Events for BSU’s American Indian and Indigenous Peoples Heritage Experience

Asin Dexter

Asin Dexter

Over the years, Bemidji State has met a number of milestones to elevate services for American Indian students but every November, in honor of national Native American Heritage Month, the campus comes together to celebrate Indigenous peoples and perspectives during a month-long American Indian and Indigenous People Heritage Experience.

A member of the university’s Division of Student Life and Success, Bemidji State’s American Indian Resource Center offers support and programming for its American Indian and Indigenous students year-round, but activities throughout November are focused on increasing awareness and knowledge of the challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present.

“Being able to hold events like these on campus and for the wider community to engage is learning is helping our students in so many ways,” Ann Humphrey, associate director of retention for the AIRC, said. “It is important to note that not even 50 years ago we as a people were jailed and forbidden to host events like this that talk about cultural heritage and the reality of what our people have gone through to just exist. Our students are seeing more and more ability to exist in a space that was not made for them and even more to succeed there.”

Chrissy Downwind, executive director of the AIRC, said the month provides the opportunity to highlight American Indian culture and traditions with the BSU and broader Bemidji communities.

“Through NAHM we have a chance to bring a stronger voice and presence to our campus, showcasing successful American Indian leaders as examples to our own American Indian students, defining what their hard work and dedication can provide them,” she said. “Ultimately, we offer these events to bring awareness and share knowledge of our Mino Bimaadiziwin (Good Life).”

The month of NAHM events began on Nov. 3 with a presentation by Charles Grolla, an enrolled member of the Bois Forte band of Ojibwe, titled “Cultural Heritage and Tradition.” Grolla is the author of “Ojibwe Style Moccasin Game: Makazinataagewin,” which details how to play the moccasin game for old and new learners. In addition to his position as cultural teacher for the Cass Lake-Bena schools in Cass Lake, Minnesota, Grolla volunteers to teach the moccasin game to Native youth and the broader communities of Bemidji, Cass Lake, White Earth and Red Lake, Minnesota.

On Nov. 4 local singers and dancers from the Cass Lake-Bena Drum and Dance Troop came to the AIRC to exhibit traditional, American Indian dancing and drumming. A replay of the event is available here.

Dr. Ye “Solar” Hong, coordinator of the university’s center for diversity, equity and inclusion, says the month is dedicated to celebrating Indigenous heritage, history, knowledge, philosophy and culture.

“November is designated as National Native American Heritage Month to recognize the vast achievements and contributions made by Indigenous people,” she said. “We honor and respect Indigenous people. Bemidji State University stands with the community members from these Nations and will fight injustice in all its forms.”

AIRC Native American Heritage Month Programming:

Additional campus programming: