That’s Isabella Callery at the Poetry Out Loud national competition, held in early May in Washington D.C. She was reciting Charles Lamb’s “Thoughtless Cruelty”, one of three poems she performed in the competition.
Callery, a senior at Arcadia Charter School in Northfield, Minnesota, made it to nationals for the first time this year. But she’s made it to the state finals every year since she was a freshman. And it’s a pretty big deal.
CALLERY:“From the state competition, they’ll choose one person that will go on to nationals. And so nationals, there's 53 people, one from each of the 50 states and then Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and district of Columbia. And we performed there and they lower us to nine and then to the top three.”
It’s a poetry recitation competition that requires weeks of memorization.. and a compelling performance.
Speaker 1: (09:55)
CALLERY: I think if it lets them acting and more of just like how can I take this meaning and convey that the best I can with my face, body and inflection
This year, more so than other years, she says she had deeper relationship with her poems. Of the three poems she featured for her recitations, two are from indigenous poets.
CALLERY: I was able to find two women, native artists that I really connected to like their words and their story and the things they were saying. Um, so those poems, I just had a really deep connection to the first time reading them.
Callery, who is anishinabe of White Earth, says she wasn’t raised with indigenous culture growing up, but is now reclaiming her native heritage. These poems have helped her in her process.
Here she is..
CALLERY: so the first poem is perhaps the world ends here by Joy Harjo and it's about how life centers around the kitchen table, how we give birth by the table and we prepare parents for burial there. And we eat there, we gossip there, we just sit with our family and like all these things that does revolve around the kitchen table. And I feel like that's very true. And then the second poem is a really long title. It's called ABC dairy. And requiring further examination of Anglican Sarah fem subjugation of a wild Indian reservation by Natalie Diaz. Um, and, uh, that poem is a really beautifully written poem I connected with at the most. Um, it's about how do you as a native person tried to forgive Christianity and the live with the things that you can still see Christianity doing to our culture. Um, and the ways that it's pushing us back and like reinforcing the fact that native people aren't equal in that way. And I feel like that's a conversation I've had with myself a lot of times. So that was just a really important poem to me.
Isabella Callery very graciously recited part of that last poem.
CALLERY: Like I said, no Indian I've ever heard of has ever been or seen an angel maybe in a Christmas pageant or something. Nazarene church holds one every December organized by pastor John's wife. It's no wonder pastor John's son is the angel. Everyone knows angels are white.
As for the first poem we heard her reciting, she said one had to be pre-20th century.
CALLERY: So Charles Lamb was my pre 20th century author and that poem is just about not killing bugs. It's the whole thing about it. I'm like, this sounds like it's just like, oh. So I would just really like, I don't kill any bugs. I'm a total wimp. I don't even come mosquitoes. Um, so I think that palm just fun for me to do and to think about and it kind of has that same my thing of that same idea of just respecting the earth and respecting animals as being equal.
But let’s get back to the contest!
[SOUND OF CALLERY WINNING, Kinda long… pretty good celebration sound]
Callery talks about the moment she learned she’s a national champion.
CALLERY: I had a total anxiety shutdown and just kind of got on stage and shutdown. So that's what, that's what happens when we see pictures of you up there. It's, you shut it down completely. Yeah. I like donate for, I don't really remember it. I like blacked out.
As for what the the future holds for Isabella Callery, well, that $20,000 grand prize is going toward her college in Wisconsin.
CALLERY: So I'm going to Beloit this fall and I'm planning on doing something with sociology, psychology, public health. I've been doing social work for a long time now, so I want to continue doing that cause that's what I really like doing. And why is that? Um, I think it's just like being able to connect with people who are going through really hard times and like having people who have connected with me at really hard times and just knowing like how helpful that is and how life changing it can be.
A while her focus in college education isn’t spoken word or poetry, it remains a big part of her life. She plans on getting more into that community.
CALLERY: I just think that you have to find something you can connect to no matter what it is and that finding people who have a similar background to you and like understand your way of thinking and going about the world is super important no matter how you find that. And for me it was her poetry, but it can be through art or any other kind of thing in the entire world.
Callery also runs her own native beading business, BellasBeading, on Instagram.
I’m Cole Premo.
This week on Minnesota Native News, we’re showcasing Isabella Callery, the Minnesota High School senior who recently won a national poetry recitation competition, Poetry Out Loud. She talks about the experience, shows off her poetry skills, and explains the importance of her connections to indigenous poets.
A native film festival has returned to the Walker Art Center for its second year of showcasing film that looks to the past, present and future to tell the stories and truths of native peoples.
MARIE: This is Minnesota Native News, I’m Marie Rock. A native film festival has returned to the Walker Art Center for its second year of showcasing film that looks to
the past, present and future to tell the stories and truths of native peoples.
MISSY WHITEMAN: This year we're, we're picking it up again to continue that legacy and to also acknowledge, you know, that history that native film has here in the twin cities.
MARIE: This week, we sit down with co-curator (and filmmaker) Missy Whiteman to discuss INDI-genesis: GEN2. Here’s reporter Cole Premo.
