Over 50 faculty and staff members of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and Extension Services at the University of Minnesota participated in a bust tour to the Red Lake Nation Reservation on August 19 and 20, 2008. Red Lake is one of two closed Native American reservations in the country and has full sovereignty over their land. Participants on the bus tour had the opportunity to interact with Tribal community members as well as explore the possibility of ongoing collaborative efforts between the Red Lake community and the University of Minnesota.
Participants were encouraged to pursue their individual and professional interests in learning about the reservation. Tours based around natural resources, healthcare, and education were offered to visiting faculty and staff. Participants of the natural resources tours visited Red Lake's fisheries facility, green houses, and Red Lake Nation Foods. Healthcare participants toured a Red Lake health clinic and learned about diabetes education efforts and assisted living options. The education group visited Red Lake's Tribal College, K-12 schools, and the Boys and Girls Club. Each group had a chance to see more than one of Red Lake Nation's 4 towns which include Red Lake , Redby, Ponemah, and Little Rock. Tours concluded with a visit to the lakes for which the reservation is named, Lower and Upper Red Lake. As the state's largest lake, Lower Red Lake is surrounded by reservation land; Upper Red Lake includes a portion of the land. The three tours rejoined for an evening meal of walleye, fry bread, and wild rice prepared by community members. Dinner was accompanied by a drum ceremony preformed by a local drum group called the P. Town Boyz, a group made up mainly of young men from Red Lake. The group has played around the country; perhaps most notably at the 2006 United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
On August 20, the group rejoined with community members to discuss the three tours and learn about a variety of other facilities, programs, and organizations on the reservation. The group spent the majority of the mid-morning and afternoon discussing opportunities for interaction, mutual learning, and collaboration between the reservation and the University. The Red Lake Nation Bus Tour kicked off the first meeting of many to come for U of M faculty and staff to begin working on partnerships with reservation communities across the state.