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Vizenor kicks off Indian Week

White Earth Tribal Chairwoman Erma Vizenor opened ceremonies Monday in honor of the 21st annual American Indian Awareness Week celebration.

"We as Indian people are spiritual people," she said, following the traditional pipe ceremony. "It's our foundation."

She spoke to the public about the value of sharing the Indian culture with generations.

"The greatest teaching is when we experience it, when we meet someone from a different culture and get to know them," she said.

"Everyone belongs to a culture that has beauty, richness, and that has great value."

She said there are 500 tribes throughout the United States, with 11 of them in Minnesota. Each is its own nation, and "that's not understood by many," she said.

Each is similar in the fact that everyone has needs like food, shelter and peace, but each different as well. She said the rights, like hunting and gaming, health and education, the tribes maintain from the federal government are ethical rights given to the people in exchange for the land lost over the years.

"That's the No. 1 difference if we look at it politically," she said.

She continued to speak on the importance of education and also learning the Ojibwe culture.

"One day, I hope one or more of you will be standing in my shoes, leading a nation," she said to the native students in the audience.

Thomas Mason and the Little Red Tail and Detroit Lakes Drum and Dance team performed.

"The drum is very much a part of us. It is the heartbeat of our people. It calls ancestors and us together as one heartbeat," Vizenor said.

Mason said the purpose of the Drum and Dance group is to "re-introduce our children to their culture" and to "show non-native people how beautiful our culture is."

Other activities planned throughout the week include Drum and Dance Team performances in the elementary schools today (Wednesday). Thursday there is a Ribbon Magic Puppet show in the elementary schools, and a program on college preparation from 6 to 6:30 p.m. in the Detroit Lakes Community and Technical College, Detroit Lakes, and a financial aid and scholarships program from 5 to 8 p.m.

A powwow is Saturday from 12:30 to 8 p.m. in the middle school gymnasium. Grand entry is at 1 p.m., with dinner at 5.

Monday, April 10, the American Indian Knowledge Bowl competitions are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the MSCTC. It is free and open to the public. From 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. is the Young Artist Writers Awards Ceremony.