I want to thank the District 181 School Board for extending the naming process and requesting a culturally diverse committee in future decision-making.
On Feb. 22, I spoke at the board meeting, requesting a more inclusive search, proposing the following name as an example, with this explanation: “Brainerd Mizi Ziibi Cultural Center.”
Brainerd: Recognizable geographical location. Brainerd was the maiden name of John Gregory Smith’s wife, Anne Eliza. Smith was President of the Northern Pacific Railroad, 1881. Historical reference.
Mizi Ziibi: Ojibwe word for Mississippi — Big River; Father of Waters. (English likely a mispronunciation of Mizi Ziibi by settlers). BHS is located on the Mississippi. By using Ojibwe terms, the culture, history, and origin people of the region are recognized. Historical affirmation, plus, present and future inclusion.
Cultural: Culture goes beyond “Arts and Music.” Culture encompasses languages, traditions, cuisine, fashion, and social mores. Broaden the vision of this new space and add diversity.
Center: Gathering place. The sacred circle. No one is at the head of the table. Room for expanding community, welcoming — embracing future demographics.
I contacted Mary Sam, Central Lakes College Dean of Students, Equity and Inclusion, for her input. In turn, she contacted the Brainerd Indian Parent Committee. She reported back, “It is safe to say the Brainerd Indian Education Parent Committee is in full support of the name.”
With that, I whole-heartedly offer: “Brainerd Mizi Ziibi Cultural Center” for our new space.
For all of the reasons I brought forth at the meeting (Google Brainerd School Board Meetings, Feb. 22) and those outlined here, I ask that the new name be strong; inclusive; and if not the above, a name that will honor and welcome all cultures here now and yet to arrive in the future.
Thank you and MiiGwetch.