Lester E. Drift Sr., 70, of Nett Lake,
“Zhaazhaawanigiizhik”,
his Indian name
meaning “one cloud in
the South”, of the Bear
clan, passed away on
Sunday, December 21,
2014, at Essentia Health
(St. Mary’s Hospital) in Duluth.
He was born on July 14, 1944 at Nett Lake, to
Raymond Sr. and Margaret (Farmer) Drift. Lester
graduated from Orr High School in 1962, and
was lifelong resident of Nett Lake. He married
Karen Strong on September 25, 1963 in Nett
Lake. He was a fluent speaker of the Anishinaabe
language and was third level Medewin. Under
the Indian Relocation Program he went to
Cleveland, Ohio and learned the welding trade.
After his completion he returned to Nett Lake
where he worked in construction for many years.
In 1980 he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree
in Sociology from the University of Minnesota-
Duluth. He worked in treatment centers and
schools and was the chemical dependency
director for the Bois Forte Band. Many came
up to him throughout the years and expressed
gratitude to him in how he helped them in their
recovery, and how he made a positive difference
in their lives. He was dedicated to the people he
served. He was also involved in mental health
treatment. Lester’s longtime major cause was
finding help and assistance for the homeless. He
was instrumental in surveying the homelessness
of Minnesota Native Americans for the Wilder
Foundation, which opened the door for millions
of dollars to aid homeless Native Americans.
For his outstanding effort he was given an
Achievement Award for the Homeless from the
State of Minnesota. He was a member of the
Bois Forte Band of Chippewa and from 1984 to
1990 served as Secretary-Treasurer on the Bois
Forte Tribal Council. His family fondly recalls
his attraction to casinos, joking to them that “I
win every time”. Lester liked hunting and was
an avid berry picker. He loved his grandchildren
and great grandchildren, and gave each one
special treatment. He and Karen were dedicated
foster parents and legally adopted 4 of his own
grandchildren. He will be sadly missed by all
who came to know him.
In addition to his parents, he is preceded in death
by 1 son, Lester Drift “son son” Jr. in 2008;1
brother, Raymond “Diggy” Drift and 2 sisters,
Marsha Drift and Jeanette Halverson.
Lester is survived by his wife of 51 years, Karen
Drift of Nett Lake; 3 sons, Peter (Lorie) Drift
Sr. and Mark (Adrienne Whiteman) Drift Sr.,
both of Nett Lake and Bart Drift of Virginia; 2
daughters, Karlene (Donald) Chosa and Farrah
Drift, both of Nett Lake; one sister, Myra
Thompson of Nett Lake; 29 Grandchildren, 22
Great Grandchildren, numerous nieces, nephews,
and special granddog, Oakley.
SERVICES: Traditional services will be at
10:00 AM Friday (December 26th) at the Bois
Forte Government Center in Nett Lake, where
the Wake will begin at 7:00 PM Thursday. The
spiritual advisor will be Billy Blackwell and the
co-spiritual advisor will be Kenneth Boney. The
casket bearers will be Brent Chosa, Peter Drift
Jr., Mark Drift Jr., Shane Drift, Erick Halverson
and Alden Connor. The honorary bearers will
be Donald Chosa III., Perry Drift, Parker Drift,
Leon Chosa, Phillip Long III., Josh Ervin and
Curtis Thompson. The interment will be in the
Nett Lake Cemetery.
Funeral arrangements are with the Mlaker
Funeral Home in Cook.