Much of Agenda Anishaa (Just for Fun)
More than 350 Elders attended Red Lake's second annual Elder Gathering at Seven Clans Casino Red Lake on Monday and Tuesday, April 1-2, 2013. Much of the agenda for the Summit was anishaa (just for fun.)
Upon entering the complex, one would see several informational booths describing Tribal Programs and businesses scattered around the edge of the hotel lobby, particularly those concerned with elders. Many provided give-a-ways.
A mixing of youth and elders made for much of the fun of the event. An important part of the Gathering has been to provide a venue for youth and elders to interact and learn from each other. Youth took the active role by acting as volunteers and providing information and entertainment.
“This is one of the things we were looking for in the Elders Conference," said organizer Thelma May. "We wanted to have youth and elders mixing together, learning together, having fun together and enjoying each other.”
Drawings were held throughout the event for door prizes. Registrants received T-shirts with a colorful logo “Honoring Our Elders written in Ojibwemowin on the front. All also received tote bags with some give-a-ways inside with the same colorful logo “Ezhi-apiitenimindwaa Gigichi-aya'aaminaanig” (Honoring Our Elders) written in Ojibwe.
Morning Day One
The event began with registration and breakfast on Monday beginning at 8 a.m. At 9:00, Spiritual Elder Eugene Stillday offered the invocation, followed by the posting of colors, and drum songs by Young Kingbird. Co-Facilitators Cheri Goodwin and Delwyn Holthusen, Jr. delivered opening remarks before introducing the key-note speaker for the day, Red Lake member Stacey Thunder.
Keynote Speaker Stacey Thunder
Guest speaker Red Lake Tribal Attorney Stacey Thunder related her extensive and diverse resume as an attorney, and in the entertainment business.
Growing up in Columbia Heights, Thunder graduated from Hamline University in St. Paul, and now lives in the Twin Cities. In addition to her role as tribal attorney, she is the mother of four children ages 12, 8, 6 and 23 months; two girls and two boys.
Thunder is a proud member of Red Lake Nation. As the oldest of seven children, she said she knew her parents had financial hard times, too. "I learned early that education was the way out of those situations," she said.
"I received a B. A. in psychology from Hamline and a J. D. from William Mitchell College of Law," said Thunder during her presentation. "I've served Indian Country for over 13 years in various legal capacities including general counsel for Red Lake Nation."
She is an owner of Eagle Thunder Entertainment, an independent and Native-owned entertainment company with musician and filmmaker, Robby Romero.
Dedicating much of her time to youth, Thunder is a board member of Native Children's Survival, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about critical issues facing Mother Earth, her children, and the seventh generation…through music and film. She is also a board member of the Nike N7 Fund, a fund that provides grant money to Native American communities in support of sports and physical activity programs for the youth.
As a film and television actress, Thunder played the recurring role of "Judith" in the cable channel Starz hit series, "Crash", a provocative 13-episode drama series from the producers of the Academy Award®-winning Best Motion Picture starring the late Dennis Hopper, and Eric Roberts; and "Marisa" in the TV series, "The Promised Land",
Thunder is the host and co-producer of the PBS (Lakeland PTV) the news and lifestyle program, Native Report, a series that celebrates Indian culture and heritage. She has hosted almost 100 episodes since the show's inception in 2004. Native Report is in its seventh season with a 15-episode schedule.
“There is a lot of interest in our culture and our stories,” she said. “I hope there will be a shift in how we (American Indians) are perceived.”
Music & Dance
Entertainment took up the rest of the morning. Following Thunder's presentation, Anayah Littlewolf performed piano pieces and Sonny Johnson and his guitar had folks dancing in the aisles with his rendition of a 1954 Elvis Presley tune, "That's All Right Mama."
Red Lake Nation Royalty, dressed in full regalia, took their turns providing a dance exhibition. Vince Beyl was the emcee, and shared background on the various dance exhibited. Royalty included: Sophie Barrett 2-year-old Tiny Tot jingle dancer; Christian Schoenborn Pre-K dancer; fourth-grader Bradley Barrett, a traditional dancer; Cherish Kingbird, fancy shawl dancer; Mark Kingbird, grass dancer; Alexis Desjarlait, jingle dancer; Destin Stormcloud, grass dancer; Sadie Kingbird, jingle dancer and Casey Smith, grass dancer.
