Important Notice Regarding Disclosure of Private Information

Bemidji State University has learned of a ransomware attack of its donor management software vendor, Blackbaud, which may have allowed access by an unauthorized individual to not-public data on students, alumni, and employees. Much of the data stored by Blackbaud is considered directory information under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and is therefore public data under Minnesota law. However, Bemidji State University disclosed some not public data to the BSU Alumni & Foundation and those data elements were stored by Blackbaud and accessible in the attack. Such information may have included contact information, dates of birth, demographic data, philanthropic interests, and donation history. Blackbaud asserts that the attacker did not access credit card information; any bank account information or social security numbers were encrypted and not accessible to the attacker. For a full report contact Bemidji State University at

The following email message was sent to affected individuals on Friday, December 18, 2020.

Important Notice Regarding Disclosure of Private Information

Bemidji State University takes seriously its responsibility to protect private information about the individuals in our community. We are writing to inform you of a concern about the unauthorized access of your private information through a breach of a cloud-service vendor, Blackbaud. We believe the incident has been resolved, and no action is required on your part.

In July 2020, Bemidji State University Alumni & Foundation (the Foundation) and Bemidji State University (the University) learned that an attacker had breached data contained in Blackbaud, a cloud service the Foundation uses for fundraising purposes. The Foundation is a private 501(c)(3), nonprofit organization dedicated to securing private gifts and grants for the benefit the University. The Foundation contracts with the University to provide services and staff to the Foundation.

As a result of this attack, an unidentified individual may have obtained some personally identifying information stored on Blackbaud’s servers, including information about students, staff, and alumni of the University and donors to the Foundation. Private data about you may have been included in this incident. In order to protect this data, Blackbaud paid the attacker’s demand and received confirmation that the data the attacker copied had been destroyed, although the University is not able to independently verify this has occurred.

Much of the data stored by Blackbaud is classified by the University as either “Directory Information” (such as name, field of study, and dates of attendance) or “Limited Directory Information” (such as mailing address or email address) pursuant to the college or university’s annual Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) notice and is therefore public data under Minnesota law. Additional not-public data that may have been accessed included demographic data, philanthropic interests, and donation history collected by the Foundation. Blackbaud asserts that the attacker did not access credit card information; any bank account information or social security numbers were encrypted and not accessible to the attacker.

As part of its investigation into the Blackbaud data breach, the University also learned that it had provided information about you to the Foundation that was not Directory Information or Limited Directory Information and should not have been disclosed without your consent or without notice to you. Data about you provided to the Foundation may have included your SSN, Gender, Ethnicity, and Date of Birth. This information may also have been part of the data obtained by the Blackbaud attacker.

Bemidji State University has been investigating this incident as required by law. Upon completion of our investigation, you have the right under Minnesota law to receive a report on the facts and details of the investigation, including any employee discipline (if applicable). If you would like a copy of the report, please contact President Faith C. Hensrud at by January 31, 2021, to request delivery of the report by email. In addition, the University will be revising its annual FERPA notice to make clearer what data is provided to the Foundation and provide all students with the ability to opt out of that data sharing, as required by law.

Bemidji State University deeply regrets that this occurred and apologizes for the uneasiness and inconvenience this may cause you. If you have further questions related to this incident, please contact: President Faith C. Hensrud at

We will keep you informed of any additional developments that may be relevant to you.


Faith C. Hensrud, Ed.D.
Bemidji State University & Northwest Technical College
1500 Birchmont Drive NE, #3
Bemidji, MN 56601

Bemidji State University Land Acknowledgement: FAQ

Bemidji State University’s Land Acknowledgement Statement

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a land acknowledgment?

A land acknowledgment is a statement that acknowledges the Indigenous people and history of a particular piece of land. It is intended to ground all of us in that place and its history.

Why is BSU doing this?

