|Written by John Enger, Minnesota Public Radio News,
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RED LAKE, Minn. – The Red Lake band
of Ojibwe has approved longtime treasurer Darrell Seki, Sr. as the
new tribal chairman. The vote held Wednesday ends Floyd "Buck"
Jourdain's decade-long administration.
Unofficial tallies show Seki won with
1,907 votes while Jourdain had 1,284. They were followed by Kathryn
Beaulieu, who received 292 votes, and Ron Lussier, with 57 votes.
Seki couldn't be reached for comment
on his victory, or what he plans to do in his new office. Red Lake
spokesman Michael Meuers, a longtime friend of Seki, said the new
chairman will take a little time off before taking on the position at
the next tribal meeting on June 10.
"Darrel is a traditionalist,"
Meuers said, "He's a [Ojibwe] first speaker. He follows the old
ways, but that doesn't mean he's not progressive."
Seki has an extraordinary reputation
in Red Lake Meuers said, growing up in Ponemah, a Red Lake village so
traditional Seki spoke the native language exclusively until middle
school. He has 40 years of experience in tribal politics and nearly
universal respect, according to Meuers.
"Four years ago he ran for
treasurer and no one challenged him," Meuers said. "If you
know Indian Country, you know that doesn't happen."
The job of chairman isn't explicitly
laid out within the tribal government, according to Jourdain. Each
leader has some flexibility within a four-year term. The chairman is
like the president of a small country, Jourdain said. "It's a
bigger deal than people realize."
Jourdain oversaw casino projects,
established two Boys and Girls Clubs and got roads repaired, but said
those weren't his main priorities.
"I didn't run just to build a few
buildings," he said. "I wanted to change tribal
Seki's victory, Jourdain said,
represents a shift back to an older form of tribal government that
won't emphasize a separation of powers that Jourdain was focused on.
Currently the tribal government
dictates much of Red Lake life, including business development,
housing and arguably, employment. Jourdain wanted constitutional
reform to set Red Lake on a progressive heading.
This tribal election set a new bar for
active campaigning. Candidates ran print and radio ads and set up
professionally made signs.
Races were also held for treasurer,
secretary, and tribal council representatives from Little Rock, Red
Lake, Ponemah and Redby.
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