Red Lake chair doubles down on return of tribal lands, including Upper Red Lake

A man at a podium
At Friday’s State of the Band Address in Redby, Red Lake Nation Chair Darrell Seki Sr. said pursuing ownership of the east boundary of Upper Red Lake is top priority.
Mathew Holding Eagle III | MPR News

Red Lake Nation Chair Darrell Seki Sr. told a packed audience Friday the band is pursuing the return of all of Upper Red Lake plus a 1-mile buffer of land surrounding the area.

Delivering this year’s state of the band address, Seki said the band’s lawyers presented Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Bryan Newland with documentation supporting the claim.    

“The Department of Interior attorneys are working with our attorneys to finalize a legal opinion the Department of Interior can rely on to support our position that the east boundary should reflect the boundary that the Red Lake chiefs intended in 1899,” Seki said, before telling the audience Red Lake has been in talks with state officials as well.  

“State legislators have agreed to sponsor legislation that returns the state-owned lands under the Upper [Red] Lake to the Red Lake Band.” 

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While Seki didn’t outright say what the plans are for nonmembers currently using the land in question, he did offer words of caution. 

“People that live on East it’s not our fault. It’s the state of Minnesota and the United States government’s deceit and fraud that stole our land,” he said. “You visitors understand that.” 

Seki said the tribe is also seeking to terminate a lease on land north of the reservation put in place by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the state in 1940. 

“Because the Red Lake Band was not informed of this lease, and because the band did not consent to the lease, the tribal council is pursuing an early cancellation of the lease,” Seki said. “So that these 32,000 acres are returned to the band free of any lease.” 

He said if unchanged the lease won’t expire until 2035. 

Seki said the tribe is also seeking the return of land in North Dakota that belongs to them. 

During the address Seki also shared updates on upcoming solar projects, federal funding issues, gaming benefits and community programs and services.