Many educational and government institutions have adopted land acknowledgments, especially after Canada made it standard practice in response to the findings of their Truth and Reconciliation Commission that the Canadian government engaged in cultural genocide against the Indigenous people of that country. The BSU administrations, staff, and students know that history did not begin with the arrival of the first white explorer, settler, or lumberjack. But ignoring Indigenous narratives and land tenure renders Natives invisible and communicates a sense that they lack importance. The town of Bemidji is located between the three largest reservations in the State of Minnesota. Twenty-four percent of the town’s population is Native and around 40 percent of the regional population is Native. As a regional university, BSU wants to do better at reflecting the diversity of its region. This is a cultural statement by the university but it is also an important and practical part of the university mission, map, and strategic plan, endorsed by all employee unions, faculty and student senates. Everyone who comes to campus should know about the historical and contemporary presence of Indigenous people here, and the acknowledgment seeks to make that visibility a natural part of who we are and what we do at BSU.

Does BSU have any other acknowledgments that I should know about?

Yes. Several years ago, BSU adopted and agreed to abide by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A link to that statement is here. That statement is a powerful and carefully vetted affirmation of the humanity of Indigenous people that also articulates responsible and approved ways of treating and communicating about them. BSU agrees and seeks to align all of its actions with that declaration.

What is the difference between the words Ojibwe, Chippewa, and Anishinaabe?

The word Ojibwe comes from the Ojibwe language and it is used to refer to a member of that tribe or tribe itself. The word Chippewa is just a misspelling of Ojibwe. Early French explorers dropped the first letter o, hardened the j into ch and then morphed the word into Chippewa. Chippewa is not considered offensive, just mildly erroneous. Chippewa was incorporated into early tribal constitutions for many Ojibwe reservations, so you will still see the word in use in those formal titles, like the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians. Most Ojibwe reservations are switching to Ojibwe and although constitutional reforms for tribes takes time, the official names will reflect that common usage eventually. The word Anishinaabe is the Ojibwe word for Native person or Native people. The use of that word has changed over time. Before contact with Europeans, the word Anishinaabe likely just meant human being, but its usage changed after contact. And in the Ojibwe language today, another word, bemaadizijig is used for humans.

Were there other tribes here before the Ojibwe and Dakota?

Yes. The glaciers retreated from this area around 11,000 years ago, and humans have lived here ever since. People with DNA connected to the Ojibwe and Dakota people may have been here that early, but the emergence of the Ojibwe and Dakota as tribes distinct from other tribes in their language families most likely happened a couple thousand years ago. The same is true for every group of humans on the planet. In England, nobody spoke English until about 600 years ago, although the Celtic ancestors of the English were for 10,000 years. The tribal people of North America moved around quite a bit, and there is evidence that ancestors of the Cheyenne and Hidatsa were in northern Minnesota before the Ojibwe and Dakota. The Ho-chunk (Winnebago), who are indigenous to Wisconsin, were relocated nine different times, including to two different reservations in Minnesota after the Ojibwe and Dakota had established themselves here. One of the Ho-chunk reservations was located between Motley and Long Prairie, not too far from Bemidji.

What does the word Bemidji mean?

The city of Bemidji gets its name from an Ojibwe word, Bemijigamaag, meaning “the place where the current cuts across” or “a river runs through it.” That word describes the unique geography of the place. Four major watersheds form a continental divide in Bemidji. The Red River watershed flows west and north toward Winnipeg. The Rainy River watershed flows north through the Big Fork River into Rainy River. The Lake Superior watershed flows east. And the Mississippi watershed begins by flowing northwest, pulled toward the Red River watershed, and then north, toward the Rainy River watershed. It then flows east, toward the Lake Superior watershed, before charting its own course southward to the Gulf of Mexico. Bemidji is located near the northernmost point of the Mississippi River. Prior to the building of the power dam on the Mississippi, Lake Bemidji was actually two separate lakes, connected by a shallow stretch of water off of Diamond Point on the BSU campus. The Mississippi River did not flow through those two lakes; it simply cut across the corner of the larger one—a very rare geographic feature. The Indigenous population that lived in Bemidji knew all of this, and their understanding is reflected in the name they chose.

What is the treaty history of the land on which the BSU campus is located?

