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A COVID-19 update from Grand Portage Tribal Chair Beth Drost

The Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, like so many other governmental bodies, is adjusting to a new way of doing business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Grand Portage Lodge and Casino closed its doors on March 31, 2020, leaving many community members without work and the Band without a source of revenue.

Other tribal buildings are closed to the public except for essential workers. The Grand Portage Tribal Council is in daily contact with the State of Minnesota and federal agencies. The Grand Portage Band will be receiving funding to help get through this difficult time.

A number of upcoming projects are up in the air. This summer was to bring some Highway 61 improvements in the Grand Portage area and a new dock and building at Hat Point Marina. The Tribal Council hopes to be able to proceed with this project, however there are concerns about people traveling and possibly bringing the COVID-19 virus to the community.

As WTIP reported earlier, the elections for members of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribal has been delayed due to COVID-19 concerns. The primary election for Tribal Council will now be June 9, 2020.

In related news, on Friday, April 10, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced that it has temporarily closed Grand Portage State Park.

The DNR took the action at the request of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. The Band requested that the DNR close the park to the public due to concerns about health risks posed non-essential travel to the Park.

The Park, which included the Minnesota landmark High Falls on the Pigeon River, is located entirely within the territorial boundaries of the Grand Portage Reservation and is situated on land owned by the Band and leased to the State.

Minnesota Laws explicitly established the Park to be a cooperative venture between the DNR and the Band.

Under Governor Tim Walz’s “Stay at Home Order,”the public is advised to recreate close to home. Relatively few people who are not members of the Grand Portage Band live close to Grand Portage State Park, so its closure will not eliminate a significant close-to-home recreational opportunity. Closure of the Park includes closure of the associated rest area and Welcome Center.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence checked in with Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribal Chair Beth Drost to learn more about the Grand Portage response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Chair Drost echoed Minnesota Governor Walz’s admonition to please stay home to protect elders and vulnerable community members.