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Race relations council wants more Ojibwe/English signage

BEMIDJI -- “Boozhoo” and “Miigwech” adorn doors on buildings sprinkled throughout Bemidji. Yet, some Bemidjians don’t know that the Ojibwe words mean, which are Greetings or Hello and Thank You.

Shared Vision, the race relations council Beltrami County Commissioner Tim Sumner also is a member of, attended Tuesday’s Beltrami County Commission work session. The council, which is rebuilding its board up to 15 members from six, said they are ready to start making some progress in the community.

Two things they’d like to see is more Ojibwe/English signage on buildings and the Leech Lake, White Earth and Red Lake Nation flags flying at the county government campus, as well as at the Chamber of Commerce and the Sanford Center. The council said they are prepared to help subsidize the signage.

“This makes Indian people feel more comfortable and more respected in the community,” said Shared Vision member Michael Meuers. “We’ve never gotten one negative thing from any American Indian and we’ve only gotten a couple of things from white folks.”

Sumner said he would like to see more of the signage.

“I feel that the work we are doing is important and some of the issues we work on will bridge the gaps between the races,” Sumner said.

Shared Vision created a curriculum to present to businesses, educational institutions and human services that informs on race relations and the Indian people that are part of our community and the three reservations that surround Bemidji.

“It teaches the non-Indian about the people who were here before us,” Meuers said. “If we’re residents of Bemidji, that history is our history as well.”

Commissioner Joe Vene said he is currently trying to learn the Ojibwe language.

“Since I’m a musical person and a sound person, I have to say Ojibwe is music to my ears,” Vene said. “It is pleasant to hear.”

Meuers said a survey Shared Vision conducted revealed that 90 percent of people want to learn more about people of other races. The survey included responses from non-American Indians, American Indians who live on reservations and those who live off the reservations.

“All three groups, including the American Indians, wanted to learn more about American Indians,” Meuers said.

Commissioner Jim Lucachick said the county board will entertain any logical request and welcomes the council back to a future work session, or regular session, once they have a request prepared.


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