Red Lake leader sets opioid crisis and land return as priorities for 2023

A person talks stands at a podium and talks
Red Lake Nation Chairman Darrell Seki Sr. delivers his State of the Band address on Friday in Redby, Minn.
Mathew Holding Eagle III | MPR News

Red Lake Nation Chairman Darrell Seki Sr., said during his State of the Band address that one of the band's goals is to reestablish the original boundary of the reservation. He delivered the message as he laid out the tribal agenda for 2023. 

“We have made it a priority to restore a portion of Upper Red Lake to tribal ownership that was unlawfully taken by the United States in 1889. To restore the location of the east boundary of the reservation according to the location that the chief established in 1889,” Seki said.  

Seki said the U.S. government took the area in question more than a century ago through fraud and deception after the band successfully resisted the allotment of their lands. He also added Red Lake will “exhaust administrative remedies” before filing a federal lawsuit to get the land back. 

In February to help combat the opioid epidemic affecting Red Lake tribal officials announced a partnership with the federal government to prosecute non-members for crimes committed on the reservation with a focus on fentanyl. During his address Seki took another step forward by saying while he’s concerned about opioids, he’s more concerned about the health of Red Lake members. 

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“We have expanded our response to overdoses to include strategies to get drug users into treatment,” Seki said. “The primary goal is to fix the problem that lead our members into drug use instead of rushing to prosecute drug users.” 

Seki added Red Lake has developed an inpatient treatment center where cultural teachings are being used to change lifestyles. 

Also announced was the tribe’s cannabis program for medicinal marijuana including a dispensary which has been open for about two weeks and a state-of-the-art grow facility. 

“Our goal of the Red Lake Medical Cannabis Program is to maximize consumer protection, safety, security, accountability and convenience for patients,” Seki said. “Our procedures for manufacturing medical cannabis product prioritizes the conservation of natural resources including water as well as protection against adverse environmental impacts.” 

Other topics covered in the address included education, energy, culture and sports betting.