It’s an incredibly snowy day, and traffic is picking up outside the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
I meet Missy Whiteman at the art center’s Esker Grove restaurant, set on the first level with large windows facing Loring Park, the entire space glowing from the white snow reflection.
I’m here to talk with Missy Whiteman about the return of a film series that showcases native-made films. But it’s much more than just a film series.
First, an introduction...
MISSY: My name is Missy Whiteman and I belong to the northern Arapaho and Kickapoo nations, northern Arapaho from the wind river reservation in Wyoming. And then kickapoo from Oklahoma.
The 4-week-long INDIgenesis: Gen2 film series begins in mid-February, and features vintage films, like 1923’s The Covered Wagon, as well as new films like 2018’s Falls Around Her, featuring the iconic native actress Tehn-too Cardinal.
I asked her how the films were selected.
MISSY: We don’t necessarily look at the “It” director … We really look at it as, you know, how his film representative of native life and being indigenous and in also like looking at it from a cultural perspective, whether it being a full film like "edge of the knife", which is an entire indigenous language or whether it be, you know, opening night with covered wagon, which you know, is the first western.
Missy Whiteman actually has a deep family connection to The Covered Wagon, which will be presented a bit differently at the film series for the first night.
MISSY: Actually in this film, um, we're weak recontextualizing that film and we're adding a life score to that because that film is closely related to my family. And so I have great grandparents that are in that film that I have direct descendants too. Our family has photographs from that set and so that's going to be a part of the evening.
Aside from powerful feature-length movies, documentaries will play a big part in the film series, including Warrior Women. It tells the story of native mothers and daughters fighting for native rights in the American Indian Movement, also known as AIM.
The screening is also a chance to honor those Warrior Women.
MISSY: [05:00] It's a large community that's coming to the screening of women and women who are activists and that's an evening for us to have the opportunity to honor them, but to do it in a way that the directors want us to do that. Um, so again, that's a call to our warrior women's to come women's. It's a call to the warrior women of Minnesota to come to the screening and be acknowledged and honored
Minnesota connections abound in the film series, in all categories.
MISSY: We have Levi Corbine, he's actually from the blacks reservation and he produced Shinob 1 and we'll be screening that within native shorts. And then, um, we will also have locally produced films, youth films here we have in progress and we just are adding some of the Little Earth, a youth collective films to the media tech which will run all month long throughout the series in the small little theater next to the main theater near the main lobby.
And while traditional feature-length movies and short films are great, some of the featured projects really push the boundaries of filmmaking. Like, Biidaaban: First Light: An Interactive Virtual Reality Installation.
MISSY: I can't give it away. But it's really about a different realms.
Overall, Missy Whiteman says it’s more than a film series.
It’s about not only teaching native youth the ins-and-outs of filmmaking, but inspiring them to create and tell their own story.
MISSY: It is like everything that I do, everything that I create, whatever it is, it always. This is like the people that came before us, you know, our ancestors and then who's following, you know, those are always what we have in mind and who's going to carry her legacy forward. And that's, you know, our future generations.
The film series begins Feb. 15 and runs for 4 weeks. We couldn’t get to all the projects featured, so check out more on the Walker Art Center’s website. I’m Cole Premo.
This week on Minnesota Native News, we talk to state legislator Mary Kunesh-Podein, who is Dakota, and hear about legislation she introduced to create a task force to address the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Here’s Cole Premo.
INTROS: This week on Minnesota Native News, we talk to state legislator Mary Kunesh-Podein, who is Dakota, and hear about legislation she introduced to create a task force to address the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Here’s Cole Premo.
[VARIOUS NEWS REPORTS]
As awareness of this issue affecting native women and girls continues to grow, so does the support seen in the United States government, particularly here in Minnesota.
The issue is missing and murdered indigenous women. And a new report is calling it a nationwide crisis.
The report, which was released in late-2018, is from the Urban Indian Health Institute, a Seattle-based tribal epidemiology center.
Some of the staggering figures it highlights is that numbers show murder is the third leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women.
There were over 5,700 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls reported in 2016, but only 116 of them were logged into the Department of Justice database.
In addition to the shocking high numbers of Native women missing or murdered… The study also uncovered great difficulties in accessing data on this type of crime. The UIHI says many records were not provided in a timely manner and law enforcement agencies sometimes provided confusing or incomplete records. Others charged fees the institute did not have the budget to cover.
That means the 506 unique cases it found in its data collection from 71 cities nationwide likely underrepresents the actual figures. And race is often not registered in state crime databases, or it’s misclassified.
Adding to the problem is that many of these stories are not being told in news coverage, the report says only 5 percent of the cases were covered by national or international media.
So, in addition to raising public awareness of the issue, the report makes a plea for fe deral law enforcement to track and report data. And for native people’s voices to be heard.
MARY: [07:52] “it's also very important that the rest of Minnesota and the rest of the country in fact hear these stories ... it's a part of Minnesota and our national history that folks really don't know and don't understand. And it's those personal stories that are going to illustrate the tragedy and the necessity to look at ways to, um, to overcome this whole tragedy of, of what is missing and murdered women.”
