Made possible by the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board, financial support from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (Minn.) and organizers including Jeff Crone of the newly-established "On Eagle's Wings," the Safety Center is now open to the community. The center serves as both an emergency safe haven for Lac Courte Oreilles community members and a place for tribal youth with basketball courts and planned volleyball and kickball areas to be constructed.
"It’s the eyes of the neighborhood, it’s community involvement by community members to keep the community safe. We’ve started a lot of good initiatives because we have a lot of good people working together," said Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Chairman Gordon Thayer. "For example, if there was a domestic situation, 2 o’clock in the morning, people had nowhere to go, they could come here and we can make a call. We’ve invited law enforcement here." Center staff will be trained to use police radios should the need arise to contact law enforcement directly.
Flanked by Sawyer County Sheriff Mark Kelsey, and officers from Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Police and City of Hayward Police Department, Thayer re-iterated the tribe’s commitment to creating a safe community.
"You have a commitment from law enforcement," said Sheriff Kelsey in a brief address. "For the first time that I can remember – and I’ve been in law enforcement for 33 years – we have all law enforcement working together and meeting for one goal and that’s to keep our community safe."
Project organizer Crone said many at Lac Courte Oreilles helped make the Safety Center a reality, and credited youth participation to help get the center up and running.
"The seriousness in our community of the gang issue, with alcohol, drugs and crime, we want to step forward with prevention efforts and that's what the Safety Center is all about," Crone said.
Joined by Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board Vice Chairman Bill Morrow, a retired Tribal Police Chief, and Council Member Larry Kagigebi, Council Member Rusty Barber also spoke at the event, recalling how times have changed on the reservation.
"It really does take a community to raise our children. Our youth need playgrounds, they need somewhere to play and be safe, and have someone to talk to – we have ears here willing to listen," he said. "We'd like to see this expand into other Lac Courte Oreilles communities in New Post, Whitefish, Signor – and those will be additional goals we strive to attain."
Barber thanked Chairman Thayer and Crone, and also thanked law enforcement officials.
"I commend our law enforcement, but they can’t do it alone – it takes community involvement," Barber said. "We’ve been struggling with our gang and alcohol problems for many years. Here we have another stepping stone to combat these problems."
The Safety Center is located on Water Tower Lane in the Drytown community and will be open to the community 24 hours a day, seven days a week.