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Red Lake band opens Duluth office

DULUTH - A new Duluth outreach office hopes to make treatment, education and jobs the solutions to what is the bane of too many Red Lake band members: unemployment and substance abuse.

With a Saturday picnic at Lincoln Park, Duluth members of the Chippewa tribe began to organize around community-based assistance for the services they need.

"These are the things we are facing away from the reservation," said Bill Morrison, the liaison for the new office. "Our youth and community needs to be improved. Our community needs to have access. We have to get training and jobs."

The Urban Outreach office, at 325 W. Central Entrance, will help people enroll in schools and treatment centers, find homes, create resumes and apply for jobs. Opening later this week, the office will serve the estimated 300 Red Lake band members in Duluth.

"I hope we can help people look for jobs because that is a major issue for us," said Micheala Richey, a band member who has lived in Duluth for 23 years. "We need to accommodate the people here."

Red Lake officials and members put unemployment at more than 50 percent.

"We are limited in what we can do, but we want to provide assistance beyond what they can do on their own," said tribal chairman Floyd Jourdain, a former Duluth resident.

Retaining the Red Lake culture, language and traditions of the pipe and drum also will be programs in the office. The officials would like to start a weekly native language program at the center.

"We want to be bicultural; that is the idea," Morrison said.

On Saturday, some of the nearly 75 people who attended the picnic took part in drumming and a smoke ceremony used for purification.

The Duluth office is modeled after the success of Red Lake's only other outreach office, in Minneapolis. Using the Minneapolis office as a model, Morrison and Alex Gillespie, a hereditary chief, would like to install a group of tribal elders and others to help members with needs such as landlord issues or how to enroll children in school.

The Red Lake Reservation, about 180 miles northwest of Duluth with about 10,000 members, has cleared up the financing issue that closed their previous and more limited Duluth office a year ago, Jourdian said.

"The real beautiful thing is the taxpayers or city won't have to spend a dime," Morrison said. "We will bring revenue into the community. It is going to open some doors, and there will be some progress made."