That brings us to Minnesota state legislator Mary Kunesh-Podein. She represents District 41B, which includes Columbia Heights, St. Anthony Village and parts of New Brighton. She’s also Dakota and has a personal tie to this issue.
MARY: [07:27] “when I started this, this talking about this task force and people would contact me, mostly women and they tell me their stories and their stories are so heartbreaking and they're generational stories. You know, my grandma, my great grandma, my aunt, my sister, um, and it's really what fuels my fire to do this kind of legislation.”
The task force Kunesh-Podein mentions is a bill she has introduced to the Minnesota legislature. It creates a task force committee that will consist of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
MARY: [13:26] That's part of the task force is to listen to the stories, to listen to what's happening and have an understanding of, of this historical trauma. [13:55] Yeah. And so that's, that's what the listening sessions will be about.
It’s part of a drive, nationwide, to get lawmakers to hear native stories, and native solutions. And it has growing support, including the Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, who is the first Native American woman to serve the position in Minnesota.
MARY: [18:11] I know both she and governor walls mentioned it on their campaign, um, their campaign trail called it out and said how important it is that we study the violations against our indigenous communities. Uh, I know that both of them have personally told me that they support this bill. I will be meeting with the governor, a liaison from the governor later on today to discuss this bill. And so we're, we're very, very optimistic.
Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein hopes to have the senate approve the bill and the bill signed by Feb. 14th, which is the day of the missing and murdered indigenous women's march in Minneapolis.
By the way, there’s much more information in the Urban Indian Health Institute’s study. I only scratched the surface. The study is called “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls, A Snapshot of data from 71 urban cities in the United States.
I’m Cole Premo
This week on Minnesota Native News, tribes across the state work together to present a clear path forward to protect wild rice and AICHO in Duluth hosts a pop up event focused on nibi or water.
STORY #1 - WILD RICE REPORT
For possibly the first time ever, the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe has convened all 11 Ojibwe and Dakota tribes in Minnesota to protect wild rice in the state.
Reporter Melissa Townsend has the details.
The coalition came together in response to a statewide wild rice task force Governor Mark Dayton established in 2017.
NORTHBIRD: As a whole, all of the 6 Bands of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe had an issue with it. (:06)
Michael Northbird is the Environmental Program Manager for the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.
NORTHBIRD: Long story short, it’s because the Governors Task Force on Wild Rice was comprised of industry representatives. And so, those who are meant to be regulated are given influential power over the best interest of the pubic. (:13)
Of the 15 seats on the Governor’s Task Force - 8 were for industry and 3 were for tribes.
So instead of being a part of the Governor’s Task force, Minnestoa Chippewa Tribe leaders created their own.
In their final report released in December, there are a number of recommendations — but three major findings STAND OUT
First, they detail which water quality regulation should be in place?
NORTHBIRD: This law that’s been in place since 1973 should have been enforced all this time and then not only the people of Minnesota but industry themselves would not be at this point. (:11)
That law limits Sulfate to 10 MG/L of water.
It was never enforced and for the past few years there’s been talk of changing the regulation.
The tribes do not want to do that to happen
Another main finding in the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe’s report identifies which bodies of water in the state are wild rice waters — where the regulation should be enforced.
It turns out different agencies have different lists.
NORTHBIRD: The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency may not have the same definition or common agreements with the Minnesota DNR as far as what constitutes as a wild rice water. (:23)
The tribal wild rice task force recommends combining all these lists.
The final number of wild rice waters would include more than 2,300 lakes.
The final main point of the tribal report comes from scientific data collected in water throughout the state.
Using this data the report identifies one area where water sulfate levels are the highest -
— it’s around the mines in the northern half of the arrowhead.
Michael Northbird, Environmental Program Manager for the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe says he wants this to be clear.
He says there’s been a lot of confusion about whether municipal waste water treatment plants would have to install expensive equipment.
NORTHBIRD: You had a bunch of people that were not going to be affected by any of it. It wasn’t going to cost them or their customers or rate payers any more extra. But they’re showing up at press conferences and making up hypotheticals like who’s to stop someone from saying our little waste pond we built last year is all of a sudden going to grow wild rice and you know what I mean - they did a really good job of building up that fear in people that was just completely unwarranted. (:28)
The report has been delivered to state legislators.
And Michael Northbird the Tribal Wild Rice Task Force hopes they take it seriously.
For Minnesota Native News, I’m Melissa Townsend.
STORY #2 - Nibi Pop Up in Duluth
The American Indian Community Housing Organization is hosting the first of a series of events at the new Indigenous Market in Duluth.
Ivy Vainio [VINE-ee-oh] is Art, Climate and Culture Coordinator at AICHO.
She says the Aqua-nibi pop-up on January 31st focuses on the Anishinaabe spiritual and cultural understanding of water.
VAINIO: To put a spotlight on the traditions and the understanding of why Anishinaabe do certain things with ceremony, with songs, with honoring the water will be a part of this. (:11)
There will also be a focus on the physical health benefits of drinking clean water.
AICHO bought the 4th Street Market in the Hillside neighborhood last July.
Over the next two years leaders plan to build an indigenous deli, coffee shop and art gallery in the space.
