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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


American Indian Month Kicks Off In The State, Shifts Events Due To Pandemic


This week on Minnesota Native News, it’s May, and the 51st American Indian Month has kicked off in Minnesota! But this year… things are going to be celebrated a bit differently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s reporter Cole Premo with how the month will be celebrated this year -- and more.

ROBERT (:30): “It is an honor to welcome you all to the Indian Month celebration”

That’s White Earth Ojibwe Nation’s Robert Lilligren, the CEO of the Native American Community Development Institute, or NACDI… NACDI has helped organize past parades celebrating the month, typically held on May 1 in Minneapolis. Of course, the coronavirus pandemic changed that.

Instead, Lilligren kicked off a month of celebration with a live Facebook video on May 1.

ROBERT (0:40): “Our theme this year is, ‘We are still here -- honor life.’ And things are very different this year then they’ve been in the past...we only care about what we look like from the waist up.”

American Indian Month in Minnesota goes back to 1969, when it was just a week-long event. It began as an effort from the native community to change the way native history was taught in school.

ROBERT: 2:10 “This year, we’ll be celebrating in different ways… we’ll be online.”

Minnesota’s Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan also helped kick off the month on May 1, echoing the month’s theme and reminding those of another important issue at hand.

PEGGY (0:42): “Native people are here and will be here… it’s important as ever to make sure we’re counted by taking part in the census…chi-miigwech.”

As NACDI’s Robert Lilligren said earlier, many activities have shifted online this year and a full month of events are planned. Part of those online events are being facilitated with Twin Cities community radio station KFAI. I spoke with KFAI personality and Leech Laker, Melissa Olson, who talked to me about the special programming and how plans shifted due to the pandemic.

MELISSA: (03:23) it was a shift for us too, because usually we just covered parade on May 1st. We have one entire day of programming. Right. We do it from like eight until midnight. Well, obviously we can't cover the parade. It's not happening. Um, so Kathy, I contact committee, um, just you know, out a month ago, I said, what if we spread programming throughout the month?

Things are getting planned and situated still, but special programming will run on Mondays and Saturdays during the afternoons. On Mondays, part of the focus will be “open houses”... basically giving native organizations who would have normally held an open house during the month… to have a voice on radio and online that day. Some of the participants will be the Minesota Fund and Dream of Wild Health.

Saturdays will be more focused on current affairs, as well as arts and culture. Topics will include census mobilization, health issues.. And on May 23rd, there’ll be a “memorial program.”

MELISSA: (07:50)
“Talk about, um, relatives we've lost during the pandemic and to the pandemic. Um, and the idea is that because people can't gather for wakes and funerals, but it might be appropriate to memorialize, um, family members and relatives that have been lost during this time so that people, um, are able to memorialize in their own ways at home if they listen.”

On the same day, the 23rd of May, they’ll feature an “All My Relations” panel for artists who were going to showcase their work at the All My Relations gallery… that has been canceled due to the pandemic. The talk will also include, according to Melissa Olson…

MELISSA: “To some degree on how cancellation due to COVID-19 impacts artists.”

A lot of information on events happening during American Indian Month in Minnesota can be found on Facebook. Check out the American Indian Month in MN 2020 Facebook page AND the American Indian Month on KFAI Facebook page for the latest events happening during the month.

MELISSA :“I think it’s how native people lead in this moment, right? … ”

So, I asked Melissa Olson, and yes, these radio events will be live streamed on Facebook, too, if you’d like to get involved, leave comments and connect with the presenters -- that’s there for ya.


AND…. before this Minnesota Native News episode concludes, I’d like to remind listeners that Minnesota Native News has a new podcast series, called Native Lights: Biidaapi. My sister, Leah Lemm, and I catch up with those in the native community… finding connection during these social/physical distancing times. We’ve spoke with Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Ojibwe Word of the Day’s James Vukelich, author Marcie Rendon, and many, many more great individuals already, and we’re keeping it going during the pandemic. Check it out wherever you get your podcasts.

Not only that… we also recently released the second season of Native Lights: Where Indigenous Voices Shine. We’re so excited. Our second season is filled with amazing guests, telling their stories about finding their gifts and sharing them with the community. These are stories of joy, strength, history, and change from Native people who are shaping the future and honoring those who came before them.

Check that out AND Native Lights: Biidaapi. Go ahead, binge it! We won’t judge.

Miigwech. I’m Cole Premo.

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