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Girl Scouts get unique cultural awareness

While most people slept soundly in their beds last night a group of girl scouts spent the wee hours of the morning earning a new patch for their vests.

More than 20 girls from the Bemidji area participated in an all-night, "lock-in" event from 4 p.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Sunday at Bemidji State University's American Indian Center. Scout leaders, volunteers and members of the Council of Indian Students assisted the scouts in completing activities for the patch.

Mindie Bird, an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer serving the Girl Scouts of the Minnesota and Wisconsin Lakes and Pines Council, wanted to connect with local colleges to create more volunteer opportunities to help enhance the Girl Scout experience for youth. So she contacted the CIS for help.

"I approached the Council and asked if they wanted to volunteer with the Girl Scouts," Bird said. "They said, 'Let's do a lock-in.' I thought it was a great idea."

BSU student members in CIS organized six activities for the girls to complete based on the Girl Scout patch requirements.

Throughout the night the girls learned about different tribes from across North America, listened to stories told of American Indian heroes and heroines and learned about various American Indian art forms. They painted American Indian designs on tiles, took a field trip to Glazed & Amused in Bemidji where they painted ceramics and learned about the dance and etiquette of American Indian powwows.

CIS co-chair Anna Gooldtooth and member Krysta King, both BSU students, led the nighttime activities.

"It's a beautiful building," Goldtooth said of the AIRC. "We were excited to have the opportunity to be mentors to youth."

King said when talking to youth about the American Indian culture, she feels comfortable sharing her knowledge.

"I try to be as formal as I can," King said. "Anna and I were fortunate to have grown up in that culture and we're very knowledgeable about it."

Bird said the AIRC and the CIS donated the use of the building for one night as well as provided the girls with the materials to make dream catchers. Glazed & Amused agreed to let the girls use the building after designated business hours.

"The Girl Scouts mission is to build the girls' confidence, courage and character and to make the world a better place," Bird said. "The (CIS) is helping to fulfill that mission statement to the fullest."

When asked what Bird hoped the Girl Scouts would take out of the lock-in experience, she said she hoped the girls broadened their knowledge of their community.

"Bemidji is unique in that it is surrounded by a unique culture," Bird said. "The AIRC and CIS are resources we can tap into now. We are starting to really branch out."

BSU student members of CIS are wrapping up a busy fall semester. Last week the CIS hosted its largest fry bread taco sale in four years. The popular fundraiser sold 130 tacos, raising money for the annual BSU powwow in the spring.

Last month, CIS sponsored an indigenous film festival for one week. Each night a different movie was featured in honor of Native American Heritage month.

"We had pretty good success with that," Goldtooth said. "I know one Sociology professor offered students the option to attend a movie for extra credit."

One month earlier, the CIS members hosted a community potluck.

"Even though a student organization, we try to open up all events to community," Goldtooth said.

Goldtooth said CIS opened its membership this year to include anyone who wants to join. This, she said, was a big step for the group. In the past, students could only join after they were nominated and then voted in.

"Now it's open to all students," Goldtooth said. "We wanted to be as inclusive as possible."

This semester the group has roughly 20 students.

Bird said she is hoping to coordinate a volunteer appreciation night to recognize the volunteers who have helped with Girl Scout activities, such as the lock-in at the AIRC.