Wrapping up the morning, Cheri Goodwin, a Gathering organizer, along with Tribal Councilmen Richard Barrett and Al Pemberton recognized seven women who have served the Band for more than 40 years with plaques. They included: Sharon Garrigan 47 years, and Sandy Brown and Betty Schoenborn 45 years, at Red Lake Headstart; Rachelle Donnell 42 years and Ethel Smith 44 years, at Comp Health; Lorraine Sayers 46 years with Law Enforcement; and Roxanne Johnson 41 years with the Tribal Credit Program.
Afternoon Day One
After lunch, Red Lake Comp Health presented a program on Healthy Lifestyles in particular exercise for diabetes and diabetes prevention.
Georgia Downwind followed with narration of a Slide Show Presentation. Many photos were of the attending elders taken when young along with activities of days gone by. Photos were submitted by members and from the Tribal Archives. The unnarrated show played on the east and west walls during the entire day.
Next up was entertainment by Native Pride Dancers featuring well known Grass Dancer Larry Yazzi. Formed in 2003 and directed by Yazzie, the dance troupe strives to educate and entertain audiences of all ages throughout the world on the beauty, skill, and majesty of American Indian music and dance.
In late afternoon, lots of laughs ensued with a "Shapey/Skaky Legs" Contest. There was both a women's and men's devision. Contestants stood behind a curtain and moved about vying for the loudest applause that would determine the winner of having the most "interesting" legs.
Evening Day One
During supper, elders were greeted by five of the Red Lake Basketball Players from the 1997 team that went to state. The entire video of the "classic" game between Red Lake and Wabasso was shown on two large screens. Guests included Coach Doug Desjarlait and tourney stars Gerald Kingbird and Delwyn Holthusen Jr.
The presentation celebrated Red Lake's position in local hoops lore as the record breaking Red Lake Ogichidaag basketball team that went to the State Championship in St. Paul for the 1997 Class A semifinal. They played the Wabasso Rabbits (ironically Wabasso from Ojibwemowin Waabooz/Rabbit) in what was to become the biggest record breaking game in state basketball history. Records included Field goals attempted 87, field goals made 48, most points in a quarter 43, most points scored by a losing team 113, total points 230, and more.
"Winning a championship would have been great, but it's more important that these kids learned a sense of pride in themselves," DesJarlait said. "They've seen how the Indian community reacted to them and how proud they were of them for what they were able to accomplish. A state championship is left on the basketball court. Having pride in themselves and their heritage is something they will have for the rest of their lives."
The evening closed with what was billed as “the Late Night Session”, which included both Black Jack and Cribbage Tournaments. Winners included: Black Jack; Ken Graves, Dale Graves and Linda Hill Mattson, and in Cribbage; Rick Ames, Richard Barrett and Linda Hill Mattson.
Morning Day Two
On Tuesday, the day began with breakfast and registration again from 8 to 9 AM. After an invocation from Eugene Stillday, co-emcee Cheri Goodwin introduced Red Lake Chairman Floyd Jourdain, Jr., who greeted the participants and gave a short report on tribal affairs.
Keynote Speaker Holly Cook Macarro
Tuesday mornings guest speaker was Red Lake member Holly Cook Macarro who would relate her experiences working for Red Lake Nation in Washington, D. C. Cook Macarro is a graduate of the University of North Dakota with a BBA and the University of St. Thomas with an MBA.
Cook Macarro is a partner at Ietan Consulting, LLC. Prior to joining Ietan, Cook Macarro was a Senior Public Affairs Advisor at Holland & Knight. From 1999-2001, she served as the Director of the Office of Native American Affairs at the Democratic National Committee. In addition, Cook Macarro served in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs in 1997-1998, where she worked primarily on Native American issues.
At the White House, Cook Macarro spoke of her work with Lynn Cutler, President Clinton’s top person on Indian Affairs issues. During her time at the Democratic National Committee, Cook Macarro coordinated the national outreach and organizing efforts on behalf of the Democratic party during the 2000 Presidential campaign. In 2003-2004, she served as the national co-chair of the Native Vote initiative at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)
Leading up to the 2004 Presidential election, Cook Macarro served on the Kerry-Edwards Native American Policy team which developed candidate policies on Indian Country issues. In 2006, she served on the Minnesota Native Vote team, providing training to field staff and coordination of reservation GOTV efforts. In 2007-2008, she served as a key member of Senator Hillary Clinton’s Native American Policy Advisory Committee as part of her Presidential campaign. Following the primaries, Holly was invited to join Senator Barack Obama’s Native American Policy Committee as part of his Presidential campaign.
