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Callaway school sold to WELRP

It's official. After months of negotiation over covenants and contract language and price, the keys to the former Callaway Elementary School building finally changed hands on Monday.

June 5, 2006, was the day when the sale of the Callaway school by the Detroit Lakes School District to the White Earth Land Recovery Project became final.

"We thank the Detroit Lakes School Board and the community of Callaway for working with us and supporting us," said WELRP executive director Winona LaDuke. "We also thank the MMCDC (Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation, which helped to fund the purchase)... without them, we wouldn't have been able to do this -- we're thankful to them for believing in us."

LaDuke said the school would be used to house the Native Harvest division of WELRP. Through this division, wild rice, maple sap, berries, hominy and many other items are purchased and processed naturally, then resold to the public, mainly through online sales. Native Harvest also sells birch bark crafts, quilts and other items, all locally made.

"The building has everything we need in a larger facility; offices, work areas, a large kitchen, ample electricity, air handling equipment, storage areas, loading areas, access to a major highway, and it's on the reservation," LaDuke added.

In addition to Native Harvest's production facilities, the school building will house the administrative and programming offices for WELRP, including its renewable energy, cultural education and native language programs, wild rice campaign, and "community development through a holistic approach," as LaDuke put it. LaDuke said future plans for the building may include a community-based radio station.

"We invite the people of the community to come over and see what we're doing," LaDuke continued, noting that she hopes to have the facility up and running by this fall.

"We're excited to be able to continue to grow our organization in one of our local villages," said Leah Prussia, WELRP deputy director.

"We congratulate the White Earth Land Recovery Project on its purchase, and wish them the best... we hope it will be a very positive thing for them, and the community of Callaway," said Detroit Lakes School Superintendent Lowell Niklaus.

Callaway City Council member Emily Annette said, "We're really excited to have the White Earth Land Recovery Project and Native Harvest come to Callaway."

As part of the sale, the former school playground will be deeded over to the city for use as a public park.

Though its production facilities will be moving to Callaway, Native Harvest will continue to operate its retail store and restaurant, the Minwanjige Café, near Strawberry Lake. For more information on Native Harvest, visit the web site at

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454