland PBS television in Bemidji this month.

The new Red Lake Trading Post is three times the size of the previous grocery store, including a laundromat and gas station.

“Our new bakery will be actually baking breads, rather than just having a commercial premade bakery and sweets, so we’ll actually have choices like sourdough, wild rice bread, rye bread and we’ll make it fresh daily,” said general manager Allen Retz.

Tribal officials have tied the availability of fresh groceries to helping solve high diabetes rates among American Indians, who suffer from the disease at twice the rates of white residents. 

The new center has created 20 jobs so far. 

The $10.6 million project was financed by the Native American Bank in Denver, a community development financial institution owned by 31 tribes.

“Native American communities have long had unequal access to crucial development lending and financial tools,” Native American Bank CEO Tom Ogaard said in an e-mail statement to the Star Tribune. “Tribal lands held in trust can make for complex financing, but we and our partners believed in this project. It’s already created 20 new jobs in the community and cut a 76-mile round trip for fresh groceries. 

“We worked with the Red Lake Band to use New Market Tax Credits and a USDA guaranty. We believe it’s the first time those have been combined with tribal trust land anywhere in the U.S.” 

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