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Giving Thanks: Indigenous Culture Center Progresses Native Programs at Northland

ASHLAND, Wis. – As Thanksgiving approaches, staff working for the Native American and Indigenous Culture Center (NAICC) at Northland College are grateful to see the center expanding opportunities and outreach to native students and tribal communities. The center was established in September 2011 with a $161,383 grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation. The grant has allowed the college to expand on educational initiatives spearheaded by its Native American Studies program, as well as fund staff, educational programs, and provide additional resources for Native American students.

James Pete, director of the NAICC, has been coordinating cultural teaching that supports Native traditions and raises cultural awareness for Native and non-Native community members. Pete says the college’s annual Thanksgiving Feast and Convocation ceremony is just one event that raises awareness of native ways.

“Part of having a Thanksgiving gathering is to try to help people understand the various cultural complexities that we have,” said Pete. “We want to honor traditions, honor our ancestors, honor the food that’s being provided, honor the people that provide that, as well as be able to socialize with each other in a positive way and create awareness about one aspect of our traditional Anishinaabe lifestyles.”

In the last year, NAICC staff have been hard at work promoting native education and outreach. The college hosted notable tribal speakers Josephine Mandamin, who organized the 2011 Mother Earth Water Walk, and Chief Arvol Looking Horse. Chief Looking Horse is a chief and spiritual leader for the three nations of the Sioux tribe whose prayers have been recited at meetings of the United Nations.

In addition, the NAICC staff have sought to encourage and support Native American students and families seeking further education, including four-year degrees. They have attended festivals, Pow Wows and conferences in Wisconsin and nationwide to seek out opportunities for native students. In October, staff attended the National Indian Education Association Convention in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In 2013, the Native American Student Association at Northland College plans to attend the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“The future of the center is really bright and exciting,” said Katrina Werchouski, Native American and Indigenous Culture Center fellow at Northland College. “We have student workers in the Native American Indigenous Culture Center that are working on things like helping maintain the Native American Museum on campus and helping us with some of these summits and conferences coming up so they have experience organizing these things and networking and meeting people in the community.”
Werchouski and Pete say they’re considering a variety of offerings through the center as they plan for the future. Staff are enhancing connections with regional tribes, exploring tribal radio programming, expanding community programming and organizing panel discussions to raise awareness on a range of issues facing Native American communities.

Created in 1944, the Otto Bremer Foundation assists people in achieving full economic, civic andsocial participation in and for the betterment of their communities. This mission is based on the intent of founder Otto Bremer. His vision and longstanding commitment to communities during and after the Great Depression are carried forward today through the Foundation’s work in the places that are homes and neighbors to Bremer banks. The Foundation strives to help build healthy, vibrant communities—communities where basic needs are met, mutual regard is prized and opportunities for economic, civic and social participation are within everyone’s reach.

The Otto Bremer Foundation owns 92 percent of Bremer Bank, and receives an equivalent share of the bank profits that are paid out as dividends. This means that a large portion of bank profit is invested back in local communities through grants and program-related investments.

Northland College is a traditional liberal arts and sciences college with aunique focus on the environment and sustainability. Northland College and its Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute are located in Ashland, Wis., near the shores of Lake Superior. The College is broadly recognized as a leader in sustainability education having adopted the focus as its mission in 1971. Founded in 1892, Northland now enrolls 600 students from across the nation and across the world. For more information about Northland College and its Institute, visit our website at www.northland.edu.

Source: Press Release


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