Native American Cultural Celebration continues at MSU
November is the Native American Cultural Celebration month at Minot State University. Events with special guests continue today.
Earlier in the month, MSU welcomed Dr. Don Bartlette on Nov. 1 to kick off the celebration. Bartlette, author of “Macaroni at Midnight,” spoke in his autobiography about his childhood being a Native American living off the reservation in poverty. Bartlette suffered from school and family violence, racism, child abuse and living in an environment of alcoholism.
He was able to overcome his disadvantages with the help of someone in his community who showed him unconditional love, acceptance and compassion to become a success in life.
“These events will provide opportunities to learn about our indigenous people, their lives and how they got to where they are today – successful,” Annette Mennem, MSU’s Native American Center director, said.
When asked why November, Mennem said that in the 1990s, then President George H. W. Bush declared the month of November the National American Indian Heritage month, which Minot State now calls the Native American Celebration.
“I celebrate daily being indigenous and being Ojibway or Anishnaabe (the original people),” Mennem said.
While November isn’t exactly symbolic to Native American culture, Mennem said the Ojibway call the month “gashkadino-giizis” or “Ice is Forming Moon.” November is also a time where they say “Happy Harvest” and give thanks for blessings from Mother Earth, Sister and Brother Moon, and Father Sky. These are Ojibway tradition and may differ for other tribes, according to Mennem.
Minot State originally called the celebration the Native American Cultural Awareness Celebration. The word “awareness” was removed in 2012.
“That year, former university president David Fuller asked my feelings on the name of our celebration,” Mennem said. “We concluded that people are aware that we are here, so let’s just celebrate.”
To continue the celebration, Melissa Olson, co-writer and co-producer of the audio documentary “Stolen Childhoods,” will be presenting at 10 a.m. today in the Student Center’s third floor conference center. Olson tells the stories of her mother’s adoption into an anglo family and out of the Ojibway Tribe in Minnesota.
Olson currently works as an Indian Child Welfare Act guardian, ad Litem for the 4th Judicial District of Hennepin County in Minneapolis.
To listen to Olson’s audio-documentary, go to soundcloud.com/minneculture/stolen-childhoods.
On Nov. 27, the university will be hosting a discussion panel at 2 p.m. in the conference center to discuss “Contemporary Issues and Solutions in Tribal Communities.” The panel will include Jona Peltier, from the Seven Stone Center for Behavioral Health and Healing in Belcourt; Evan Peltier, TMBCI Tribal Finance; Marc Bluestone, New Town Schools; and Scott Davis, North Dakota Indian Affairs commissioner.
The panel with give the community a chance to hear about the issues surrounding tribal communities today and the steps they are taking to resolve them.
To close out the celebration, MSU graduate student Alex DeCoteau will present his thesis, “We are not trying to save the language. The language is trying to save us.” In his thesis, DeCoteau explains some of the pedagogical, or teaching, qualities of the Ojibwe language. He will discuss the “ecological and ontological implications” of dominant languages, like English, and imagine some of the alternative possibilities of Indigenous languages, like Ojibwe, confronting anglo privilege and “ecological subjugation.”
DeCoteau will present with Minot State professor Daniel Conn. As of right now, the time and place of the presentation is yet to be determined, but will be updated in the community events.
“North Dakota has five reservations and on those reservations are tribal nations … There’s a lot of culture to celebrate and learn,” Mennem said. She also said Minot State has students from these areas coming to the university for higher education.
To learn more about the Native American Cultural Center at MSU, visit minotstateu.edu/mss/nacc, or stop into the center on the third floor of the Student Center from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday.