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Grand Portage asks non-residents to avoid travel on tribal land, roads at this time

Grand Portage Tribal Chair Beth Drost. Photo courtesy of Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Grand Portage Tribal Chair Beth Drost. Photo courtesy of Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

During the weekly update on the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tribal Chair Beth Drost reminded the public that services in Grand Portage—the lodge and casino, High Falls State Park, the Grand Portage National Monument and more—is closed. There is no through traffic to and from Thunder Bay as the U.S./Canadian border is closed. So, Chair Drost asked people to hold off visiting Grand Portage at this time. 
 
Following that May 18 interview, the Tribal Council issued a notice that clearly defines the wishes of the Grand Portage community. The notice reads: 
 
Grand Portage Tribal Government Asks Nonresidents to Avoid Tribal Roads, Trails, Lakes and Lakeshores on the Grand Portage Reservation 
The Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, a federally-recognized Tribal sovereign nation, asks nonresidents to avoid the use of Tribal roads, trails, lakes and lakeshores on the Grand Portage Reservation as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This request is temporary and is in response to Band’s concerns about nonresidents recreating on the Reservation. The Grand Portage Band asks nonresidents to respect the wishes of the Band and recreate elsewhere until the tentative opening date of our lands on June 15, 2020.  
 
The Band understands the draw of the North Shore as a spectacular year-round destination. Grand Portage’s enterprises strive to provide exceptional hospitality and gaming experiences to our guests, and we look forward to welcoming you back soon.  We have tentatively set the re-opening of Grand Portage Lodge & Casino on Monday, June 22, 2020. 
 
Our community members want to recreate close to home, on the Reservation without fear or concern of encountering possible transmission of the novel coronavirus.  The Reservation is the territory of the Band and this request represents our sovereign authority. We ask nonresidents to respect this authority. The Tribal Government efforts are designed to prevent utilization of our Tribal recreation sites by what we anticipate to be overwhelming numbers of nonresidents. 
 
The Band has been proactive in keeping our community safe, issuing a Declaration of Public Health Emergency on March 16 and a Stay at Home Order on April 1 to preserve public health and safety, and to ensure that healthcare systems are capable of serving all in need, especially those at high risk and vulnerable to COVID-19. With no positive cases of COVID-19 within the Grand Portage Reservation or Cook County, the Band is worried that non-essential travel to the Reservation will enable the spread of COVID-19 onto the Reservation. The Band intends to slow the spread and keep members healthy and safe. 
 
Employees of the Band are exempt from this request. 
 
As we prepare our community for the reopening of our enterprises, there will be many changes to increase the safety for our employees, community, and guests. Guests will find new policies and procedures in place when we reopen for the health and safety of all. 
 
Beth Drost, Chairwoman
April McCormick, Secretary/Treasurer
Bill Myers, Vice Chair 
 John Morrin, Committeeman
 Rick Anderson, Committeeman

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WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke to Tribal Chair Beth Drost about services in Grand Portage, as well as about the future of online gaming and the status of the Hat Point marina renovation. Here’s their conversation. 
Listen: