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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.





Augsburg College Honors Shakopee Mdewakanton for Generosity
Monday, June 09 2014
 
Written by Bonnie Wallace,
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augsburg college honors smsc.jpg Augsburg College celebrated its 6th Annual Pow Wow on March 29 at the Augsburg campus. This year's event was again hosted by the Augsburg Indigenous Student Association and the Augsburg American Indian Student Support Services Program also receives support from various program offices within the college including the Office of the President.

Approximately 1,500 people attended the event, including dancers, drummers and both local and national vendors. The bleachers were filled with families and community members to participate, not only in the pow wow, but, in two honoring ceremonies. Augsburg undergraduate and graduate students who graduated were honored with a blanket ceremony.

Augsburg College also gave a ceremony of appreciation and gratitude to the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community for its most recent and generous donation of $250,000. The donation was added to the current Shakopee Endowed Scholarship Fund, established in 1991. To date, this fund assisted over 75 Native American students attending Augsburg College.

Jourdain Seeks to Be A Voice for Native Students
Thursday, May 01 2014
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull,
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ira jourdain-web.jpgRaising the profile on Native American student issues and accountability are the top priorities for Ira Jourdain in his bid for the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education.

The Red Lake citizen and father of four – two of whom are enrolled in the city's school system – sees equity, its allocation and application to minority students as a primary means to bridge the achievement gap. “The way the formula works is equity and equality: everybody gets the same amounts, no matter what. But that's just not conducive to our kids, especially our Native kids and African American kids, who go to what they call the low-performing schools. These are schools that obviously need more funding, need more resources. And then that's where equity comes into place, to me it's reallocating our resources and putting those resources into schools that need them the most.”

Though any primary campaign can produce candidates who speak in broad generalities, Jourdain links together problems and solutions for the Native community, which has continually under-achieved when compared to others. “A lot of our kids go to low-performing schools that affect their housing, that affect employment. There's a multitude of factors that affect our kids' performances in the schools and it all boils down to plain, old equity,” he said.

Jourdain cites specifics issues and needs that impact student performance such as mental health, behavioral services and social workers. “There's this tremendous need – I've heard this from across the district – for school psychologists to work with our kids on mental and behavioral disorders.”

In addition, Jourdain said that other factors stymying achievement may not always be apparent to school board directors not directly involved with the problems. According to a recent report by the Indian Education Department, Native American students have shown an increase in and remain at the top for homelessness. “We need stronger housing support services. My daughter at Tatanka Academy has had three or four students in her classroom that have moved constantly, throughout the school year, across the district. I was at this recent hearing and the percentage of Native American kids in our district who move constantly is 19 percent who are either homeless or constantly moving residences during the school year.”


PHOTO ESSAY: Ain Dah Yung's Cherish the Children Pow Wow
Friday, April 04 2014
 
Written by Jaida Gray Eagle,
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SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Ain Dah Yung Center's 16th Annual Cherish the Children Traditional Pow Wow was held March 15-16 at Central High School in Saint Paul and featured singers and dancers from around the region to honor Native American children through cultural celebration.

The event was emceed by Dave Larsen and Justin Huenemann with Hoka Hey as the host drum and head dancers included Caske La Blanc and Jennifer Kappenman.

 

 

 

VISUAL ARTS REVIEW: All My Relations presents provocative images in Maggie Thompson's “Where I Fit”
Friday, April 04 2014
 
Written by Mary Delorie, TC Daily Planet,
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pocahotness_where_i_fit.jpgWhen you think of your cultural and ethnic identity, is there a piece of cloth – a sown or painted tapestry, a beaded headband, a knitted cable sweater, a special quilt made by the matriarch in your family – that helps you honor and celebrate who you are? Cloth and/or textiles are often overlooked as key cultural touchstones in modern day society, but they are the focus of Maggie Thompson's solo exhibition at All My Relations Gallery. She uses textiles to ask important questions about family, identity and culture. As a Native American woman (Fond du Lac Ojibwe), Thompson uses this show to “dig deeper into the notions of her identity focusing on issues of cultural appropriation and Native authenticity through the rigid ideas of blood quantum and stereotyping.”

Her show is socially powerful with hints of nostalgia, deep-rooted sadness, and an anger that bubbles up along the edges. All the pieces showcase Thompson’s talents when it comes to color, patterns, and fabric types. She also pushes boundaries when it comes to textiles incorporating multimedia elements – screen-printing photographs, gold and silver threads, foam cookie cutters and also cornhusks and bottle caps.

The artist was initially an architectural student at the Rhode Island School of Design, so there are elements of her weaving and knitting that certainly draw from this, like straight lines and geometric patterns intentionally building a whole from smaller parts. Thompson recalls feeling like an artist even when she was very young, long before her textile degree from RISD.


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