In the meantime, the organization is hosting a series of pop ups to engage the community.
The events are supported by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Notah Begay [note-uh beg-gay] 3 Foundation.
This week on Minnesota Native news we hear about an exhibit that tells the story of how AIM grew out of Stillwater prison, and a cross-cultural group of neighbors talk about the Dakota history of Lake Hiawatha in Minneapolis.
STORY #1 - INCARCERATION EXHIBIT— 3:40
A new exhibit of photos provides a look into cultural education programs for Native inmates at Stillwater Prison in the 1960s and 70s.
Reporter Melissa Townsend explored the exhibit and has this story.
REPORTER: Well, let’s do an intro of you - do you want to introduce yourself?
BIRD: My name is Eric Bird and I’m archivist and curator at AIM Interpretive Center. (:09)
The center on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis is basically an archive of all things AIM.
BIRD: Yea, the center means to tell the story of the movement from the beginnings from a local anti-police brutality patrol to national and international activism for indigenous people. (:08)
Eric and I are standing in front of a wall of photos - part of the current exhibit called The Great Spirit within “The Hole”.
Each image is from inside Stillwater Prison in the early 1980s where Clyde Bellecourt and Eddie Benton-Banai led a program teaching Native inmates about Ojibwe culture.
They started it in 1962.
BELLECOURT: We had it twice a week, culture program. Every time we had a meeting we started with a drum because that drum was sacred. (:08)
Clyde Bellecourt says many of the men there were hearing these cultural lessons for the very first time.
BELLECOURT: You learn all about the Ojibwe culture and sundances and all that — which we didn’t know nothing about. They don’t teach that in the public and parochial school system. (:10)
Curator Eric Bird describes the photos.
BIRD: Some of the pictures show the walls of the classrooms are full of AIM posters and flyers from the broad so-called Red Power movement and Indian Resistance.
REPORTER: There’s something about it, like - without those pictures, drawings on the walls, they’d be blank right - so it’s a blank space that they then fill with the images that they choose. They are not compromised images right. They’re like, these are drawings we drew, and we are teaching ourselves … like we are creating our image of who we are.
BIRD: mmhmm. (:42)
As a young man in Stillwater prison in the 1960s, - Bellecourt was held in solitary confinement because he wouldn’t follow orders.
For one, he refused to work a prison job.
BELLECOURT: People got their fingers torn off from spinning twine for the state of Minnesota others had their fingers stamped from making license plates. (:11)
But - with the support of the warden — Bellecourt connected with Eddie Benton-Binai.
And the two created a space where they were asked Native inmates to explore their own identities as Native men.
Eric Bird, the curator of the AIM Interpretive Center exhibit says their experience in prison spurred many AIM founders to find power within themselves and a path forward - out of prison.
BIRD: The experience of incarceration is something that’s very important in autobiographies of AIM leaders. I’m thinking of Clyde Bellecourt, Dennis Banks, Eddie Benton-Banai. (:11)
These kinds of cultural education programs are no longer in Minnesota state prisons.
But one man is leading an effort to change that.
John Poupart is lobbying for funding for cultural programs to encourage Native inmates - both men and women - to find the Red Road.
It could ease re-entry into the community and reduce recidivism.
He says he is hopeful that with the first Ojibwe Lieutenant Governor in office — this issue may gain the attention it deserves.
For Minnesota Native News, I’m Melissa Townsend.
STORY #2 — (1:24)
Lake Hiawatha Park in Minneapolis has a small lake with a beach, a large meadow with trees, and an 18 hole golf course.
The Minneapolis parks board is currently redesigning this space.
And on January 9th, about 60 people - including park officials and community members met to hear about the Dakota history of this land.
NELSON: We started a conversation and we hope to continue it with people and build better relationships with each other and with our environment. (:08)
Denise Nelson is with the Healing Place Collaborative based in the Twin Cities.
And she organized Dakota members of the community to speak at the community meeting.
Ramona Kitto Stately talked about her family’s history here and how it’s often invisible.
Ethan Neerdaels spoke about the history of treaties and Dakota expulsion.
And Samantha Majhor talked about the power of the Dakota language and how it is everywhere — and yet not formally recognized.
The crowed of mostly white neighbors listened and were full of suggestions.
Could park signage be bilingual - in both English and Dakotah?
Could there be landscape elements that are significant to Dakota ways of life?
A representative from the Park Board says this is one of many community meetings that will inform the park board’s plans for the Lake Hiawatha land.
An engaging conversation featuring prominent Native artists… inspires audience members to reflect on their own artistry.
Marie: This is Minnesota Native News, I’m Marie Rock.
Headlines: Coming up…:
An engaging conversation featuring prominent Native artists… inspires audience members to reflect on their own artistry.
Here is reporter Leah Lemm with the story…
STORY #1 - GET REAL: A NATIVE FEMINIST ARTISTS DIALOGUE
REPORTER: The conversation called GET REAL: A NATIVE FEMINIST ARTISTS DIALOGUE, included several well-known Native artists, and drew so much interest… the location had to be moved from a gallery space to an auditorium at Augsburg University.
Choreographer Rosy Simas put the dialogue together…. It sprung from her latest dance project… WEAVE… a performance featured in the Ordway’s Music & Movement Series.
The conversation reflected WEAVE’S Native feminist foundation.
ROSY SIMAS: Weave is a dance project that is a piece… that is many stories woven together of individual people through a Native feminist lens. So the discussion that we had was really centering the voices of Native feminist artists.
REPORTER: The artists speaking on stage, included Rosy Simas, Sharon M. Day, Marcie Rendon, Elizabeth Day, Heid E. Erdrich, and Rhiana Yazzie.
ROSY SIMAS: Those particular artists are really the people who have been involved in Native performing arts in the Twin Cities for the last like 20, 30 years. It just so happens that, they're all women. All have very deep and strong cultural and community backgrounds.
REPORTER: This talk was one of several community engagement events aimed at complementing the WEAVE dance performance… which happens January 12th.
ROSY SIMAS: I hope that people will come to this show, but mostly I hope that they will begin to spend more time with Native women work.
REPORTER: During the talk, many different subjects were brought up, from grant applications to the significance of dreams.
I talked with several audience members who all found relatable and inspiring moments during the conversation. So I’ll let the audience members pick a few highlights.
Jada Brown is a a singer, pianist and spoken word poet. During the discussion the panel was asked about how they define excellence in their own art.
JADA BROWN: Marcy was talking about emotional exchange as a way of thinking about, um, like pushing back against this idea of like, excellent. And it's like this idea of emotional exchange that is really important and valued in that reflection of seeing one owns, seeing one another in ones work.
REPORTER: Here’s Marcy Rendon during the conversation.
MARCIE RENDON: I remember one of the first times that I read my poetry on stage, it was at the O'Shaughnessy and there was a role of Native women sitting in the front row. And I, and I was unsure of my poetic ability and so I would, you know, I was just looking down here, reading my things and I peeked up and the three of the women were crying.
And it was that kind of feedback that said that this, this thing that I was doing was worth continuing to do.
REPORTER: I also spoke with event attendee, Becky Wolf.
BECKY WOLF: The dialogue was very inspiring, just to see so many awesome creative women onstage is really amazing. I really love Heid’s piece at the end about the imagery of women coming together and movements.
REPORTER: Heid had commented on the Women’s March, Idle No More, and the on-going “women’s wall” for gender equality in India - how art and resistance are connected.
Heid E Erdrich: One of the things that strikes me is that, um, the power of imagery. In, you know, the power to create something like an iconic image of women's resistance and how that can be done.
REPORTER: And audience member and stage actor, Oogie, wants to branch out in various forms of artistic mediums.
OOGIE Pushetonequa: I think I'm just seeing them up there is really inspiring and actually sparked ideas for me that I can continue doing as an actor and a storyteller.
I want to transition into film acting, but I also, I don't know, I want to do multimedia productions. I'm just using video content and imagery and just finding different ways to tell stories using multiple mediums.
REPORTER: During introductions, the artists on the panel each listed off many types of artistry that they work in. Rosy added…
ROSY SIMAS: I have actually yet to meet a Native artist that works in one genre. So I think there's something about the like being able to express ourselves in multiple ways that… I don't know, there's just something about that that's just feels more natural.
REPORTER: More information about WEAVE can be found at ROSYSIMASWEAVE DOT COM.
For Minnesota Native News, I’m Leah Lemm.
This week on Minnesota Native News, we talk to historian and producer Dr. Kate Beane, who recently released the documentary, Ohiyesa: Soul of an Indian. The documentary follows her on a journey – more than a decade long — to examine the life and historical significance of her relative, Charles Eastman, a celebrated Dakota writer and physician.
INTRO: This week on Minnesota Native News, we talk to historian and producer Dr. Kate Beane, who recently released the documentary, Ohiyesa: Soul of an Indian.
The documentary follows her on a journey – more than a decade long -- to examine the life and
historical significance of her relative, Charles Eastman, a celebrated Dakota writer and
Reporter Cole Premo has more.
[Sounds of documentary/intro remarks on Eastman]
Recently released documentary, “Ohiyesa: Soul Of An Indian”, explores the life of Ohiyesa, who is also known by his english name, Charles Eastman.
Born in 1858 in Redwood Falls, Minnesota, Ohiyesa was part of the last generation to experience how Dakota life was before the tribe’s removal from their native lands.
He was only 4 years old when the Dakota war occurred, also known at the Sioux uprising of 1862. With his father thought killed in the war, Ohiyesa then lived in exile for 11 years in Manitoba.
Then, his family settled in Flandreau in eastern South Dakota.
That family includes Dr. Kate Beane, who now lives in Minnesota and works at the Minnesota Historical Society. She co-produced the documentary along with her father, Syd Beane.
In the Dakota way, Ohiyesa is Kate Beane’s grandfather. In the english way, he’d be considered her great uncle.
KATE:“I would say that my grandfather, Charles Eastman, he lived a really interesting life. I think that he lived a life that really highlights and is reflective of a lot of the struggles our community has gone through, um, but is also distinct and a lot of different ways.”
The film is not just a biography.
Not only does the documentary offer a view of Ohiyesa’s life, the documentary also follows Kate Beane’s journey of looking into his life and her own journey as a Dakota scholar.
I asked her why this technique was used…
KATE: “That was my dad's decision. Um, and actually it was something that I fought for 12 years. My Dad essentially asked me if I would help him do you work or do research work on this documentary and I love being in the archives. I love doing research. Um, I'm a very private person and so I said, yeah, I would love to do it. Um, and then he kind of tricked me and turn the camera on me.”
Kate Beane says what she thought might be a straight documentary with some talking heads became much more personal.
KATE: “I also trust and love my father and his vision. And what he really felt is that in order for the story of my grandfather to be better understood today, that he needed a younger storyteller, that he needed to make it relatable to contemporary society in some way to also highlight the ways in which the work that my grandfather was doing this still the work that we're doing today to make connections to the past.”
Back to Ohiyesa: his life would include cutting off his long native hair, going to boarding school and later Dartmouth college -- where Kate Beane would attend over 100 years later.
KATE: “You know, we started the film, we didn't know that I was going to get the Charles Eastman fellowship at Dartmouth. I hadn't even met my husband yet. I didn't know it was gonna end up moving to Pine Ridge. Um, and so it's interesting to me now looking back and seeing the way in which our lives really did parallel each other.”
Eastman then got a medical degree at Boston College, becoming the nation’s second native doctor.
One part of his incredible life experiences includes being the agency physician in Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He said it was a bleak and desolate place, but it’s also where he says he realized the dream of his life, to be of some service to his people.
In 1890, he also experienced the Wounded Knee Massacre.
[EXCERPT OF THAT FROM DOCUMENTARY] 29:24
In fact, Dr. Kate Beane says part of what sparked the inspiration for her documentary was the dramatic HBO movie, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.
KATE: “Which was based on deep Brown's Book and which was a wonderful book, but the, the movie that they, that they showed, um, was very different than the book. And in fact, I think dee Dee Brown's descendants, I think his own son who was a historian, said they basically just took the title.”
She says that the TV story featuring her grandfather Charles Eastman was more fiction than truth.
KATE: ”They made him an English speaker who didn't understand his language. They also really changed our history and Lakota history and made for a confusing story that was really historically inaccurate.”
She says it was time for her family to speak up and tell his story correctly, in the documentary.
KATE: “I tried to get as much firsthand account information from relatives as possible as well as oral history interviews. And in doing that work, we started understanding our grandfather, Charles Eastman and in a very different way.”
Eastman is arguably best known for his writings. His first book, Indian Boyhood, was published in 1902.
KATE: “what I find really interesting in his writing is the way in which he starts talking about his life and Indian boyhood. And then from the deep was this civilization. And he kind of takes you on this journey with him. So Indian boyhood is from a child perspective, from the deep woods is from this young man's perspective. And as you went through live, his writing changed and became much more critical of the United States and of Christianity and of these things that he had embraced and he ended up going back to the woods because that's where he felt comfortable.”
Charles Eastman wrote a total of 11 books and all of them were successful, with many translated into multiple languages.
KATE: “our hope is that people honor him and remember him for what he contributed. And for the ways in which he helped share who we are as Dakota people with the world, you know, all the beauty of who we are and really focusing on on that positivity because that's a value that we have within the Dakota Wicohan, is to, to remember to be positive and to think about the beauty of who we are and where we come from.”
We only really scratched the surface of Eastman’s life… for more, you can stream or purchase the documentary “Ohiyesa: Soul of an Indian” online.
I’m Cole Premo.
For nearly 10 months a tent city has been growing along a 6 lane stretch of road on the south side of Minneapolis. The encampment of homeless people has been dubbed the Wall of Forgotten Natives for the many Native people staying there. This week a new shelter is opening on a plot of land in Minneapolis owned by the Red Lake Nation. Reporter Melissa Townsend tells us what’s next for the residents of the camp and the shelter.
HEADLINES This week on Minnesota Native News, the plan to help Natives experiencing homelessness in Minneapolis and beyond.
For nearly 10 months a tent city has been growing along a 6 lane stretch of road on the south side of Minneapolis.
The encampment of homeless people has been dubbed the Wall of Forgotten Natives for the many Native people staying there.
This week a new shelter is opening on a plot of land in Minneapolis owned by the Red Lake Nation.
Reporter Melissa Townsend tells us more.
REPORTER: The 1.5 million dollar shelter is called a Navigation center and it is unlike any other shelter in the city.
it is staffed with people offering support services - hence the name,
It’s open 24 hours a day so no one is forced to leave during daytime hours —
and there are no sobriety requirements for entry.
It is also temporary. The shelter which opened this week is slated to close in May.
Minneapolis city officials say they are moving camp residents from their tents to the navigation center this week.
But they haven’t given any details on what will happen to the tent camp or the people who say they want to stay there.
Many Native led organizations in the area support moving people out of the camp into the navigation center.
GOZEE: I just haven’t found the camp to be a sustainable housing option. And I don’t agree that keeping people in such dire straits is such a good thing. (:15)
Michael Gozee is CEO of the American Indian Community Development Corporation.
