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2nd Annual Native Nations Night at Sanford Center

Three Tribal Nation Chairs Honored with Ceremonial Puck-Drop

Annual Native Nations Night on Friday evening, February 28, 2014. Former American Indian hockey legend Henry Boucha, of Warroad, was a special guest.

That evening fans would watch the Bemidji State University (BSU) men¹s hockey team play the University of Alabama Huntsville. The game was scheduled to begin at 7:37 p.m. at the Sanford Center in Bemidji, Minnesota.

But prior to the game, a ceremony billed as "A Night to Honor the Native Peoples and Heritage of the Bemidji Region," would take place. The evening's events featured discount tickets, for all tribal members, at $12 for adults and $5 for age 17 and younger.

Upon entering the Sanford Center arena, one was immediately immersed in a quite festive atmosphere. Bright lights punctuated by an occasional light show and thundering rock music, added to the mirthful mood.

About 7:25 p.m., a green carpet (BSU colors) was rolled out to the center of the rink to blunt the glassy finish of the recently zambonied playing surface. The bright lights dimmed. A spotlight shown at center ice illuminating the Kingbird Singers who performed a flag song.

Following their exit, the arena went dark again. What seemed like fireworks and smoke poured from where the drum had exited. The BSU Beavers were entering the rink followed by their opponents. As the announcer introduced the players, each skated to their respective "blue-lines" near center ice.

The lights now up, the carpet again unfurled, about 20 representatives of the BSU college choir gingerly entered, then in harmony, sang the national anthem.

After the choir exit, Red Lake Chairman Floyd Jourdain, Jr., walked onto the still carpeted ice, followed by White Earth Chairwoman Erma Vizenor, and Leech Lake Chairwoman Carrie Jones.

The three Tribal Chairs each waved to the crowd as the announcer first introduced Jones, then Vizenor, and finally Jourdain. The announcer explained that the leaders of three Indian Nations would participate in a ceremonial puck-drop.

"Please join BSU and Sanford Center as we honor Minnesota's First Peoples at Native Nations Night," said the announcer. "Will the Captains please come forward?"

The Captains of each team skated to center ice and took a face-off position. The Three Chairs, each having been given a commemorative hockey puck, dropped them simultaneously to the ice. The icemen gathered the pucks quickly and returned them to their former holders for souvenirs.

After the Chairs exited the arena, the carpet was rolled up and the game began, a game that BSU was destined to lose 2 to 1, but the Beavers would add to their win column the following night, 4 to 1.

"Last year, was the inaugural year that BSU and Sanford center honored American Indians of the area," said Cyrus Pansch, Director of Marketing and Sales, Sanford Center. "We were privileged that All three tribal chairs, participated in a ceremonial puck-drop last year too. It's our way of trying to bring people together and highlight the unique diversity and contributions that Minnesota's three largest reservations bring to the Bemidji area."

In addition, Sanford Center demonstrates it's welcome for the area's Tribal Peoples continuously by participating in "Bemidji's Ojibwe Language Project." (As does BSU) Each entrance/exit to the event center is posted with the words Boozhoo/Welcome and Miigwech/Thank You on each and every door. All restrooms in the building have signage in Ojibwe and English as well, Ininiwag/Men and Ikwewag/Women.

Perhaps the most visible and most impressive evidence, of Sanford Center's participation in the Ojibwe Language Project, is the parking lot poles. In order to help event goers locate their car at the end of a Sanford happening, each light pole is graced high, with an image of an animalŠand the names of those animalsŠin both Ojibwe and English.

As part of Indian Nations Night, there was a special guest appearance by American Indian hockey star Henry Boucha. Boucha, an Olympic champion, had a large booth filled with hockey memorabilia. Boucha was a silver medalist with the men¹s US hockey team in 1972. In one corner, he signed and sold his new book, "Henry Boucha, Ojibwa: Native American Olympian." Boucha looked pleased as both adults and children, Indian and Non-Indian, requested photos posing with Boucha.

The Olympian took a break from his fans to pay a visit to the three Tribal Chairs who had gathered for a post ceremony chat, and watch a bit of the game from the Leech Lake Box. Boucha presented each Chairperson with an autographed copy of his book, and then posed for photos before heading back to the halls to visit with fans.

The Ceremonial Puck-Drop. Left to right, Carrie Jones, Chairwoman, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Erma Vizenor, Chairwoman, White Earth Band of Ojibwe, and Floyd Jourdain, Jr., Chairman, Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians

In 1971, Boucha was drafted 16th overall by the Detroit Red Wings, later playing with the Minnesota North Stars. He finished his career in 1976 due to an injury. He was inducted in the US Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.

Boucha is enrolled at NW Angle #37 at Windigo Island on Lake of the Woods, which is part of Treaty#3. He is Makwa Doodem (Bear Clan), a Pipe Carrier and tries to practice his culture and traditions. He grew up in Warroad, Minnesota, and is full-blooded Ojibwe.

Boucha is a motivational speaker. His main topics of concern are drug and alcohol abuse, goal-setting, obesity and suicide. He hopes to make a difference with American Indian youth by telling his own story.

Note: Sanford Center is owned by the City of Bemidji and it is to the City's credit that Ojibwe/English signage is posted at all City owned public buildings.


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