Mishkwaa-ga-mii-wii-zaaga’iganiing Giiwishiiwigamig, Feast & Fire
Red Lake Homeless Shelter National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day
Mishkwaa-ga-mii-wii-zaaga’iganiing Giiwishiiwigamig, (The Red Lake Homeless Shelter) held a Memorial Feast and Fire Tuesday, December 20, 2011. The Memorial Fire was kindled at dawn and would burn until dusk. A ceremony and feast began at 11 AM at the shelter.
“This is our 8th annual remembrance of our sisters and brothers whose lives were shortened by being without housing”, said Director of the Red Lake Homeless Shelter Carol Priest.
National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, honors that day, while celebrating the first day of winter...the longest night of the year. The first day of winter, or the Winter Solstice happened this year on Wednesday December 21st at 11:30 PM CST.
Carol Priest, director of the Red Lake Homeless Shelter, welcomed about 30 people who came to commemorate those who have died who were homeless. “This gives us a fresh start”, said Priest, we have sage and tobacco to cleanse us all.” “We are so grateful to have this place, a place to feel safe”, she said.
As part of Priest’s welcome she provided some history behind Red Lake’s shelter. “The idea started to form in 2001 in Bemidji by Judy Kingbird”, Priest stated. “Kingbird was soon given support by former Tribal Secretary Judy Roy”, she said. Funding was obtained in June 2004 and Priest was hired. “Construction on the structure began in the Fall of 2004”, remembered Priest, “it was finished in December 2005, and the first tenants moved in in January 2006”, she said.
Priest said funding for the shelter comes from many sources, including federal and state government, and foundations. Some of those sources include DHS, Northwest Minnesota Foundation, and the Bremer Foundation
Priest reported that there is a high need for the shelter, with approximately 250 Red Lake members a year going through the facility. The Shelter has three case managers plus homeless advocates and a wonderful board of directors according to Priest.
Larry Stillday conducted an invocation. Afterwards he spoke to the group. “We must remember that this can happen to anybody”, said Stillday, “many of us are only one pay check away from being homeless.” Stillday went on to say that he himself was homeless (lived on the streets) for two years after returning from Viet Nam.
“I am so glad the Tribal Council is doing something in this area”, said Stillday, “this is all part of the healing, we want to thank the fire, the drum, and all of you”. Stillday then called on the drum for healing.
After several songs by Muskrat Lodge Singers, everyone had a wonderful meal of roast turkey with all the fixin’s.
A spirit dish was prepared, and many offered tobacco at the memorial fire.
Each year since 1990, on or near the first day of winter and the longest night of the year, National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), National Consumer Advisory Board (NCAB), and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC) has co-sponsored National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day to bring attention to the tragedy of homelessness and to remember our homeless friends who have paid the ultimate price for our nation's failure to end homelessness.