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Connecting on campus: BSU's American Indian Resource Center holds annual Day of Welcome

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From left: John Daniel, Branden Bowstring and Brandon Quagon perform an Ojibwe Honor Song during BSU’s American Indian Resource Center Day of Welcome on Wednesday. The drum group also included BSU professor John Gonzalez. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer) 2 / 3
Bill Blackwell, Executive Director of BSU’s American Indian Resource Center, speaks to the crowd on Wednesday during BSU’s American Indian Resource Center Day of Welcome. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer) 3 / 3

BEMIDJI—Classes started at BSU on Monday, but staff are still rolling out the metaphorical red carpet for students here as the school year gets underway.

Hundreds of BSU students and staff packed the school's American Indian Resource Center on Wednesday at its 11th annual Day of Welcoming.

University staff put together a spread of wild rice dishes that showcased its versatility: wild rice buns, pork-fried wild rice, wild rice salad with berries and maple syrup, plus wild rice "fluff" with whipped cream on top.

But the day primarily aimed to connect students with often-crucial university and community services such as the school's records office or wellness center, or the Northwest Indian Community Development Center.

"This fair today is all about you guys being connected to the resources to help make you successful," Bill Blackwell, Jr., the resource center's executive director, told a crowd of students that some estimated was the largest to ever assemble at the center. Many in the crowd indicated they were the first in their family to attend college, a demographic whose members often need extra support as they venture into post-secondary education.

"We pride ourselves here, at the resource center and across campus, at being pretty good at judging what's going on, but we're not mind readers," Blackwell said. "We need you guys to reach and say, 'I need help with this, I don't understand this.' None of us on this campus are too busy with anything to not stop what we're doing and help you out. If it wasn't for students, we would not have jobs....so please reach out to someone."

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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