The non-profit builds and manages permanent supportive housing complexes around the American Indian Cultural Corridor.
Gozee says the navigation center will help people stay safe and warm this winter but in the end - that’s not nearly enough.
GOZEE: That’s my concern with the Navigation enter—- we are going to provide a level of housing for a number of months. But then what?
While all this has been happening — the Minneapolis city council just passed a new plan with $40 million dollars to build new affordable housing in the city.
Gozee says that’s great - but will it be the kind of supportive housing he thinks folks in the camp really need?
GOZEE: The level of intensity that we need to help the people that are struggling the hardest is greater. (:09)
Gozee wants to see super affordable units with support services like case management.
GOZEE: We’ve been very successful with providing housing with supportive services. We have some case managers who can work with the people because I see that the more people we have helping them works best. (:15)
From the first city wide meetings about the homeless encampment, city leaders talked about developing a short term solution and a long term solution.
Apparently the short term solution is here — the Navigation Center.
Now, what about the long term solution?
How will city, county, state and tribal leaders provide appropriate housing AND SERVICES to help people move their lives in a positive direction.
GOZEE: There have been small conversations but there’s never been a strategic conversation with all the players brought to the table to have meaningful conversation in regards to next steps…(:16)
Gozee says it’ll take a lot of talk and a lot of money.
GOZEE: You know Minnesota really has the ability to provide a greater level of support for the less fortunate of every community no matter whether it’s here or Fergus Falls. I think that has to be looked at. (:16)
In the meantime there will be some folks int eh navigation center, probably some folks still in the camp and untold number of people scattered under bridges, and along road sides around the region.
For Minnesota Native News, I’m Melissa Townsend.
Youth display their photography at the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center in Duluth,
And a language teacher finds his own way to reach language learners…
Marie: This is Minnesota Native News, I’m Marie Rock.
Headlines: Coming up…:
Youth display their photography at the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center in Duluth,
And a language teacher finds his own way to reach language learners…
Here is reporter Leah Lemm with these stories…
STORY #1 - AICHO YOUTH PHOTOGRAPHY
REPORTER: The American Indian Community Housing Organization or “AICHO” hosted an evening reception dedicated to a photography exhibit called Growing Our Way, a series of photos by Native youth that explores Indigenous food sovereignty.
The youth spent a week during the summer creating photography and writings related to their experiences.
Now, their work has culminated in an exhibit and AICHO’s 2019 calendar.
I spoke with Patience, a budding photographer:
PATIENCE: I am nine. I am in fourth grade. It's pretty much great. But there are a few problems with drama. I try not to get in it.
REPORTER: This wise young person spoke about her experience in the photography class and a few places they got to visit. The photographs depicted the youth near or in the water, in gardens, holding traditional food and medicines.
PATIENCE: We went up the roof to take a few pictures, and the garden, they took us to the shore by the water. There's a whole bunch of rocks and stuff so we all sat down on them and start taking pictures.
REPORTER: A couple photographs of Patience were featured in the exhibit and in the calendar.
PATIENCE: I have one of me holding strawberries.
REPORTER: And each photo had a phrase written by the youth.
PATIENCE: I said I like strawberries because it's spiritual food.
REPORTER: Patience’s mother was all smiles when talking about the opportunities at AICHO.
CHRISTIE: They have lots of children's programs and after school programs and stuff for the kids to get involved in, they have the gardening and just the better living, better living program, you know, healthier, healthier ways of living.
It was nice to see how mature she can be in handling them, you know, expensive cameras.
REPORTER: Way to go, Patience!
STORY #2 - LANGUAGE TEACHER USES SOCIAL MEDIA TO REACH LEARNERS
REPORTER: Next, I spoke with James Vukelich, an Ojibwe language instructor. He’s a Turtle Mountain descendent, who lives in Minneapolis.
JAMES VUKELICH: I really didn't hear the language until I was around 25 years old.
REPORTER: And now he reaches many people through daily videos shared on social media. Originally, he was studying French and happened upon an Ojibwe language class.
JAMES VUKELICH: I took it and it was the most fascinating language I have ever studied in my life.
REPORTER: And he kept it up.
I had a chance to record and do field work with elders and first language speakers and yeah, that's where I really began learning of the in depth mechanics of the language as well as spiritual teaching that would be embedded in so many words.
REPORTER: Now, James hosts Ojibwe Word of the Day on social media where he goes in depth, including spiritual teachings and history. Many videos are just minutes long, and few are over about 15 minutes… making the lessons very accessible for the daily listener.
What inspires James is that elders who didn’t speak their language can now freely learn. You see, James’ family is like many others… whose parents and grandparents were raised going to boarding schools, and not speaking their language or practicing their culture.
JAMES VUKELICH: My mom's example, what she shared with me was, she went to a boarding school. Her mother went to a boarding school, my grandmother, and they weren't raised with the language. They weren't raised with the culture, and that was the case with so many indigenous people here on Turtle Island, not just in the United States, but in Canada as well.
REPORTER: Language learners from these generations have expressed their thanks to James for sharing the words and teachings that he was able to learn from other elders. And they can do it easily on their phones or computers.