The Ojibwe were exclusive occupants of northern Minnesota by the time the United States was trying to take it away from Native people. The Treaty of 1855 created a dozen reservations of the Ojibwe in northern Minnesota that would be exclusively Ojibwe domain (no whites) and reclassified much of the remaining land in northern Minnesota as land to be shared with whites. A flood of white settlement soon ensued and many Ojibwe were often denied the right to share and access most of the land in northern Minnesota in spite of their agreement with the government. There were still Ojibwe people who lived in Bemidji as they had before white settlement, but many others moved to the Cass Lake area to avoid harassment by white settlers. The Leech Lake Reservation east of Bemidji was expanded in 1863 to accommodate the many Ojibwe people who could not easily consolidate on the reservation there. They were used to living, traveling, hunting and fishing throughout their territory. In 1864, it was expanded again, and the town of Bemidji and the land that would encompass the campus of BSU were now included as part of the Leech Lake Reservation, which was now adjacent to the unceded land at Red Lake. In 1867, a new treaty was signed that established the White Earth Reservation and reduced the size of the Leech Lake Reservation. Bemidji was once again outside the borders of the Leech Lake Reservation proper.

Do Natives still have treaty rights on the land where BSU is built?

Yes. The 1855 treaty has yet to be litigated, but all Ojibwe treaties in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota had either explicit or implicit language affirming the Ojibwe understanding that the land cessions were actually reclassifications of land as shared use. The Ojibwe never agreed to be alienated from their own land. Reservations, on the other hand, the Ojibwe understood to be exclusively Ojibwe domain. There are many non-Native people living on reservations at Leech Lake and White Earth now as a result of later policies to open the reservations via allotment, which took place at Leech Lake and White but not Red Lake. However, the Ojibwe understanding at the time of the treaties is the legal standard and the Ojibwe understanding is that they retain the right to hunt, fish, gather, and spend their time throughout the treaty territories, including the campus of BSU and the waters of Lake Bemidji. Other Ojibwe treaties that have been litigated have affirmed this legal status.

How can I learn more about this land its original homeland?

There are some great books on Ojibwe history, including local Ojibwe history. Some of the titles include:

  • William Warren’s “History of the Ojibwe People,”
  • Brenda Child’s “We Hold Our World Together,”
  • Thomas Vennum’s “Wild Rice and the Ojibwe People,”
  • Helen Tanner’s “Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History,”
  • Edmund Danziger’s “The Chippewas of Lake Superior,”
  • Robert Kohl’s “Kitchi-gumi,” and
  • Dr. Anton Treuer’s books “Ojibwe in Minnesota,” “Warrior Nation: A History of the Red Lake Ojibwe,” and “The Assassination of Hole in the Day.”

All of the area tribes publish a tribal newspaper and maintain a website full of information about each tribe and its history.

Bemidji State University Land Acknowledgement: Process

Bemidji State University’s Land Acknowledgement Statement

Process Summary

The Bemidji State University Niizhoo-gwayakochigewin Collaborative started working towards a land acknowledgement statement during the spring of 2019. Dr. Cornelia Santos, Dr. Vivian Delgado, Bill Blackwell Jr., and Erika Bailey-Johnson were inspired by the land acknowledgement statement presented at the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) conference in Boston in March 2019. The land acknowledgement their organization had approved was used before every keynote, breakout session and event for the duration of the conference. There were more than 2,000 people in attendance from all over the nation. The group returned from the conference and approached the Niizhoo-gwayakochigewin Collaborative with the idea of proposing a land acknowledgement for BSU. All collaborative members were supportive, so a draft land acknowledgement was crafted using language similar to the ACPA land acknowledgement and brought forward to Dr. Anton Treuer, professor of Ojibwe at BSU.  A few modifications were made with the intent to present a draft to the President’s Cabinet.

