Red Lake Voters Take Tribe in A New Direction

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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

government."

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.

Minnesota Public Radio News can be

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minnesota.publicradio.org.