(NNCNOW.com) --- Hundreds of Bois Forte Band members made plans to make their community and businesses healthy in 2014.
About 500 Bois Forte Band members and other guests gathered at Fortune Bay Resort Casino Thursday.
Bois Forte Tribal Chairman Kevin Leecy said the highlight of the Band's efforts to improve and maintain its members' physical health was the start of construction on a new 11,000 square foot health and dental clinic in Vermilion.
The new clinic will allow the Band to increase its number of providers, expand service hours, and increase patients' access to care.
Along with exam and procedure rooms, the clinic will include a pharmacy, x–ray capabilities, and telemedicine offices that will allow clinic providers to communicate directly with providers at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Leecy also cited Emergency responders training, programs at the Band's two fitness centers, and the purchase of sophisticated medical equipment including a retinal scanner as positive steps.
And this spring, he told Band members, kids and adults will be able to enjoy new baseball fields in Nett Lake and Vermilion.
Moving on to discuss the Band's spiritual health, Leecy noted that the construction of the ball fields was accompanied by improvements at the Band's two powwow grounds, where traditional ceremonies are held.
Ceremonies were also a key element of the summer's youth language immersion camp, the first held on property near Ely that the Band acquired last year.
The financial health of the Band's various businesses was a major focus of Leecy's remarks. Noting that, with few exceptions, casinos in Las Vegas and in many areas of Indian Country struggled during 2013, Leecy told the audience that Fortune Bay Resort Casino had its third best year ever despite a drop in gaming revenue.
Nongaming revenue, increased during 2013 thanks to the addition of the new Sunset Steakhouse and extensive improvements to the hotel and restaurant that brought in more hotel guests.
"It's important to remember that progress does not go in a straight line," Leecy said, noting that last year's business was hurt by the late ice out that ruined the fishing opener, and by construction on Highway 169 that hampered guests' ability to get to Fortune Bay. "There will always be some downs as well as ups. The key is to figure out what's not working, fix it, and regain momentum."
As the most recent sign of the Band's financial health, Leecy pointed to the Band's new Northern Eagle Federal Credit Union, which celebrated its grand opening earlier this month. The credit union, which has branches in Nett Lake and Vermilion, offers a variety of products and services including savings accounts, CDs, loans and financial education.
And on January 31, Fortune Bay Resort Casino will welcome a Tim Hortons Bakery and Cafe. The largest fast casual restaurant chain in Canada, Tim Hortons has wooed customers for nearly 50 years with its legendary coffee and doughnuts; some Canadians even joke about "Timmy's withdrawal" if they go just a few days without.
Leecy ended his remarks by focusing on the art featured at State of the Band, which was created by Nett Lake School children in collaboration with In Progress, an arts group dedicated to new voices.
"Looking around at all the wonderful artwork our kids have created, I see both the reason for, and the result of, our commitment to healthy progress."