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Minnesota Native News

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Minnesota Native News is a weekly radio segment covering ideas and events relevant to Minnesota’s Native American communities. Made possible by the Minnesota Art's and Cultural Heritage fund


Dr. Birx Visits Fond Du Lac Tribe & Vision Maker Media’s Online Native Film Fest

This week on Minnesota Native News, a top COVID-19 federal health official, Dr. Deborah Birx, recently visited Minnesota, and talked about her experience with the Fond du Lac tribe in Duluth. We also hear about an online native film festival that features some Minnesota native creators. 

Here’s Cole Premo with more. 


As August drew to a close, the White House’s coronavirus task force coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, visited Minnesota and met with both state and tribal officials. 

BIRX: “Good afternoon, it’s really a privilege to be here in Minnesota.”

At a news conference in St. Paul, Dr. Birx said she’s impressed with how Minnesota has responded to the pandemic using a data-driven approach, including the state’s comprehensive testing that has been implemented in long-term care facilities. 

However, Birx says she’s concerned with the rate of positive cases the state is seeing in the Twin Cities and surrounding counties. 

BIRX: “This state has gone from two, to five, to now nine counties over 10 percent. That trend is worrisome this late into this summer.”

To combat rising cases, Birx is urging Minnesotans to continue wearing masks and socially distance during the pandemic, even if many may be feeling “fatigue” to all the guidelines.  

BIRX:“There really needs to be a common sense adaption to everyone’s personal lives..”

In her visit to Minnesota, Birx also stopped in Duluth and met with tribal officials of the Fond du Lac of Lake Superior Chippewa. 

BIRX: “They were really terrific… I was impressed by their ability to support institutions for isolation within their community, really ensuring they have the resources to prevent outbreaks.”

Dr. Birx said Fond du Lac’s efforts -- and the efforts of tribes across the nation -- is a good thing to see, given that Native Americans are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in the country. 

Birx says Native Americans, who were already suffering from health disparities pre-pandemic, are more likely to suffer life-threatening complications due to COVID-19, compared to other racial and ethnic groups nationwide. 

BIRX: “We know… across the country still, the No. 1 group that has the most fatalities are our native americans, so we need to focus resources to fit their needs,” Birx said. 

In Minnesota, about 620 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed among the native population in Minnesota so far. Thirty-three of those cases resulted in death. 


In other news, a film festival for indigenous-made films is now underway. 

Vision Maker Media’s First Indigenous Online Film Festival will run through October 5, and features five genre categories with over 30 films.

Some of the films featured include “The Boxers of Brule”, a documentary following a girls boxing team in the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, and “Rustic Oracle”, a dramatic feature about a family searching for a girl who vanished from their small Mohawk community in Canada. 

A bit closer to home, one of the films featured is a creation of youth at Nay Ah Shing School of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and directed by Red Lake Nation  band member and artist, Jonathan Thunder. It’s called “Powwow Highway: The Lego Movie”, which is dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the film, Powwow Highway. 

It’s a stop-animation short produced as part of an animation workshop... youth took on roles of animators, actors, co-directors and set designers. 


The sets are creative, with lego characters driving through various landscapes.


Vision Maker Media, a Lincoln, Nebraska-based organization, was founded more than 40 years ago with a mission to engage and empower native storytellers to share their voice and stories with the world. 

For more information on the film festival, check out That’s visionmakermedia.o-r-g. 

I’m Cole Premo. 

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