BEMIDJI -- The American Indian Resource Center’s annual Day of Welcome made an in-person return to Bemidji State and premiered at Northwest Technical College on Tuesday and Wednesday.
BSU’s event drew about 100 students and faculty to the American Indian Resource Center for a welcome and prayer by Roxanne Delille, dean of Indigenous and academic affairs at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.
AIRC Executive Director Chrissy Downwind delivered opening remarks at both the NTC and BSU events.
“It symbolizes us being able to bring together all of our students, faculty and staff inclusively in a manner where we include everyone regardless of race, color, creed,” Downwind said at the start of the program. “In the essence of starting out in a positive manner for our school year, we provide good words, good blessings and songs in our tradition that help carry those students throughout the semester.”
Dr. Mark Baez, assistant professor of clinical and council psychology at Bemidji State, sang an opening song following Downwind's remarks.
BSU Vice President for Academic Affairs Allen Bedford then delivered a land acknowledgment statement, recognizing that BSU is located on the ancestral homeland of the Ojibwe, Dakota and Lakota peoples.
The Ojibwe Nation drum group played a welcome song before Delille led a traditional prayer and message. The event concluded with the drum group playing once again as a way to “seal” everything that Delille spoke about.
"As you begin your work here again in a new semester, you have an opportunity for new life," Delille said. "It's yours to take. It's yours to brush awake."
NTC’s event on Tuesday drew a small crowd of about 20 students and faculty outside as the event was extended to NTC for the first time.
“It feels as though (NTC) has been ignored,” Downwind said. “In opening this semester with the day of welcome, I hope we can provide students the resources and support they need not only for our Native American, but for non-American Indian students that have questions and are looking for resources and insight as well.”
Faith Hensrud, president of both Bemidji State and NTC, provided some opening remarks as well as NTC Vice President of Academic Affairs Darrin Strosahl.
"Today is all about our students, American Indian as well as all other students," Hensrud said. "We are very interested in supporting you on this Day of Welcome at NTC."
“There’s a message that NTC recognizes our student body and what their needs are,” Strosahl said after NTC’s event. “I think there’s a lot of understanding that was gained by having today’s event on our campus that will help all of us just recognize each other and feel more connected as we get into this year.”
Both events included a taste of manoomin -- wild rice -- afterward, including wild rice jambalaya, buffalo and corn, and berries with syrup. Following the BSU event, students were invited to walk through the American Indian Resource Center and visit with faculty and members of student social services.
“BSU and NTC are in a wonderful married situation where we create pipelines for students not only academically but culturally,” Campus Diversity Officer Steven Parker said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to marry culture and to really highlight the truths of the land, of the space, of the people.”
For more information on the AIRC and its upcoming events, visit www.bemidjistate.edu/airc