CLC celebrates life, culture
Some current Central Lakes College students might not have been alive the last time the college hosted a powwow. But Tuesday, for the first time since 1990, Native American dancers returned to the campus, dressed in dazzling traditional dress, da...
Some current Central Lakes College students might not have been alive the last time the college hosted a powwow.
But Tuesday, for the first time since 1990, Native American dancers returned to the campus, dressed in dazzling traditional dress, dancing and stepping to the rhythm of the drummers.
Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Elder Dorothy Sam led the assembled group of about 150 students, faculty and community members in an invocation, welcoming them to the event. She spoke in the Ojibwe language and, after her address, members of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe American Indian Veterans Post 53 led the dancers into the gym.
U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and CLC President Larry Lundblad joined the dancers in the processional, and each took turns addressing the crowd.
The powwow's return to the college was a great occasion, Nolan said. Events like powwows showcase the complexity, experiences and differences among people, he said, all of which adds to the tapestry of life.
"What beauty we're witnessing today," Nolan said.
The powwow is tied into the arrival at the college of a traveling exhibit, "Why Treaties Matter." Nolan said he's reminded of this every time he enters the U.S. House of Representatives building in Washington D.C. and sees a bust of Chief Buffalo, an Ojibwa leader who lived from 1759-1855.
"One of the few chiefs that ever had his bust placed in the Capitol while he was still alive," Nolan said.
When Chief Buffalo was 92 years old, Nolan said, along with other leaders, he decided to canoe to Washington D.C. to speak with the president, as his people were starving. He eventually made it, Nolan said, and went right to the White House and knocked on the door to speak with President Franklin Pierce. Those discussions were the foundation of the Treaty of 1854.
"And I like to remind my colleagues of it, because it's symbolic of the long journey that is so often required in order to bring people together," Nolan said. "In order to save lives, in order to learn how to share culture."
On a lighter note, Nolan shared a story from his high school years about his history with the Mille Lacs Band. A basketball team from the tribe was coming to Brainerd to play a game and a car broke down on the way, he said, resulting in the team being a player short.
"So I signed up to play for the Band," Nolan said. "And wouldn't you know it, I actually scored a couple of baskets for the Mille Lacs Band of the Ojibwe."
Nolan's substitution caused problems with his coaches, he said, as they told him it was against the rules for him to play for more than two teams in a season. He had to quit the team in order to keep the squad from forfeiting the games he played in.
"So I got kicked off the team," Nolan said. "But I'm proud of that."
Nolan thanked the host drum, Timber Trails, and recognized Bette Sam, chair of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Ladies Auxiliary. Band members know a powwow is a celebration of life, he said.
"What a wonderful celebration it is," Nolan said. "I'm absolutely certain in my heart of hearts Chief Buffalo is smiling down on all of us today."
Lundblad said the college is thrilled to serve as host for the powwow, which serves as the kickoff for the "Why Treaties Matter" exhibit.
"CLC is committed to honoring the traditions and culture of our native population," Lundblad said. "Many of which are students and certainly neighbors."
It's been 25 years since the college has hosted a powwow, Lundblad said, "and we're looking forward to this happening on a regular basis."
Following the remarks from Nolan and Lundblad, powwow emcee Byron Ninham introduced a series of songs, each honoring something different like the flag or veterans. Drummers seated around a drum pounded the leather and sang traditional songs.
The pounding of the drums and the full-throated singing reverberated off the walls of the gym as dancers stepped and moved the the rhythm. The tassels and feathers on the traditional dresses shook as the dancers moved in practiced motions, performing dances that have been performed for hundreds of years.
Nolan himself even started loosening up, swinging his arms and stepping in rhythm with the other dances, while a tiny tots dance featured diminutive dancers moving to the drum beat.
SPENSER BICKETT may be reached at 218-855-5859 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/spenserbickett .