Cook Macarro was honored recently for her work with the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). “To stand with so many Native women warriors and watch President Obama sign the VAWA into law was one of the proudest moments of my career,” she shared. “As my tears flowed, I thought of the women back home in Red Lake, working and staying at Equay Wiigamig (Women's Shelter), and of the many other Native women who will now be protected and have access to resources because of this effort. For so many reasons, this was the sweetest of victories.”
NIGA Donation to Youth
Cook Macarro then introduced Ernie Stevens, (Oneida) Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA). Stevens came to Red Lake with a check…as he does to many reservations…to support youth activities at the Red Lake Nation Boys & Girls Club and the Youth Council. As NIGA chief, as he travels he asks casino proprietors to donate to youth. Stevens trip to Red Lake is part of his job of delivering more than $1 million to 43 Clubs across South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
Stevens says he loves to come to Red Lake because of it's unique sovereignty. He's been coming to Red Lake since he was a kid participating in Indian basketball tournaments. "My Dad was a friend of (former Chairman) Roger Jourdain, and my Dad always told me that Red Lake was special, the most sovereign of Indian tribes."
How the Bear Lost his Tail
Next up came a little fun with Anna Gibbs. She told the story of "How the Bear Lost His Tail." Her story in Ojibwemowin was followed by a skit, with actors playing the parts of animals to visualize the tale. Long story short, that sly old fox who was miffed at the bears pride in his bushy tail, and so told the bear how to ice fish. Suffice to say, now the fox has the bushiest tail.
King and Queen
New this year was a contest for King and Queen (or Akiwenzi and Minidmooye) of the Elders Gathering. Again, several contestants vied for the honor with the selection going to Bill Spears, Akiwenzi (male elder) and Ramona Manuel, Mindimooye (female elder).
Wrapping up the morning was a "Talent/Variety Show the winners to be determined by the applause of the audience. "William Spears, played "Walk Don't Run" by the Ventures on his guitar, followed by Johnny Smith, playing his usual twangy country and a humorous powwow song. Owen Beaulieu also played guitar, while Cecilia LittleCreek showed off her quilt making abilities. Ramona Manuel once again revised her "exotic dance steps" to recorded music, and Elizabeth "Pug" Kingbird brought down the house with her animated rendition of the three little pigs in Ojibwemowin.
Afternoon Day Two
For the second year in a row, some very nice plaques were then awarded to the following persons:
• Oldest Male: Gordon Bailey, 96.
• Oldest Female: Mary Sayers, 92.
• Longest Married: Susan and Harry Johnson, 67.
• FurthestTraveled: Birdie Dunkley, 252.
• Most Grandkids: Maddie Dunkley, 120.
• Most people living in their house: Maggie Spears, 13.
First an Honor Song followed by a Traveling Song courtesy of the Young Kingbird Drum closed out the third annual Gathering of Elders.
"We had a great time, and I think all who came did as well," said Goodwin. "We love the idea of young and old mixing at an Elders Gathering, I think it's turned out to be a grand idea. All of us want to thank all the elders for coming, for without their participation it would have been nothing. A big chi-miigwech to the elders of Red Lake Nation."
The 2013 Elders Gathering is sponsored by the following Programs and Enterprises:
• Red Lake Tribal Council
• Red Lake Gaming Enterprises
• Red Lake Nation Fishery
• Comprehensive Health Dept.
• Little Rock Community
• Red Lake Community
• Redby Community
• Ponemah Community
• Red Lake Detention
• Red Lake Public Safety
• Red Lake Traditional Foods Program
• New Beginnings
• Red Lake Vocational Rehab Program
• Human Resources
• Red Lake IT Dept.
• Red Lake VFW Post
• Red Lake Nation Royalty
• Red Lake Youth Council
• Red Lake High School Girls Basketball Team
• Jourdain/Perpich Extended Care
• Red Lake Nation News – Mike Barrett
Miigwech to all our sponsors and committee in making our gathering a success.