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'Relatives' considering business partnerships

Turtle Mountain Star of Rolla, North Dakota

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Two "relatives" met recently in Belcourt when Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribal Chairman Merle St. Claire and Red Lake Chippewa Tribal Chairman Floyd "Buck" Jourdain shook hands in solidarity. The two tribal chairmen and other tribal council members presented each other with gifts before touring the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation.

"It's good to welcome our close relatives to our home. We are all Anishinaube or Ojibwe," Chairman St. Claire stated. "We've been scattered over a great area and it's time we become united for the benefit of both of our bands of people. I feel that I was paid a visit from a long-lost brother today. We met our brothers and a sister today and we can become stronger and better for this reunion. It's a reunion that has been a long time coming. Together we can do many great things for our people."

According to both tribal leaders, the purpose of the visit from Chairman Jourdain and his delegation was to open the doors to potential business partnerships for both tribes. Theys are seeking to establish joint-venture businesses in various areas of manufacturing, modern technology and business communications.

Red Lake Chippewa have been successful in several areas of business beyond their gaming operations. The Minnesota tribe has three Seven Clans Casino locations, with the newest one on the Red Lake Reservation itself. The more famous one is the Seven Clans Casino in Thief River Falls. However, Chairman Jourdain has also seen his tribal members realize business success in modular home construction, custom door manufacturing, road construction, and several additional enterprises.

Chairman Jourdain was very impressed by the sheer size and capacity of the local tribal manufacturing plant, agreeing that the facility has a great deal of potential for business and economic benefits through contracts that will create jobs for tribal members.

Turtle Mountain Tribal Councilman Larry "Sheep" DeCoteau has high hopes that a beneficial partnership between the two tribes can be forged swiftly. In his view, with two tribes advocating for contracts from two different states, that adds huge political clout to the equation.

"We have two U.S. Senators supporting our tribes on the North Dakota side and two U.S. Senators supporting us from the Minnesota side, and we will get things done a lot easier when we're out there trying to secure contracts. It makes great sense and is good business strategy for both of our tribes. This is the beginning of a long friendship and partnership," said Councilman DeCoteau.

Red Lake Chippewa has about 9,000 tribal members, while Turtle Mountain has well over 30,000 members. But in land base, the Red Lake

Band boasts over 820,000 acres of land in Minnesota, as opposed to the small 6 X 12-mile Turtle Mountain Reservation, with small plots of land on its outskirts. Chairman St. Claire noted that the Red Lake Band of Chippewa has fared well in their gaming operations by investing in expansion and constant improvements for all three of their gaming locations. The local tribal leader said it was evident that Chairman Jourdain surrounds himself with highly professional and capable people.

"Every one of his group that came with him on this visit had such incredible smarts and expertise. When a tribe has dedicated and unselfish people leading the way, that tribe will come to know success. Red Lake has those kind of people working for them," St. Claire remarked.

Chairman St. Claire will visit the Red Lake Chippewa Reservation this week for a tour of that reservation's business and gaming facilities.

"It makes great sense and is good business strategy for both of our tribes. This is the beginning of a long friendship and partnership."

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Original Publication Date: January 16, 2012

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