Red Lake Band to Embark on Constitutional Reform With Bush Foundation Support

The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians in Minnesota will use a two-year, $1.54 million grant from the Bush Foundation in St. Paul to begin outreach, education, and discussion activities aimed at constitutional reform, reports.

As a result of conversations facilitated and supported by the foundation and the Native Nations Institute over the last two years, the Red Lake Tribal Council agreed that a comprehensive revision of its current constitution was needed for the tribe to achieve self-determination and effective governance. To begin the process, a Constitutional Reform Initiative Committee will be appointed, with consideration given to maintaining a separation between tribal leadership and the activities, decisions, and direction of the committee.

The initiative's goal is to revise the constitution to ensure that the Ojibwe culture, language, and customs of the Red Lake people, as well as their collective priorities, are reflected in the way they govern themselves. A referendum vote will be held in May 2014 to remove a clause in the current constitution requiring the U.S. Secretary of Interior/Bureau of Indian Affairs to approve any modifications to the tribal constitution. Assuming the ballot measure is passed, the tribal membership will vote in May 2015 on a revised Red Lake tribal constitution.

Samuel R. Strong, the tribal council's director of economic development and planning, was selected as a 2010-11 Bush Foundation Native Nation Rebuilder. The program provides participants with access to information, peer networks, leadership training, and other resources that can be used to implement action plans and engage in practical nation-building projects within their respective communities.

"This exercise in tribal government reform is the ultimate empowerment for the people of Red Lake Nation," Red Lake chairman Floyd Jourdain, Jr., told But, a tribal council member added, it is important "for the band to realize that this is a slow process that may take longer than the Bush foundation's 'aggressive' two-year plan."

Michael Meuers. "Red Lake Nation to Embark on Constitutional Reform." 02/08/2013.