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Pioneer viewpoints: The starts of something

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New beginnings were a theme this past week in and around Bemidji.

Consider:

The Red Lake Nation celebrated the groundbreaking on its new tribal college and government center. The two buildings - 27,400 square-foot government center and 42,000 square-foot college - have been designed to resemble a soaring eagle.

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And wouldn't you know it, as tribal chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. was set to speak at Thursday's events, an eagle could be seen high in the sky above the gathering.

"It's really a good feeling to walk up here and see our brotherly eagle, our inspiration, circling around here today. That's always a good sign for the Anishinaabe people," Jourdain said. As Bethany Wesley reported, the tribe says about 90 percent of the 130 students enrolled in classes last fall would not have attended college at all had it not been for the local option in Red Lake.

"Overwhelming obstacles are put in front of our members. But our new tribal college is going to remove a lot of those obstacles," Dan King, president of the college said. "Our members will have an opportunity (for) and access to higher education right here in Red Lake."

Increasing access to education should be a staple in all societies. And it takes a lot of people to make such a vision a reality - King noted there has been talk about just such a project for 30 years at Red Lake - and they should be commended for their leadership.

• Speaking of higher education and American Indian learning, Bemidji State University this past week also hosted its first Niibinishi Gabeshi, or summer camp, to help keep alive the Ojibwe language for future generations.

As Wesley reported, only about a half-dozen high schools registered for the camp's first year, but organizers are confident of growth for the program. Students stay in the BSU dorms, have classroom instruction as well as craft work and also get to meet local Ojibwe speakers, who volunteer their time to help sustain the language.

"I would like for them to feel comfortable speaking the language," Vincent Staples-Graves, a BSU student who is a counselor for the camp, told Wesley "We're not going to be anywhere near fluent by any means, but even just feeling comfortable saying boozhoo (hello), miigwech (thank you) ... simple phrases, that is really the base of talking, of the culture itself. Just that they feel comfortable saying these things in everyday conversation.

"And to take away a little bit of knowledge about our history."

• Sometimes in business, competition is a good thing. And while many college towns have an abundance of bars and restaurants, a new business downtown says it wants to help all its neighbors succeed, too.

Bemidji Brewing Co. is set to have its grand opening later this week. But for the past two weekends, the new company has opened its taproom to prepare for the actual start date. One interesting aspect of the business, Trent Opstedahl reported, was the fact Bemidji Brewing Co. was working with other downtown bars and restaurants so BBC's customers could order in food from other establishments.

It's called a "brew-conomy," founder Tina Hanke told Opstedahl, where other businesses around a brewery and taproom see increased sales, as well.

The bar and restaurant business is always going to be competitive. But it need not be cutthroat. It's good to see healthy competition, and even a little altruism, for the betterment of all businesses who call downtown home.

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