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Minnesota Native News

180 EpisodesProduced by Minnesota Native NewsWebsite

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


Peace at Polling Places and Bugonaygeshig School Gets Students Connected

This week on Minnesota Native News, we get a picture from the polls on election day in Indian country. Reporter Melissa Townsend has that story and more. 

MORE THAN 3 million Minnesotans voted in this election.  About half of them cast their ballots early with absentee voting. And the other half voted in person on election day November 3rd.  Ahead of election day there were widespread concerns about voter intimidation at the polls - so we checked in with a few Native folks on tribal lands to see how it went when they cast their ballots.  

Marie Rock who lives near the Leech Lake reservation - and is host of this newscast - voted with her husband and her son at the Cass Lake City Hall. 

ROCK: We vote in the primaries, we vote in the regular elections - it’s our big thing. We make sure we always vote. (:06)

She had heard the buzz about possible voter intimidation at the polls, but she jokes she wasn’t worried. 

ROCK: To me, if anyone tries to interfere with me I’ll go to jail, ‘cause I’ll fight them. But that didn’t happens and I kind of knew it wouldn’t. 

Overall Rock says  it was a pretty sleepy scene.

A little northwest of Marie Rock, George Strong, citizen of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe,  says the same was true for him 

STRONG: I just walked right in, greeted friendly and just kind of moved along the line.

He voted at at about 9 in the morning at his polling place, the Greenwood Township Hall near Tower Minnesota. He said the only thing out of the ordinary was the weather.

STRONG: It’s so beautiful!  What it’s like 57/59 degrees. It was just a picture perfect fall day. 

Strong says one of the most important issues for him this election was a return to real civic dialogue.

STRONG: That we bring some civility and talk about issues rather than create these monsters against each other. 

And finally down in southwestern Minnesota, Cheyanne St John, member of the Lower Sioux Indian Community says it was peaceful at her polling place too.  She says there were just a handful of voters at the Redwood Falls Fire Station.

ST JOHN: It was really neat because when the other voter got up and left, I noticed the greeter immediately came into the room and began to sanitize the area where that person was sitting.  I thought it was really neat they were doing things in a safe way. 

Joe Biden won the vote for President in Minnesota but as of the time of this newscast - the overall winner has not yet been announced.   


In other news— a story from the BUGONAYGESHIG school on the Leech Lake reservation.  The school serves 220 Native students in northern Minnesota. When they started distance learning last March, Dan McKeaon, the school’s administrator says they knew they couldn’t do online learning.

MCKEON: We knew that that wouldn’t work because there were roughly 50% of our households without reliable internet connection.  (:07)

Internet access is patchy across rural parts of Minnesota. So last spring, school buses traveled door to door handing out  paper learning packets and food to BUGONAYGESHIG families. But McKeon says that didnt’ really work very well.

MCKEON: Boy to be frank, a distance learning program that’s not online that we operated las spring - it failed pretty miserably.  There wasn’t much teaching happening and there certainly wasn’t much learning happening.  It’s just such an extraordinarily difficult to try to teach to put together a packet of things and send it on a bus to get dropped off. It’s jut no way to do it. (:22)

So after a summer of planning, the school has used federal CARES act money to connect more than 90% of their students to the internet.  

MCKEON: This summer we grouped our households into three different priority groups. (:06)

The first priority group had no internet access because they lived in a location were there is no internet access. For them, the school bought hot spots and gave families instructions on how to use them. The second priority group were families who didn’t have internet but lived in areas where they could get hooked up.  For them, the school paid for an internet subscription. And finally a third priority group had internet access, and the school took over payments for it.

MCKEON: So we just make it a blanket thing that we are going to pay for internet subscription for each household that has a BUGONAYGESHIG student. (:08)

McKeon says now almost all the families at the BUGONAYGESHIG school are connected to the internet - but they have a ways to go to engage with all their students in distance learning. 

MCKEON: To me, this process is like casting a net. And right now the network casting is catching. So to speak maybe 50% of our kids. So now it's like, okay, how do we adjust this net that we're casting so that we pull in another 10% and another 10%, so that if we have to do this all year we're engaging 90% of our kids, rather than 50% of our kids. 

Dan Mckeon BUGONAYGESHIG  school administrator says it’s a work in progress.  

For Minnesota Native News, I’m Melissa Townsend.

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