Breaking five days of silence on the worst incident of school-related violence since Columbine, President Bush dedicated part of his weekly radio address on Saturday to the shootings at the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota.
Bush said he and First Lady Laura Bush were "praying" for the families of the victims and noted the outpouring of support the remote Ojibwe community has received since Monday's deadly incident.
"Hours after the shooting, communities and churches across the nation offered prayers for the victims and their families," he said.
Bush pledged to do "everything we can" to respond to the tragedy. In addition to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney in Minnesota on the scene to investigate the incident, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and
the Indian Health Service have sent teams to deal with the law enforcement, financial, health and other needs of the reservation.
"We're working closely with state, local and tribal authorities to provide counseling, help with funeral arrangements and other assistance,"
The president singled out Red Lake High School
security guard Derrick Burn, 28, a tribal member
who "saved the lives of countless students when he rose from
his desk to confront the young gunman."
He did not mention the shooter, Jeff Weise -- the 16-year-old tribal member,
who killed nine others before taking his life -- by name.
"Although he was unarmed, Derrick ignored the pleas
of a colleague to run for his life," Bush said.
"By engaging the assailant, he bought vital time for
a fellow security guard to rush a group of students to safety.
Derrick's bravery cost him his life, and all Americans honor him.
The remarks came after Bush made a five-minute called to Red Lake
Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. on Friday morning. It was his first direct contact
with an official from the tribe since "one of the darkest and
most painful occurrences in the history of our tribe,"
as Jourdain said just hours after the shootings.
Bush's silence contrasted with former President Bill Clinton's speedy response to the incident in Columbine, Colorado, that left 15 dead in 1999. And it was markedly different from his decision to break his vacation in Texas to go back to the White House and sign unprecedented legislation that allowed federal court intervention in the case of Terry Schiavo, a brain-damaged Florida woman.
"He has not been real visible in Indian country," retired Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado), a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, told The Washington Post last week. "He's got a lot of irons in the fire, but this is important."
Bush returned to Texas to complete his holiday and it was from his ranch in Crawford that he made the call. A White House spokesperson said he tried to reach Jourdain on Thursday but was unsuccessful, the Associated Press reported.
Indian Country responded immediately to the tragedy, with tribal
leaders offering prayers, condolences and support to the Red Lake
Nation. The National Indian Gaming Association donated $25,000
to a fund to help the families of the victims.
The first of the funerals for those killed in the incident
were held over the weekend.
Daryl Lussier Sr., the grandfather of Jeff Weise,
and Lussier's companion, Michelle Sigana,
were buried on Saturday. Chase Lussier, 15, was buried
in a separate ceremony on Saturday, and
Thurlene Stillday, 15, was buried on Sunday.
Five more funerals are taking place in the coming week for
the remaining victims. Services will be held today for four and
another on Saturday. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has declared today
a Day of Remembrance to honor and mourn the victims.
Weise, whom authorities say acted along, is being buried today.
Bush's Radio Address:
Red Lake Net News - http://www.rlnn.com
Nation - http://www.redlakenation.org
Lake High School - http://www.paulbunyan.net/rlschools/hs.htm