LCO Vice Chair Says Pandemic Delayed Ability for General Membership Meeting to be Held
By Joe Morey
LCO Vice Chairwoman Lorraine Gouge addressed tribal members at the General Membership meeting held at the Sevenwinds Casino on Saturday, Sept. 24. Although mentioning some issues, she mainly focused on the main reason why a Membership Meeting hadn’t been held since prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
“It’s been a long time that we’ve been able to come together like this. None of us expected or experienced a pandemic and we, as leaders, had to protect our people any way we could,” Gouge told the Membership. “We continue to heal. Take care of each other, feed each other, love each other and be kind to each other.”
Gouge said education remained important during the pandemic and she was proud of the LCO Early Headstart/Headstart program as they were one of only a few to keep doors open although they had to close once in a while, “But the way they took care of those little ones, they had to get creative sometimes.”
She went on to talk about the Elders and what they faced during the pandemic.
“There was lots of depression and things we had never gone through before. We couldn’t be there with them in the nursing homes. We could not embrace them, hold them or be near them,” Gouge stated. “And our loved ones who had to be hospitalized and we could not be by their side. As Anishinabe people, we know how difficult that was. As leaders, it was a very difficult time. It’s not like we didn’t want to meet with the Membership, we could not meet with the Membership.”
Gouge went on to say that tribal leadership is now at a point where they learned some things on how to protect ourselves and others.
“I’m proud of our kids at the LCO School. They wore masks. They did what they needed to do. People were dying,” Gouge added. “We are getting back to some normalcy, but we still have to be aware, we are in a pandemic. On one hand we had all this tragedy, but on the other hand we were blessed with so much from the state and the federal government and we had to make so much happen in so little time and we worked continuously with engineers and many experts.”
During this time, we’ve grown, she explained. She said the college is now a university, the Tribe now has a daycare, a new fire hall and new police and emergency center on the way.
“But one of our most important things for our people is our housing. New houses and new communities are being developed. This is going to help our workforce,” Gouge said.
She continued, “We don’t have just a pandemic, we have a drug epidemic. We’ve lost a lot of our people way before their time. We have to do whatever we can to save as many lives as we can. With that, we purchased Norwood Haven and it will be a sober living facility. People need our support as they continue to heal. Some can’t find other housing and Norwood Haven will be used for that.”