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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


Sculpture Unveiled in Grand Rapids for Indigenous Peoples' Day

October 10th marked Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Minnesota and in cities and states across the United States. The day included official celebrations and community gatherings, including in Grand Rapids where a new sculpture was unveiled at River Side Park by Leech Lake Ojibwe artist Duane Goodwin.  MN Native News reporter Leah Lemm was on the scene for the celebration.

A clear day welcomed the crowd of attendees gathered near the Mississippi River and Highway 169 in Grand Rapids. The community celebration was a joint effort; The city of Grand Rapids Human Rights and Arts and Culture Commissions teamed up with ISD 317’s Anishinaabe gikinoo’amaadiiwigamigong and ISD 318’s Anishinaabe gikinoo’amaadiiwin student programs.

The festivities included food, student artwork, and the unveiling and blessing of Oganawedan Nibi or “She is Blessing Spirits in the Water “ – the sculpture is by artist Duane Goodwin and supported by the Grand Rapids Arts and Culture Commission.

Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan proclaimed the day an official state holiday, a similar proclamation was adopted by the city of Grand Rapids in 2014. The declaration was read aloud by council member Tasha Connely

“…The city of Grand Rapids recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday in October as a day to reflect on our history and to celebrate the thriving culture and value that our Anishinabe, Chippewa, Ojibwe, the Dakota Sioux, and other Indigenous nations add to our city. Let it further be resolved that the city of Grand Rapids shall continue its efforts to promote the well-being, and growth of the native American and Indigenous communities and be it further resolved that the city of Grand Rapids encourages other businesses, organizations, and public entities to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” said Connely, “This was adopted on the 15th day of December 2014.”

L: Since 2014, Grand Rapids, Minneapolis, St. Paul and other Minnesota cities have adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The holiday began as a counter-celebration against the federal holiday that shares the same day.

In Grand Rapids, the new stone sculpture is the likeness of a woman, with arms outstretched into a cradle allowing water to gather in her arms. She looks over the Mississippi River on a pedestal engraved with fish. The sculpture is named Oganawedan Nibi – a gift from Duane to the city of grand rapids, a blessing for the spirits of/in the water, and a symbol of the resiliency of the Anishinaabe people.

“She’s blessing water spirits, spirits in the water. The fish represents the life that flows through this river, and the sculpture shall live in symbol of the strength of the Anishinabe people.” said Duane, “It was a blessing to work so close to the river this summer. Every day it was a beautiful spot to work”

Other events included the Owamni Falling Waters Festiva, on Saturday, at Owamni along The Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis where Indigenous artists, organizations and community gathered to celebrate. Performances included The Sampson Brothers, Cory Medina, Pretendians and the Sprit Boy Singers.

In Duluth, a celebration was held by the Duluth Indigenous Commission with the theme “why it’s great to be Indigenous,”

The Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland was also in Minnesota over the weekend, and met with Lt. Gov. Flanagan and others.

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Governor Peggy Flanagan, who is White Earth Ojibwe, wrote on Facebook “Today, and every day, we honor our ancestors by being our full, beautiful, and powerful Indigenous selves. We are resilient, we are still here, and we will always be here in Mni Sota Makoce.”

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