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Indian Country reacts to deadly reservation shooting

Tribal nations across the country sent their support to the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota on Tuesday after a deadly tragedy that left 10 dead and more than a dozen injured in the worst incident of school-related violence since Columbine.

Tex Hall, the president of the National Congress of American Indians and chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, said he watched "in disbelief" as the tragedy unfolded late Monday. He urged tribes to provide economic aid, prayers and support, especially the youth, to the remote Ojibwe community in Red Lake.

"I know I speak for all of Indian Country when I say that our hearts are heavy with the news of this loss," Hall said. "As we wait for further details, I want to say to the families and friends of all students and teachers that we grieve with you, we pray with you -- and we will do anything we can to help you through this sudden and painful tragedy."

Harold Frazier, the chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, said the incident shows that reservations are not shielded from the type of school-related violence that has occurred elsewhere. "We are reminded of the fragility of life and the significance of our young," he said. "We share in your mourning and know as Indian people we are not immune to such disastrous events that happen nation-wide."

Lawrence T. Morgan, the speaker of the Navajo Nation Council, agreed with that assessment. He said tribes need to work harder to address problems facing Native youth today.

"It is also a reminder that we need to offer assistance to our Native youth in any way possible to avoid these types of tragedies from repeating anywhere else," Morgan said yesterday.

Ernie Stevens Jr., the chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association, announced that its member tribes are contributing $25,000 to the Red Lake Nation Memorial Fund to assist the victims and families of Monday's shooting. "We are saddened by this tragedy, the pain and loss of which has been felt throughout Indian Country," he said.

"This is first and foremost a tragedy of the worst kind and not a crime," added John Beaucage, Grand Council Chief of the Anishinabek Nation in Ontario. "I would like to encourage our Anishinabek communities to include the Red Lake community members and families in their prayers."

The outpouring of support came as the Red Lake Nation was still in shock from what Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. called "one of the darkest and most painful occurrences in the history of our tribe." The reservation, normally closed to outsiders, teemed with activity -- media and police included -- but all the schools were closed as was the tribe's casino. Jourdain ordered all Red Lake and U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff until further notice.

Tribal, local, state and federal authorities continue to try and piece together the events on Monday afternoon. The FBI has indicated they know of no motive behind the deadly spree.

The shooter was identified as Jeff Weise, age 16. He turned the gun on himself after killing nine others, including his grandfather, and five fellow students at the Red Lake High School.

The FBI does not have a motive for the killings but believes Weise acted alone. The tragedy began when he short his grandfather, Daryl "Dash" Lussier, 58, a veteran tribal police officer, and his grandfather's girlfriend, Michelle Sigana, 32, at their home on the reservation.

Weise then went to the school, where he shot and killed teacher Neva Winnecoup-Rogers, 62, and Derrick Brun, 28, a security guard. The five students killed were identified as: Dwayne Lewis, 15; Chase Lussier, 15; Alicia Spike, 15; Thurlene Stillday, 15; and Chanelle Rosebear, 15.

Five victims remain hospitalized with two in critical condition. Steven Cobenais, 15, took a gunshot wound to the side of his head. Jeffrey May, 15, was shot in the face and has suffered paralysis on his left side. Both are being treated at MeritCare in Fargo, North Dakota.

Other hospitalized victims were identified as: Ryan Augunash, 15; Lance Crowe, 15; and Cody Thunder, 15. They are being treated at a hospital in nearby Bemidji.

Donations for the victims and their families can be sent to:

Red Lake Nation Memorial Fund
P.O. Box 574
Red Lake, Minnesota 56671

Relevant Links:
Red Lake Net News -
Red Lake Nation -
Red Lake High School -