It started to snow on our way up north and I was reminded of Bob’s words, “Remember, it’s only May in Northern Minnesota — anything can happen.”
A group of students from Carroll University, my co-leaders and I were embarking on the journey to White Earth to spend a week in the community. We had no idea what a powerful week this would be.
During our time in White Earth, we were invited by community members to attend a drumming ceremony. We all went into the ceremony expecting to be bystanders and observe this celebration; we were surprised when we were invited to dance and when we later received some of the gifts being handed out at the end of the two-day ceremony. It was a humbling experience for everyone and we are so grateful for the opportunity to be present and learn from community members the importance of this occasion. As one participant wrote, “… even though the ceremony was mostly in Ojibwe and my mind couldn’t understand the words, my soul understood the passion.” We were honored to be invited.
The team was able to work on a variety of projects in the community with the White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP), the Circle of Life School, Toxic Tators and the Boys and Girls Club. We prepped a community garden, built garden boxes, planted trees and worked on other various projects with our partners at WELRP. We pruned trees and cleared the area around the Circle of Life School. We picked up garbage along the highway that is sponsored by Toxic Tators and were able to learn about the important work that they are doing.
A big Miigwetch to the White Earth community for inviting us into their community to work and learn alongside them. It was an experience that none of us will forget.
At the end of our time in White Earth, we were invited to build a wig wam with the local Boys and Girls Club and WELRP. The vision of this project is to allow the youth of the community to use the land to learn about traditional practices of their people. People on the reservation made comments to us throughout the week that one challenge is getting the youth in the community to embrace their traditions and their heritage; this wig wam is their attempt to change that. We spent the day cutting down trees, preparing the land and building the foundation, as well as learning how to play lacrosse and listening to the youth ask questions and get excited. As Bob said, “What we did today was nation building, and it is important work.”
At our final celebration we made chili and the community members brought a variety of dishes including fry bread and wild rice dishes. As we were all sitting together and sharing a meal, I reflected on the week and was amazed at how it exceeded my expectations. A big Miigwetch to the White Earth community for inviting us into their community to work and learn alongside them. It was an experience that none of us will forget.