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First S.D. Two Spirit Society honors and educates on the reservation
Saturday, October 11 2014
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull,
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SISSETON, S.D. – Members of the newly-formed Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Two Spirit Society gathered on Sept. 26 to educate members of the tribe on LGBTQ Native issues while honoring one of their own who was killed earlier in the month.

The group – the first Two Spirit society in any of the nine reservations in South Dakota – began its mission in June of this year. A testament to the growing power of social media on the reservation, the event “Gay is OK” was the impetus for forming the society. “We all went out to the corner, stood outside and held signs. And while we were standing there, we talked about forming a society, so we set a meeting date and from then on, it's been going ever since,” Vernon Renville, society co-founder said.

The momentum culminated in the education day at Sisseton Wahpeton College, “Walking in Two Worlds: Understanding Two Spirit and LGBTQ Individuals.” The daylong conference featured personal coming out stories by Sisseton Wahpeton tribal citizens, a screening of the film “Two Spirits” about the late Fred Martinez – who identified as Two Spirit and was killed in 2001 on the Navajo Nation – as well as a presentation on LGBTQ identity from Lenny Hayes, a tribal citizen and member of the Minnesota Two Spirit Society.

While the society is geared toward creating a place for Two Spirit people, it is an inclusive group that began because of the social stigma attached to being LGBTQ on the reservation. “I previously worked at the youth center and kids would come to me, or their parents would come to me, asking how to talk to their kids. Or they think they're having these feeling and we discussed things like that and decided it would be something good for the community,” Dawn Ryan, SWO society member said.

 


Bdote Learning Center opens in South Minneapolis
Monday, September 08 2014
 
Written by Laura Waterman Wittstock,
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bdote learning center opens in south minneapolis 1.jpg On Aug. 25, a sunny morning in Minneapolis, Bdote Learning Center opened. The historic beginning marked the end of six years of planning and developing as – children entered the school to study what all children learn in Kindergarten to third grade – except that they will be learning in the Ojibwe and Dakota languages. These languages, now only spoken by a few, are reflected throughout Minnesota in place names and the very names of the city and state where the school is located.

Mike Huerth is Bdote’s first principal. “One thing that attracted me to this school is my love of the Ojibwe language. I have wanted to learn the language since my high school days but somehow, throughout my career in education, I never seemed to have had the time to learn my mother tongue,” he said.

The children swarmed around the principal and he returned their affection with a pat or some softly spoken instructions. He remembered the experiences of children who went to boarding school. Unlike then – when English was forced on children – Ojibwe and Dakota are spoken in a friendly environment.

The first day of school was expected to be somewhat difficult for most of the children. There are a very few who come from day care and pre-school experiences where they did learn Ojibwe and Dakota. For these children, it is easy to converse with the teachers and as time goes by they will also help the other children learn through the natural propensity for children to share language, no matter which one it is.

On Aug. 24, Huerth and the teachers and some of the board members gathered for two important ceremonies: a pipe ceremony conducted by Bdote’s Curriculum Coordinator Deidre WhiteMan and an Ojibwe water ceremony, led by second and third grade teacher Lisa Bellanger. Those ceremonies marked the end of a six-year journey from when the idea of a language immersion school was proposed to moving into St. Albert’s at 3216 E. 29th Street in South Minneapolis. The many words of encouragement and hard determination pushed the school forward through what seemed to the Bdote board of directors, nearly impossible odds.

Huerth looks forward to a successful year. The school has a capacity of 104 for the 2014-15 school year and over 90 students are enrolled. Full enrollment is likely once families make their choices in the next few days.

 


Native Man The Musical redefines Native masculinity
Monday, September 08 2014
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull,
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native man the musical.jpgThe paradigm of Native American manhood shifted with New Native Theatre's production of “Native Man the Musical, Phase I,” performed at the Minnesota Fringe Festival with its last performance on Aug. 9.

The stories were authentic accounts from Native men from around the Twin Cities and the region. New Native Theatre's artistic director Rhiana Yazzie (Dine) sought to set the expectation from stereotypes to previously unimagined identities by non-Native audiences.

“Some of it isn't pretty. And it's certainly not what the mainstream has dreamed up. Defying the stereotype of the Indian brave, the warrior, the oppressed, these stories are open and vulnerable moments necessary to be share in order that we might understand ourselves better, and possibly, the non-Native world can re-adjust its boundaries, fantasies, fears and misconceptions about Native male-hood.”

The performance features the life experiences of each cast member and interviews from men in the Twin Cities Native community. Among those in the live performance were Jeff Jordan (Boise Forte Ojibwe), Wade Keezer (White Earth Ojibwe), Jase Roe (Northern Cheyenne), Sisoka Duta (Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota), Raphael Szykowski (Kuna) and rapper Tall Paul (Leech Lake Ojibwe). The production also featured filmed interviews with Dennis Banks (Leech Lake Ojibwe), Black Fox (Oglala Lakota), Chema Pineda-Fernandez (Nahuatl Mayan), Cole Premo (Mille Lacs Ojibwe) and Jim Thunder Hawk (Oglala Lakota).

One of the more compelling moments of the performance came when Keezer opened up on screen about his hatred for the warrior mentality that's expected of young Native men. He spoke in his video segment about the culture that he was raised in that praised stoicism and emotional repression among men and that he combats that by telling his children that he loves them, allowing them to feel their emotions, instead of shaming them.

