4th Annual Native Nations Night at Sanford Center
Johnson & Jones Honored with Ceremonial Puck-Drop
Bemidji State University and the Sanford Center hosted the 4th Annual Native Nations Night on Friday evening, February 26, 2016. That evening fans would watch the Bemidji State University (BSU) men's 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 ceremonial "Puck-drop" and 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 $16 for adults and $8 for age 17 and younger. The price included a $3 food voucher.
Upon entering the Sanford Center lobby, one was immediately immersed in a quite festive atmosphere with hand drumming by the Kingbird Singers. Inside the arena, 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. What seemed like fireworks and smoke poured from the edge of the ice. 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, a singer sang the national anthem. Now walking down the carpet was Red Lake Treasurer Annette Johnson and Leech Lake Chairwoman Carrie Jones. The two tribal leaders waved to the crowd as the announcer first introduced Jones, then Johnson. The announcer explained that the leaders of the 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 Jones and Johnson 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 as souvenirs.
After the tribal leaders exited the arena, the carpet was rolled up and the game began, a game that BSU was destined to win 6-2 in what was the home finale.
"2013 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 tribal leaders participate in the ceremonial puck-drop each year. 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 animal...and the names of those animals...in both Ojibwemowin and English.
The event was sponsored by Leech Lake Gaming and Bemidji State University. 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.