Bemidjigamaag Powwow is Saturday

The Northbird Singers perform at the Dec. 6, 2014 Great Northern Radio Show in Walker, Minnesota. Dancers from Leech Lake, Red Lake and White Earth bands of Ojibwe will participate in Saturday's Bemidjimagaag Powwow at the Sanford Center in Bemidji. (Grant Frashier)

The Northbird Singers perform at the Dec. 6, 2014 Great Northern Radio Show in Walker, Minnesota. Dancers from Leech Lake, Red Lake and White Earth bands of Ojibwe will participate in Saturday’s Bemidjimagaag Powwow at the Sanford Center in Bemidji. (PHOTO: Grant Frashier)

When the first-ever Bemidjimagaag Powwow was held last year at the Sandford Center arena in Bemidji, Minnesota, something powerful took place. In a community marked by past tensions between natives and whites, people from the three Ojibwe bands that border the city and those of non-native ancestry joined together for a shared powwow.

Following up on the hard work of the Bemidji Truth and Reconciliation Committee, which also led to the Shaynowishkung statue dedication last June, bilingual signage may now be found all over the city. The Bemidjimagaag Powwow ended up becoming a moment of healing and growth for a community that has strived to change hearts and minds about the state’s troubling history with its Ojibwe people.

But as many acknowledged that day, one good day does not relieve anyone from the daily work of listening to each other with respect. For instance, when the comedian Ralphie May was scheduled for a show at the Sandford Center earlier this month, controversy erupted over racist material he had performed about Native Americans in a video. May’s performance in Bemidji ended up being cancelled after pressure not only from native groups, but non-native city officials as well.

WATCH: Powerful video by Red Lake rapper Thomas X highlights native issues with musical honesty

Bemidji continues its process of growth and healing with the second annual edition of the Bemijdimagaag Powwow this Saturday. Once again, dancers from the Leech Lake, Red Lake, and White Earth bands of Ojibwe will participate. People of all ages and backgrounds are invited to attend this free event, which includes a community feast.

Here’s the event description from the Sandford Center event page:

This historic event will again feature the tradition of POWWOW in its entirety with the use of Jumbotron footage, camera operators, special arena staging, arena sound system, and a live radio broadcast. In addition to the first grand entry at 1 p.m., a communal feast will be hosted starting at 5 p.m. and served by members of City Council, Minnesota House Rep. John Persell, and other dignitaries within the region. Food for this communal feast is being provided by MarketPlace Foods, Red Lake, and Leech Lake with additional items provide by Cole Paper. For the second time, both Native and non-Indigenous people will have the opportunity come together to embrace each other’s cultures, and our state’s heritage in this Free Community event.

I know many people who attended last year’s event and spoke highly of the experience. The experience is designed to be very welcoming for newcomers with lots of explanation of what’s going on. If you’re in the area, please check it out.

NOTE: Northern Community Radio, which produces my Great Northern Radio Show, was an early partner and remains a major sponsor of the Bemidjimagaag Powwow.

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