RED LAKE -- A group of educators from around the state recently set out to learn about Native American culture and history from those who have lived it.

The Native Studies Summer Workshop for Educators was held in late June in Red Lake Nation. The event is part of a program through St. Cloud State University that rotates around the numerous Native nations within the state each year. Part of the goal of the program is to help educators be able to teach their own students more effectively about the Native nations.

“The cultural and historical information shared will be so helpful to providing a supportive environment for our indigenous students at BSU,” Erika Bailey-Johnson, the sustainability coordinator at BSU, said in a statement from the university. “It’s a tangible way for an institution situated on treaty land, between the three largest reservations in the area, to intentionally recognize the educational needs of not only our current students, but to make steps toward creating a more inclusive space for future students.

Erika Bailey-Johnson
Erika Bailey-Johnson

The workshop included various elements of Native culture. Many of the presenters were elders from the tribe. They covered topics such as history, language and art. A release from BSU indicated the multi-day conference also included topics such as how Native Americans are portrayed in history textbooks.

They also took those who came for the conference on a bus tour of the reservation.

“The outcome is to get our educators more aware of American Indians (and) to increase the achievement level of our American Indian students in K-12 systems,” said Jim Knutson-Kolodzne, former director of the American Indian Center at St. Cloud State and one of the organizers of the event.

It was the 13th year for the program, and the first time it was held in Red Lake Nation, according to Knutson-Kolodzne. It was held at Leech Lake Nation several years ago. Roughly 50 people attended the workshop.

There are 11 Native tribes throughout the state. Seven of those are Ojibwe bands, including both Leech Lake and Red Lake. The remaining four are Dakota tribes.

“What we try to do is alternate between a Dakota and an Ojibwe reservation each summer,” Knutson-Kolodzne said. “We highlight that tribe when we’re on that reservation, and then we target the school districts all around that reservation.”