JAMES VUKELICH: How can I get this to as many people as possible who probably want to have a little bit of Ojibwe and their life every day. And it started off with just simply some words and a citation link to the dictionary so they could click on the link.
REPORTER: But he found that a lot of people needed to hear the pronunciation.
JAMES VUKELICH: So that's when I began making the videos to accompany each word so you could see them on your phone.
REPORTER: More information about James can be found at JAMESVUKELICH DOT COM, including a link to his Facebook page.That’s James V-U-K-E-L-I-C-H DOT COM. For Minnesota Native News, I’m Leah Lemm.
This week on Minnesota Native News: We hear about the Minnesota Historical Society’s decision to keep a historic native burial site in northern Minnesota closed to the general public, and how tribes are working together to protect the site. Here’s reporter Cole Premo.
Far up in extreme northern Minnesota, at the US-Canada border near International Falls, lies a site of cultural and historical importance.
Let’s paint a picture of sorts...
[Sounds of wind/trees]
Along the Rainy River, there’s this grouping of native history called the Grand Mound Historic Site. It’s comprised of five sacred burial mounds, ancient villages and sturgeon fishing sites that were developed over 2,000 years ago.
The mounds stretch from west to east along the river. One of the mounds is a bit further inland than the other four mounds. This is the Grand Mound.
Rising out of the brush and trees at about 25 feet high and 140 feet long, Grand Mound is the largest Native American earthwork in Minnesota, as well as the largest surviving prehistoric structure in the upper midwest and the only effigy mound of this type in Minnesota.
It’s an area where native peoples gathered and fished for more than a millennia.
MATTIE: “These mounds were sites that were active in the springtime during the, the time when the sturgeon would spawn. And so native people would gather there, um, you know, during the spring and a village in a village, sites would, would pop up and they would have big feasts. but you know, as happens when, when native people get together, there'd be other things, right?”
That’s Dr. Mattie Harper. She’s the Program and Outreach Manager of the American Indian Initiatives team at the Minnesota Historical Society. She’s also Ojibwe and a citizen of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe in northern Minnesota.
MATTIE: “People often did secondary burials there, so maybe they would be out in the winter and smaller camps in a relative might die and they, they could put their remains. I'm usually on it like a scaffold. And then they would just bring certain parts of the body or the bone back to the village site.”
The fact that there are only parts of many of the deceased at the mound, means it’s difficult to pinpoint a figure of exactly how many are there. However, based on excavations of other mounds, they have an idea.
MATTIE: “There's not a certain count because archaeologists haven't excavated grand mound, which is a good thing to see how many people are represented there. But um, you know, it's estimated it could be up to 5,000 individuals.”
Dr. Mattie Harper says based on different forms of research -- like archeology, linguistic research and oral history -- it’s believed that Dakota, Ojibwe, Blackfeet, Cree and the A’a- ni-nin tribes have descendants of those buried at the site.
And that brings us to the news at hand.
The Minnesota Historical Society has owned Grand Mound Historic Site since 1970 and opened a visitor center in 1976. It was operated as publicly accessible histo ric site until budget cuts forced its closure in 2002. Since then, the site became an official National Historic Landmark in 2011.
But questions have remained: should the historical site be reopened to the public? Or should it remain closed, and be transferred to native control?
With the sacred site on track to possibly reopen in 2018, Dr. Mattie Harper -- along with Joe Horse Capture and Kate Beane -- worked and met with tribes for mon ths to answer these questions.
MATTIE: “It was just the overwhelming opinion of native people that the site should be closed to the general public, you know, that it wouldn't, they wouldn't be comfortable, would it be appropriate to have people sort of traipsing around and viewing it like a tourist site.”
Harper says that, during the process, the biggest challenge was building trust between tribes and the Minnesota Historical Society.
MATTIE: “MNHS has had a long and trouble relationship and history with native communities in the state. And so that is still evident when I go out and try to work with communities…. there have been a lot of times in the past or you know, MNHS hasn't really taken into account what native people feel and think.”
However, these meetings with tribes seemed to have struck a chord with MNHS leadership and the decision was made in late October to keep the site closed to the general public with the exception of Native Americans.
Harper says it’s a huge win for natives considering the fact that MNHS had a lot of political pressure from non-native communities to reopen the site.
MATTIE: “So this was really a big victory, I feel like for native Americans. It's kind of a signal of how MNHS as an institution is shifting to like sort of shifted priorities because by, by making this decision to close the site to the general public and keep it open for native Americans, it's really signaling that the institution is listening to native communities.”
Harper said she’s been pleased to see how well tribes are working together on this issue, despite differing cultural opinions.
MATTIE: “Ojibwe and Dakota people have been working really well together and have expressed a mutual and shared interest.”
No decision has been made on the site’s immediate future, but the Minnesota Historical Society says it’s working on a quote “long-range plan that could include a the possible transfer of the site to a Native American tribe or tribes.”
MATTIE: “In the interim, which could be one to five years, um, we have to figure out how to manage it appropriately and so that is to keep it close to the general public, but we also are going to provide educational materials and interpretation and in some places.”
I’m Cole Premo.