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American Indian Resource Center :: Anishinaabe-gikendaasowigamig

History of BSU's American Indian Alumni Chapter

Gaa-izhiwebak Gaa-mawanji'idiwaad Gaa-kiizhi-gikinoo'amaagoowaad Bemijigamaag Gabe-gikendaasoowigamigong

In 1989 the BSU American Indian Alumni Chapter (AIAC) was established for the purpose of creating an opportunity for the BSU American Indian Alumni to reconnect with BSU. The new group adopted a charter and by-laws and elected officers. Projects initiated were to: conduct a gathering for the Indian alumni and friends at the Bemidji Holiday Inn Hotel during Homecoming; address the incoming freshmen students during the Fall orientation; participate in the planning of the American Indian Resource Center project (AIRCP); and participate in the successful lobbying efforts that secured $2.1 million from the State Legislature in the early 1990s.

We created two campus accounts that generated funds to provide $500 scholarships to three seniors to complete their degrees, the scholarships were matched by the State Indian Scholarship Program. A primary objective was to create a presence and participation on campus functions that promoted the recruitment, retention and graduation of American Indian students at BSU. As professionals and citizens in our communities we promoted higher education and BSU specifically wherever possible. We serve on community and campus boards and committees, and encouraged BSU to make its educational services, technology and various resources accessible to the surrounding Indian communities.

Because the chapter met monthly for about five years in the mid 1990s it fell inactive probably due to burnout. In early 2002 members of the original chapter stayed involved in the formulation of plans for the site selection, fund raising and construction of the American Indian Resource Center. We also participated in the hiring of the first center executive director, Lee Cook. These two new issues generated new interest and enthusiasm within the Indian communities and alumni, and early in 2003 a reorganization meeting was held on campus. Currently the chapter is a vital player in overall planning and development of new programs for the AIRC, Indian student enrollment and retention plans, and any key event impacting Indian students and communities.

Currently there are an estimated 400 American Indian alumni of BSU and the majority of those hold positions of leadership, influence and responsibility within Bemidji and the three surrounding Indian reservations of Leech Lake, Red Lake and White Earth.