During the Fall of 2019, academic administrators encouraged the creation of a proposal that would be sent to BSU President Faith C. Hensrud. The proposal included example land acknowledgement statements and an emphasis on an inclusive process moving forward. In February 2020, a working group was established to begin the process of creating a formal, properly vetted Bemidji State University land acknowledgement statement. This initial working group included:

  • Allen Bedford, then associate vice president of academic affairs
  • Travis Greene, associate vice president for student life & success
  • Dr. Vivian Delgado, assistant professor of Indigenous studies
  • Dr. Cornelia Santos, assistant professor of environmental studies
  • Chrissy Koch, executive director of BSU’s American Indian Resource Center
  • Erika Bailey-Johnson, Niizhoo-gwayakochigewin director and sustainability director
  • Alicia Bowstring, Council of Indian Students

This working group met during late spring semester of 2020 and over the course of the summer to create a draft land acknowledgement statement.  Several mindful conversations were had about the history and culture of Bemidji, the intent and meaning behind specific concepts and phrases and whether or not to connect to spiritual concepts of the land and land loss. The working group felt that crafting a statement that would be flexible and adaptable to any context was a key component of this effort. They also stated that the statement should be a call to action and consciousness. It was also determined that a document should accompany the statement (possibly on a website) that would include more detail about the statement.

In August 2020, the working group sent a draft land acknowledgement statement to President Hensrud. The statement read:

Today we gather here and acknowledge that this land, which is nestled among the pines and along the shores, is known as Bemijigamaag igo gaye Makoce and is the current and ancestral homeland of the Ojibwe, Dakota, and Lakota. Anishinaabe people live side by side with non-Natives who occupy Indigenous land. The Anishinaabe are the spiritual and physical caretakers of this land to which we belong. We are committed to uplifting the names of these sacred lands as well as the community members from these Nations.

BSU administration recommended that the next step in the process was to bring the draft statement to the Presidents’ Indigenous Advisory Council. The council met in September 2020 and concluded that a separate gathering of interested individuals should occur to provide specific feedback on the draft statement. This meeting was held in October 2020and included the following individuals:

  • Dr. Mary Fairbanks, professor of nursing
  • Dr. Cornelia Santos, assistant professor of environmental studies
  • Veronica Veaux, assistant professor of business administration
  • Dr. Anton Treuer, professor of Ojibwe
  • Erika Bailey-Johnson, Niizhoo-gwayakochigewin director and sustainability director
  • Dr. John Gonzalez, professor of psychology (also contributed thoughts via email)

The following is the statement that was drafted at this meeting using some of the first draft with reworked sections and an added statement that some of the meeting participants felt strongly should be included.

We acknowledge that Bemidji State University is located on land and water that is the current and ancestral homeland of the Ojibwe and Dakota. We acknowledge the painful history of genocide, forced assimilation, and efforts to alienate the Indigenous inhabitants from their territory here, and we honor and respect the many diverse Indigenous peoples still connected to this land on which we gather, their retained sovereignty and treaty rights, and unbroken linguistic and cultural thriving. Indigenous people are the spiritual and physical caretakers of this land to which we all belong. We are committed to uplifting the names of these sacred lands as well as the community members from these Nations.

The Indigenous Advisory Council met again in late October 2020, and the changes were approved by this larger group. In November 2020, President Hensrud, Provost Allen Bedford, Dr. Anton Treuer, Erika Bailey-Johnson and newly appointed Campus Diversity Officer, Juan Rojas, met to discuss next steps. Current plans moving forward are to vet the statement with the Council of Indian Students, Student Senate, and all the bargaining units through the Meet and Confer process.

A panel discussion is planned for Spring 2021 startup, and a survey will be created for campus-wide distribution and feedback. The following is a detailed plan moving forward:

  • Dec. 16, 2020: Draft statement, process document and FAQ distributed to BSU employees via email, with a link to a Qualtrics survey;
  • Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021, 1–2 p.m.: Panel discussion, open to campus community, Q & A;
  • Friday, Jan. 15, 2021: Working group convenes to analyze survey responses;
  • January 27–28, 2021: land acknowledgement statement presented at bargaining unit Meet and Confers;
  • Afterward: analyze feedback from bargaining units; establish timeline for final adoption.