In his performance piece, Keezer talked about his relationship with his own father who sobered up and later became a born-again Christian. “Some people started calling me 'the preacher's son.' I really hated that, I really didn't care for any kind of Christianity, for a lot of different reasons, but mostly what it's done to Indians. I'm sick of all the Christians, the Muslims, the pipe carriers; it doesn't mean nothing to me. All these ultimatums and stereotypes that they use, it doesn't work on me.” When asked what he believed in, he closed with a air-guitar performance of Twisted Sister's “We're Not Gonna Take It.”

 


Honor the Earth paddles in protest against Sandpiper pipeline
Monday, September 08 2014
 
Written by Margaret Campbell, Honor the Earth,
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honor the earth paddles in protest against sandpiper pipeline.jpgBEMIDJI, Minn. – An environmental group took to the water on July 31 to protest a proposed oil pipeline in northern Minnesota. About 20 members of Honor the Earth, an environmental advocacy group, hosted a "Paddle Against the Sandpiper" canoe and press event on and near Lake Bemidji.

After protesting the pipeline with signs along Bemidji Avenue, the group launched a canoe painted with protest slogans onto Lake Bemidji.

The 616-mile-long pipeline the protesters are opposed to is Enbridge Energy's Sandpiper line, which would carry about 225,000 gallons of crude oil per day from the Bakken oilfield in western North Dakota to refineries in Superior, Wis. From there, the oil would be transported via other pipelines to refineries in the Southern and Eastern United States and eastern Canada.

Enbridge Energy claims the pipeline would reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil imports while creating local job opportunities.

Honor the Earth officials, however, said they are opposed to the pipeline route because it would run along several bodies of water and multiple wild rice fields. They argue that a major environmental catastrophe could ensue if there's an oil spill.

Greg Chester, an Honor the Earth member, said people need to be aware of the dangers a pipeline can pose to the environment. "They're threatening our water," he said. "If we lose our water, then there's no place here for our children, our grandchildren, or future generations."

Chester said he would like to see money that's put toward oil pipelines be reinvested in renewable energy resources. "We have the money and if we fritter away the money on projects such as this, instead of renewable projects, we're missing an opportunity.”


Ojibwe Language and Culture Camp Held at Ponemah
Monday, September 08 2014
 
Written by Michael Meuers, Red Lake News,
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ojibwe language and culture camp held at ponemah 2.jpgFor the second year in a row, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians hosted an Ojibwe Language and Culture Camp for youth. The camp was held on Aug. 5-7 at the Ponemah Round House.

The three-day Gabeshiwin (camp) hosted by Red Lake Chemical Health, Red Lake Economic Development and Planning, and the Boys and Girls Club featured eating traditional foods, lacrosse, games, plant gathering practices and identification, birch bark crafts, traditional Anishinaabe teachings and more. Gabeshiwin is a part of Red Lake Nation's Ojibwemowin Revitalization efforts.

Concerned that language and tradition will disappear as elders die, natives of Red Lake Nation – and across the country – are focused on language revitalization and related efforts to retain tribal culture. Much of indigenous culture depends on native language, as many concepts just cannot be translated to English.

The camp was held near Ponemah Point, the peninsula home to more than half of the remaining fluent Ojibwemowin speakers in the United States.

Sam Strong, Director of Red Lake Economic Development, and a major sponsor of Gabeshiwin provided some background. “Our language was basically stripped from us a generation or two ago. The children were forbidden to talk their native language.”


University faculty push for Ojibwe, Dakota languages to become majors
Monday, September 08 2014
 
Written by Molly Michaletz, The Minnesota Daily,
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Some faculty members within the University of Minnesota’s Department of American Indian Studies are trying to preserve two languages indigenous to the state.

Currently, students don’t have the option to major in Ojibwe or Dakota, the two languages offered within the department. But with a recent push from veteran and new professors, students may eventually be able to major in the languages.

Brendan Fairbanks, a long-serving assistant American Indian studies professor, said creating the option to major in each of the languages would allow students studying the languages to receive better jobs after graduation and would ensure the languages stay alive.

If the languages remain used, she said students who know them “can go on to teach their children the language.”

University students can currently receive teaching certificates – named the Dakota Iapi Unspewicakiyapi and the Ojibwemodaa Eta! certificates – that allow them to teach the languages at immersion schools.

Still, some say the creation of new major programs for the languages could be beneficial.

Michelle Goose, who’s entering her first year in the department as a teaching specialist, said making the languages into their own separate majors is important so that students can make good use of what they learn.

“We need to make the language more relevant to students,” she said. “We need to make it something they can use in their daily lives.”

Professors in the department hope developing the language track into two new majors will make the program more appealing to prospective students.

Because there isn’t a large demand for Dakota and Ojibwe immersion school teachers in the state, the job market is highly competitive, said former University student Liz Cates, who received her Dakota teaching certificate last spring.

Though she currently works as a teacher at a local immersion school, Cates said entering the job force with a degree in Dakota would have been helpful when she was searching for jobs.

Cates also said that having specific majors for the languages will help preserve them and allow instructors to better teach them to elementary students in immersion schools.

“The more Dakota and Ojibwe students who can major in their languages, the more able they are to bring their gifts of speaking and teaching the language back to our communities,” she said.

The process of creating the majors is still in the early stages, department chair Jean O’Brien said, though faculty members have big plans for the languages.

“We have a real need for revitalization of the language as well as making sure it gets taught in every context it needs to be at the higher level,” O’Brien said.

According to the American Indian studies department’s website, there was estimated to be only about 678 first-language speakers of the Ojibwe language and eight first-language speakers of the Dakota language within those communities in Minnesota in 2009.

Because of the sharp decline in people who speak the languages, Cates said it’s important to keep the languages alive.

“Any step that can be made to increase accessibility and intensify language learning should be made without hesitation, as time is running out,” Cates said.





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