Native American Press / Ojibwe News

March 29, 2002
Roger Jourdain and Wendell Chino at a pow-owow at Red Lake in 1989

Former Tribal Chairman of the Red Lake Band Roger Jourdain, left, is shown here with Wendell Chino tribal leader of the Mescalero Apache in this 1989 file photo on the shores of Red Lake, Minn. Jourdain died Thursday, March 21, 2002 in Bemidji, Minn. He was 89. (AP file Photo/The Pioneer of Bemidji, Monte Draper, file photo)

Roger Jourdain, longtime Red Lake tribal chairman, dies

BEMIDJI, Minn. (AP) -- Roger Jourdain, who for 31 years was tribal chairman of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, died Thursday night at a Bemidji hospital. He was 89.

He worked as a heavy machinery operator on such projects as the Alaska Highway and the Bemidji airport. In 1959, after the Red Lake Band passed a new constitution requiring direct election of leaders, Jourdain was elected chairman.

He became a leading voice on Indian affairs in Washington and held the post until 1990. In 1986, Jourdain was named Indian Man of the Year by the American Indian Heritage Foundation.

But his tenure was also marked by controversy, including a two-day riot and takeover of the reservation in 1979 that led to an FBI investigation, the burning of his house and car and threats against his life.

Bill Lawrence, owner-editor of the Native American Press/Ojibwe News and a godson of Jourdain's, battled frequently with him over such issues as defendants' rights in tribal courts.

``I had my differences with him over the years,'' Lawrence said. ``He had complete control of that council -- you didn't get anything done unless you agreed with Roger.''

After his tenure ended, Lawrence said they became friendly again. ``I realized that he was a consummate politician,'' Lawrence said. ``He brought home a lot of programs. He also established a strong tribal government and worked tirelessly toward self-determination.''

Jourdain had been hospitalized for about a month at North Regional Hospital in Bemidji. In a statement, the Red Lake Band Tribal Council said he died of natural causes.

Jourdain is survived by a son, Roddy of Red Lake; a sister, Ruth Fevig of Redby; eight grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

A funeral was held on Wednesday, March 27, on the Red Lake reservation.



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