Community Spotlight: Onigum Community Center Celebrates Grand Opening
“This is a big day for the Onigum community,” said Leech Lake Tribal Chairman Faron Jackson, Sr.
It’s a project that has been talked about for decades and finally became a reality this weekend.
“This is just one of the areas that we targeted and prioritized,” said LeRoy Staples-Fairbanks, the Leech Lake Tribal Council District 3 Representative. “I’ve been in office since 2012, and that was one of the priorities to try to get some infrastructure built here to help the community start to rebuild.”
The large new building is aimed at serving all aspects of the community.
“We’re kind of a ways from town, we’re a way from Cass Lake, and this is a growing community, so we worked really hard at a council level to make this happen,” Jackson said.
One goal of the project was to provide a safe and positive place for the youth to spend their time.
“Utilizing the area to have people start contributing back and working with one another and start becoming well,” Staples-Fairbanks said.
Everything from fitness rooms to elder rooms and even a satellite office for the Tribal College are housed in the building.
“It’s about honoring the community members and the people in the community that were there putting in the work before we did,” Staples-Fairbanks said.
Starting that work back in the 1960s was the Onigum Nighthawks basketball team.
“It actually was really exciting,“ said Don Day, who was a Nighthawks forward in the mid 1970s. “We were a semi-professional team because we won money if we won the tournaments, and so we won enough money to travel to other places.”
The group traveled all across the county and even won the National Indian Basketball Championship in 1978.
“Some of the best times I ever had in my entire life were there,” Don said. “We always had a good following, like a lot of people here tonight, they followed us all over.”
And now, their name and pride will live on in the new community center.
“It’s such an honor and privilege to play on the team and now to be honored like this is overwhelming,” said Steven Day, Nighthawks point guard in the mid 1970s.