Tragedy in Northern Minnesota

I’m having a hard time coming to grips with the tragic school shooting that occured in Red Lake Minnesota yesterday. I never would have thought something like this could happen so close to home. I grew up in the small town of Brooks Minnesota, population 140, just one hour away from Red Lake. I now live in Grand Forks North Dakota, only about two hours away from the town, as shown in the map below:

Map of nortern Minnesota

One thing I find interesting about this story is the lack of coverage by the big-name bloggers. I don’t blame them, however. Bloggers, me included, want and need good information on which they can comment. In this case, it seems that news is trickling out of Red Lake. Why? I suspect this information from the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council has something to do with it:

The [Red Lake] tribal government has full sovereignty over the reservation, subject only to federal legislation specifically intended to deal with Red Lake, which makes it a “closed” reservation. The Tribe has the right to limit who can visit or live on the reservation. It has never been subject to State law. The Red Lake tribe withdrew in 1918 from the General Council for the Chippewa, intended to bring all Ojibwe into one tribal structure, and continued to maintain its own identity separate from the MCT. There are many legal and program differences between Red Lake and the other state reservations. The Tribe has its own constitution providing for elected officials representing the four reservation areas and a participating council of hereditary chiefs. While the federal government is responsible for major criminal matters, as specified in federal law, the Tribe has jurisdiction in all other criminal matters. Its court has full jurisdiction over civil and family court matters. In 1997, the Tribe began administering its own programs under a Self-Governance Contract with the BIA. The police became a tribal responsibility at that time.

Growing up, I can only think of once when I was ever on the reservation. I was probably only five or six years old when I took a trip to Red Lake with my dad to drop off a pickup truck he sold to someone there. Rarely did you hear about anyone making a trip to Red Lake, dispite how close we lived to it. It seemed like it was almost an unspoken rule that you were to simply never go there.

If any good comes out of this disaster, I hope that it forces a discussion of the current state of our nation’s Indian reservations. The kids on these resevations deserve better than the high levels of poverty and violence on them right now. Please keep them in your prayers.

Web Coverage of the Shooting & Additional Information: (will update when possible)

Note: Unfortunately, many of the Minnesota local papers (the Star Tribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press, and the Bemidji Pioneer in paricular) require registration to read any of their articles. Therefore, I won’t be linking to any of them. It’s ultimately their loss, especially with a story that’s getting world-wide attention.

Update @ 6:00 PM More coverage from:

Here’s my personal take on the racial side of this story. I don’t believe racism against Native Americans is affecting news coverage of the Red Lake shootings. It’s entirely possible that some outlets are being extra sensitive in respecting the native culture, but that’s a long way from being racist. Common sense (plus the fact that I’m from northern Minnesota) tells me that the irregular coverage is due to the location (Red Lake really is in the middle of nowhere) and the fact the shootings happened on a closed reservation. Red Lake is a sovereign nation, and the media must play by the rules laid out by the Tribal Council (no, not that tribal council).

Update @ 2:15 PM 3/23/2005: A couple of interesting stories about media access on the Red Lake Reservation: