Red Lake Nation hosts candidate fair
Saturday, November 01 2014
Written by Michael Meuers, Red Lake News,
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web-red lake nation hosts candidate fair.jpg The Red Lake Political Education Committee, a tribal non-profit and non-partisan organization, hosted a Candidate Fair & Breakfast on Oct. 22 at the Red Lake Seven Clans Casino and Event Center.

All candidates for local and statewide office (Senate District 2 and Beltrami County) who would represent the Red Lake Indian Reservation were invited to the event in addition as well as candidates for Red Lake School Board. The office seekers fielded questions from a crowd of about 100 people.

Taking a position in front of the Red Lake PEC banner, PEC co-chairs Michelle Paquin and Tim Sumner welcomed the attendees. They then introduced the group of Red Lake Canvassers who are working on Get-Out-The-Vote efforts for PEC on the reservation.

The canvassers present included, Larry Sigana, Paula Iceman, Jerricho Redeagle, Francine Kingbird, Doreen Wells, Marlys Smith, Christy Sumner and Carlene Sigana and were offering rides to the polls to any and all at the casino complex.

PEC co-chair Tim Sumner, also a Beltrami County Commissioner, said he was pleased that the event was well attended and said, "the new absentee polls in Red Lake are a great example of collaboration between the county and tribe."

Paquin, noting that Red Lake PEC is making an extra effort to engage the youth of the nation in the importance of voting, introduced the Red Lake Youth Council, which assisted with the day's events as time-keepers and serving breakfast to elders.

In keeping with PEC's youth movement, 20 year-old Alyss Seki acted as emcee. She introduced several of the other PEC members, including Secretary Cheri Goodwin and Treasurer Mary Ringhand. Seki thanked sponsors for the event, the Red Lake Tribal Council, Four Winds and individual donors Lorraine Cecil, State Representative Roger Erickson and Sue Engel, First National Bank of Bemidji spokesperson.

Seki then introduced her grandfather Red Lake Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr., who introduced himself in Ojibwemowin. He welcomed the crowd and thanked all the candidates and participants.

"I'm very glad to see the Red Lake Youth Council here, it is very important that youth participate in the process. I'm very supportive of get out the vote efforts and want to remind the candidates present that the Red Lake Band has over 2,900 registered voters," Seki said.

Candidates for Red Lake School Board

Alyss Seki then introduced candidates for the Red Lake School Board. Four of the six candidates participated, incumbents Roy Nelson and Chris Jourdain, who was appointed to fill out the term of Arnold Pemberton, Kathryn "Jody" Beaulieu and Tina Stately. Thomas Barrett and Barb Thomas were not present.

The candidates all had two minutes to introduce themselves and stood for questions from the audience.

The school board candidates answered questions about language, culture, immersion schools, parental roles, the new superintendent and administration and expressed that teachers need to be more involved in the reservation community.

All candidates agreed that the preservation of Ojibwemowin in Red Lake schools is a top priority. This issue was a topic of much discussion with several questions from the audience addressing the issue. They also agreed that student-teacher communication is key in the students' development.

In opening statements, Nelson, after telling a story of his ever-present "Ponemah" baseball cap, said he supports stronger academics for all students. He said he has been pushing language immersion for years. Stately said she supports teacher observation, curriculum selection and parental involvement. She said that even though the school is responding, that it isn't enough, and supports preserving the language and culture.

Beaulieu, a former substitute teacher and former school board member said she's very supportive of Ojibwemowin revitalization efforts in the schools. She noted that through the language comes a value the district wants to teach students.

Jourdain said he provides a perspective as both a school board member and as a teacher. He also blamed Washington for "playing politics" while cutting millions of dollars from the school's budget.

Candidates for State Representative, District 2A

State Representative Roger Erickson (DFL-Baudette) and Republican challenger David Hancock answered questions from the crowd. Both said that they have sought to create stronger relationships between the state and the Red Lake Band.

Queries from the audience included the candidates' views on the wolf hunt, the proposed pipeline, charter schools, domestic assault program funding, voter ID and invasive aquatic species.

Erickson said that the state has provided $10 million to battle invasive species. Hancock said he would support a voter ID bill while Erickson emphatically opposed the notion.

Candidates for Beltrami County Attorney

Perhaps the most contentious of the candidate debates was the contest for Beltrami County Attorney, as the current County Attorney Tim Faver, who has held the position for 25 years, is not seeking reelection. The candidates to replace him are newcomer Assistant County Attorney Annie Claesson-Huseby and David Hanson, who previously ran for judge.

Both candidates fielded question on domestic violence, the Indian Child Welfare Act and the high percentage of incarcerated American Indians in the Beltrami County jail.

Claesson-Huseby said she would work together with counterparts at Red Lake to look at the fairness of the courts, to explore why that is happening and work on the root problem. Hanson said that Beltrami County has the highest crime rate in the state and that the County Attorney's office needs new leadership.

In regard to domestic assault, Claesson-Huseby said that no-contact orders are important and can save lives and that violating them is an additional crime. Hanson said the orders are important but can on occasion be overused. Hanson would look at the necessity on a case-by-case basis, rather than using it as a blanket policy.

Claesson-Huseby countered that Hanson was endorsed for judge by the GOP, to which Hanson responded that it was only one endorsement he sought to gain name recognition in a field of 24 candidates.

Beltrami County Sheriff and County Auditor/Treasurer

Although both Sheriff Phil Hodapp and County Auditor/Treasurer Jodee Treat are running unopposed, both attended the Candidate Fair out of respect for the Red Lake community. Both visited with the crowd and were invited to speak briefly by Red Lake PEC.

Hodapp said that the Beltrami County Sheriffs continues to improve their relationship with Red Lake Public Safety. He noted that the patrol officers for both bodies support one another. He suggested that the best way to address the "jail issue" is to continue to foster good relationships and working together.

Treat is responsible and supportive of the county's role in implementing the satellite-voting site at Red Lake. She has spent a day helping to train Red Lake election judges.

Treat congratulated Red Lake PEC on its Get Out the Vote Campaign, and then concluded by saying "the four precinct communities of Red Lake, Redby, Ponemah and Little Rock consistently have the highest voter turn-out in Beltrami County."

PHOTO: Alyss Seki (left) moderates questions and responses by school board candidates Roy Nelson, Tina Stately, Kathryn "Jody" Beaulieu and Chris Jourdain. (Photo by Michael Meuers)

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