Support Floods Mourning Native American Tribe

Gifts of money, e-mails with condolences and offers of counseling services flooded an Indian tribe here as it prepared for the funerals of nine victims of a school shooting.

The chairman of the Red Lake Band (search) of Chippewa (search) offered thanks Thursday for support from outsiders and said the group will overcome the shootings at Red Lake High School, the worst since Columbine.

"There's no way you can prepare for something like this," Floyd Jourdain Jr. said, "but we're fortunate that we're a strong, resilient people."

Jeff Weise, 16, shot to death five students, a security guard and a teacher Monday at the school on Red Lake Indian reservation, then killed himself. Earlier, he shot to death his grandfather and the man's girlfriend.

Authorities were still trying to determine what set Weise off, investigating reports that the teenager — who dressed in black and wrote stories about zombies — posted messages on a neo-Nazi Web site expressing admiration for Adolf Hitler (search) and using the name "Todesengel" — German for "Angel of Death."

Some of the funerals set for Saturday will be closed to outsiders.

Funerals for slain tribal police officer Daryl Lussier and school security officer and former police officer Derrick Brun will include police escorts from outside departments. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (search) is set to attend the joint funeral for Lussier and his companion, Michelle Sigana.

"They deserve full honors, and we intend to honor them with every resource we have," Jourdain said of Lussier and Brun.

Tribal members involved in planning the services declined to describe the traditional funerals. Tribal elder Larry Stillday said the traditions practiced by the tribe can only be appreciated by seeing them — not by talking about it.

"The depth of it is way beyond a conversation with somebody," he said.

Officials were working to reopen the school, but said it may not before April 12. Even with the broken glass is swept up and the bullet holes repaired, reopening will be tough on students, Jourdain said.

"They're just stunned, and to go back into their building is going to require one community-wide effort," he said.

Jourdain summoned reporters to the tribal council's meeting room, where he lifted most of the restrictions that had nearly banned reporters from talking to residents inside the reservation. Jourdain said he made the change after consulting with elders and families, and still asked for privacy so the community could grieve.

In nearby Bemidji, a teenager wounded in the shooting said he reached out to Weise before the attack because the boy seemed to have no friends.

"He looked like a cool guy, and then I talked to him a few times," 15-year-old Cody Thunder said Thursday. "He talked about guns and shooting people.

Thunder said even though Weise cultivated a dangerous appearance that included sculpting his hair into devil horns, he never thought Weise would shoot up their school.

At first, "I thought he was messing around, I thought it was a paintball gun or something," said Thunder, the first wounded student to describe the nation's deadliest school shooting since Columbine.

On the reservation Thursday, roughly 200 to 300 teachers, school workers and students met with tribal elders and two women who had been students at Columbine, said Wanda Baxter, a teacher who attended.

Lauren Beyer Bohn, one of the two Columbine visitors, who now lives in Hutchinson, Minn., said adults in the community will have to be good listeners as students struggle to get back to normal. She said she was confident they would get through it — because she did.

"My first instinct was, 'I want to be home-schooled, I don't want to go back at all,'" said Bohn, 21, who was a freshman at the time of the 1999 shootings. "And then after thinking about it, I decided ... I wasn't going to be another victim."