Red Lake Nation Puts Humans First in Providing Human Services

Still from Red Lake Nation Recovery Stories / Red Lake Chemical Health

The Red Lake Nation has transformed its approach to human services, adapting the services to the people instead of the other way around. It’s making a difference.

Red Lake Nation’s new human services program, Ombimindwaa Gidinawemaaganinaadog (“Uplifting Our Relatives”), is based on the Anishinaabe language, culture, traditions, beliefs and values. Intergenerational family wellness is the focus, including physical, emotional, spiritual, mental and cultural wellness for all family members in each hill of life – infancy, adolescence, adulthood and elderhood. Participants are referred to as “relatives” rather than “clients.”

Services include family reunification and preservation, foster care and adult protection, waivered services and community-based mental health. The focus on culturally relevant mental health services has been especially helpful for those in recovery.

This transformation has been possible because early in 2021, Red Lake Nation became an American Indian Child Welfare Initiative Tribe, a designation that allows a Tribal Nation to receive federal funding for providing human services. Red Lake Nation previously had worked in partnership with Beltrami County to provide children and family services, but Red Lake Nation now has the resources to offer services more broadly and to take on the financial responsibility for foster care services.

Ombimindwaa Gidinawemaaganinaadog was recognized in January by Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Jodi Harpstead with a Circle of Excellence Award. She presented the award in an online event, recognizing Red Lake Nation’s exemplary work.

“I am impressed that you are using Anishinaabe traditional teachings and culture to provide services to families in need,” Harpstead said to program leaders during the event. “You are ensuring that state and federal requirements are met while tailoring healing services to your community.”

The 10th annual Circle of Excellence awards honored organizations whose work supports DHS’ mission to help people meet their basic needs so they can live in dignity and achieve their highest potential. Red Lake Nation is doing just that – and setting an example for how we can imagine culturally appropriate human services in the years to come.

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Neerja Singh is acting director of the Behavioral Health Division at the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Last Updated on May 16, 2022

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