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Boreal Community Media

February 26th is Norman W. Deschampe Day in Minnesota

Feb 26, 2024 11:06AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: AP News

By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - February 26, 2024

Since 2019, February 26 is recognized as Norman W. Deschampe Day in the City of Grand Marais, as well as the State of Minnesota. Normal Deschampe, a band member and tribal leader of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa who gave so much to the local community. 

Norman was first elected to the Grand Portage Tribal Council at age 23, and would end up serving over 40 years, including 27 as chairman, according to MPR News. 

His list of accomplishments is many, but here are some highlights:
  • Helped establish reservation charter school (Star Tribune).
  • Developed a strong relationship with the neighboring city of Grand Marais and Cook County (Star Tribune).
  • Former president of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, a tribal government that represents six Ojibwe bands in northern Minnesota (MPR News).
  • Helped tribal members secure off-reservation treaty rights (MPR News).
  • Was an ex-officio member of the Minnesota DNR’s Aquatic Invasive Species Advisory Board, and worked to fight the damage invasive species caused to the Grand Portage community’s traditions such as fishing and harvesting sweetgrass and wild rice (Quetico Superior Wilderness News).
  • Created co-management of the Grand Portage National Monument between the Grand Portage Band and the National Park Service in 1999 (Quetico Superior Wilderness News).
  • His generous support of the greater Cook County community allowed ideas such as WTIP North Shore Radio and the Cook County Chamber of Commerce to become true community resources (Quetico Superior Wilderness News). 

After his death on February 9, 2019, at the age of 65, numerous tributes rolled in, and hundreds of people packed the Grand Portage Community Center to celebrate his life. Then-Grand Marais Mayor Jay Arrowsmith-DeCoux declared February 26, Norman's birthday, as Norman W. Deschampe Day, which was then followed by Governor Tim Walz. 

According to the proclamation, "Norman Deschampe dedicated his life to improving the lives of the people of Grand Portage through programs supporting education, health, and economic development; and Norman Deschampe promoted the understanding of traditions and customs of the Grand Portage Band and the stewardship of natural resources essential to the culture of the Chippewa; and WHEREAS: It is fitting that the State of Minnesota acknowledges the contributions and legacy of this elected leader who has had a life-long impact in the State."

In two separate Facebook posts from Java Moose and Hungry Hippie Tacos in Grand Marais, both local businesses pledged to donate to the Grand Portage Community in celebration of the day (according to their individual posts, they normally donate a portion of the sales that day, however, both businesses are closed on Monday). In the past, donations have supported the Elderly Nutritional Program and the Youth Community Center, according to the Facebook posts. 

This year, funds will be used to help rebuild the playground. 

If you are interested in making a donation to support the playground project, you can do so by checking a check to:
PO Box 428
Grand Portage, MN 55605

MPR News
Boreal Community Media
Star Tribune
Quetico Superior Wilderness News
State of Minnesota

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